Beach time

The tides that swept in the Democrats in the last two elections have started to ebb. That much is clear. They did their best to extend their reach, but the undertow was just too strong to allow them to fundamentally shift the sands of American history.

Coming back to Washington, the Democrats are facing daunting headlines. In almost every publication, the story is the same. The ruling party is in trouble. They face retirements, party switchers, high disapproval ratings and an angry electorate.

The president, who spent some time in the Hawaiian surf over the Christmas holiday, has a choice. He can ride the waves or get slammed by them.

He seems to be of the mind to ride the waves back out. He will propose spending cuts in his State of the Union. He will try to tack to the center. He will try to sound tough against the terrorists.

But will such posturing help him? His political base will go crazy. The erstwhile liberal E.J. Dionne made that very point in the Post this morning. It does a politician little good to alienate his base in an off-year election. And the Democratic base is already alienated, wondering who stole the real Obama.

Mr. Obama makes a lousy centrist. He doesn’t have the disposition to take on the hard left of his party, because he generally agrees with them philosophically. So he will probably continue to allow Nancy Pelosi to run the show, even though that is not what will be the best thing for the future of Democratic control of the Congress.

The fact of the matter is that the single best thing that could happen to President Obama’s long-term political aspirations is the Republicans taking back the House, while leaving the Senate in Harry Reid’s hands. That way, he can still get his judges through, while tacking against Republican hardliners in time for the election of 2012.

High tide has come and gone for the liberal Democrats, and the sands of time are running out for the Democratic majority in the House. There is not much the president can or should do about that fact.


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