Democratic delusions

Call me the Paul Revere of a Democratic Party that now faces extreme peril in the 2010 elections.

President Barack Obama and insider Democrats are violating the cardinal rule that has governed midterm elections for 200 years. Midterm elections are won by the party that turns out its base and lost by the party that doesn’t.

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The base for Democrats is the coalition of voters who supported the party in 2006 and 2008. This includes working-class voters of all races, liberals who thought they elected a president in the tradition of FDR and JFK, moderate independents revolted by the corruptions of the financial crash, young people and first-time voters who surged to the polls for change and minorities who voted for economic justice and opportunity.

The hard truth for Democrats is that in every one of these groups there is a depression that will lower their turnout or an alienation that turns them away from Democrats. Democrats throughout official Washington have lost touch with many voters who elected them.

Democrats have fallen victim to a lobbyist-industrial complex, as dangerous as the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned the nation against. Campaign money has corrupted the change that voters elected Democrats to bring.

Democrats fall victim to a culture of public relations. They falsely believe spin can hide the pain that leaves so many jobless while the Grapes of Wrath foreclosure scourge continues. Virtually bankrupt states raise local taxes. Near-bankrupt cities close schools and lay off teachers. A giant wave of pollution heads toward our shores while the president joins Republicans supporting more offshore drilling.

Too many Democratic members of the House and Senate are not inspired to fight for change, but to retire from office or retreat to special-interest fundraisers.

Too few Democrats are inspired to come to Washington to reach for greatness, as they were in the days of JFK and FDR. Too many are inspired to stay in Washington and make big bucks as lobbyists, lawyers and public-relations flacks for what Democrats campaigned against.

Senators agonize over whether they should pass the amendment by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) for an excise tax on 2009 Wall Street bonuses at bailed-out firms, while Defense Department officials tell The Washington Post last weekend that American troops are overpaid. The president names a Supreme Court choice that is another disappointment to many in his base.

Meanwhile, the trillion-dollar European bailout, justified or not, will be paid for in part by Americans through the Federal Reserve Board and the International Monetary Fund. It is a bailout of bankers as well as nations, while the lobbyists pound the pavement to protect the bonuses.

This column will be intensely disliked by some Democrats in high positions in this town, but their problem is not with me, it is with those to whom I am giving a voice. The Republican base is roused. The Democratic base is depressed. The lesson of history is clear.

The base that voted for Democrats must no longer be taken for granted, treated with condescension or held in contempt by Washington insiders.

There is a freight train headed for Democrats. Either they end their delusions or voters will end their majorities in Congress.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.