A friend in Louisiana (believe it or not, a couple of liberal Democrats still reside there) sent a link to a column by William Saletan in Slate making the case that politics aren't solely about the last election, they are also about achieving things for people. By that measure, he thinks 2010 was a good year for Democrats. He's not buying the blame-it-all-on-health-care line, for one, or particularly sorry if it's true.
I'm not buying the autopsy or the obituary. In the national exit poll, voters were split on health care. Unemployment is at nearly 10 percent. Democrats lost a lot of seats that were never really theirs, and those who voted against the bill lost at a higher rate than did those who voted for it. But if health care did cost the party its majority, so what? The bill was more important than the election.
It was a big deal, he continues:
It's a huge structural change in the relationship between the public, the economy, and the government.
Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded. In 2008, Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and by the thinnest of margins, they rammed a bill through. They weren't going to get another opportunity for a very long time. It cost them their majority, and it was worth it.
And that's not counting financial regulation, economic stimulus, college lending reform, and all the other bills that became law under Pelosi. So spare me the tears and gloating about her so-called failure. If John Boehner is speaker of the House for the next 20 years, he'll be lucky to match her achievements.
Even Republican commentators recognize the achievement gap between the parties, such as Ross Douthat in NY Times on the GOP's return to power.
The modest Mr. Boehner leads a party with much to be modest about. Gingrich could brandish an agenda because he had an agenda — a raft of conservative policy proposals, on welfare and crime and taxes, that couldn’t get any traction in a Democratic-controlled Congress. Today’s Republicans, by contrast, know what they’re against (the health care bill, tax increases, cap and trade) but have a world of trouble saying what they might actually be for.
Instead, they tend to fall back on the reassuring story they’ve been spinning for the last two years, in which they lost to the Democrats only because they failed to hold the line on spending. It’s a narrative that flatters conservative self-regard, while absolving Republicans of the obligation to think too deeply about policy. All they need to do is say “no” to bigger government, and the rest will take care of itself.