"Nothing could be better for him than running against a Republican Congress," said this lawmaker. He also made the case that governing to the left was costing the Democrats support from business and therefore would cripple their ability to hold more than 50 marginal districts they had won from Republicans in 2006 and 2008. Campaigns are expensive, he explained, and in the last two cycles Democrats had overtaken Republicans in fundraising because business crossed the aisle. Without them, he said, the party will lose.
This may prove correct, and it may not. But donations to Democrats from business are way down so far this cycle, and the political peril the party faces in those swing districts cannot be overstated. On every issue, from the economy to Afghanistan to healthcare to energy to regulation, the party find itself on the defensive. Its own base has warned them it is disappointed about a healthcare reform bill unlikely to contain a robust public option but likely to make further abortion restrictions, an escalation in Afghanistan, and delays on immigration reform as well as card-check legislation for unions. Not only will the young and African-American votes Obama inspired to come out in droves stay home next year, but the angry and fired-up Republican voters will be out in force and accompanied by what is likely to be a majority of independent voters.
In today's New York Times, Democrats are expressing their dismay that the White House continues to press on with politically charged issues like climate change — not to mention an escalation in Afghanistan — when congressional Democrats are placing jobs at top of their priority list. They fear Obama is trying to get the most contentious issues behind him early in his first term so that they are distant come time for reelection in 2012, while Democrats will pay for public disapproval of such policies at the polls next November.
"They say you do the tough things early," said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). "Early 2010 is early for the White House, but it is perilously late for members of Congress. I don't know if it's a new tension, but it's certainly something people are talking about on the Hill."
The White House will likely keep everyone on board to pass healthcare reform, but after that, if members feel unemployment isn't being addressed and they will pay for it with their own jobs, the president's team should beware. These Democrats, many of whom were in the minority for 12 long years and have no desire to go back, are perfectly aware of how volatile this electorate is. And they won't be happy about walking off a cliff.
WILL UNEMPLOYMENT CONTINUE TO DROP? Ask A.B. returns Monday, Dec. 7. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to email@example.com. Thank you.