Before we get into the meat of this story from the National Journal, let me just note that this – “One of the most underappreciated stories in recent years is the deterioration of the Democratic bench under President Obama’s tenure in office” – has always been properly appreciated by me. I noticed this issue a while back. Sorry, but I felt the need to establish that.
…less attention has been paid to how the shrinking number of Democratic officeholders in the House and in statewide offices is affecting the party’s Senate races. It’s awfully unusual to see how dependent Democrats are in relying on former losing candidates as their standard-bearers in 2016. Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, Pennsylvania’s Joe Sestak, Indiana’s Baron Hill, and Ohio’s Ted Strickland all ran underwhelming campaigns in losing office in 2010—and are looking to return to politics six years later. Party officials are courting former Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina to make a comeback bid, despite mediocre favorability ratings and the fact that she lost a race just months ago that most had expected her to win. All told, more than half of the Democrats’ Senate challengers in 2016 are comeback candidates.
Again, this is only a surprise if you are not paying attention; which I will concede is often the case for many voters. Josh Kraushaar touched on the reason that this all happened only lightly, but I will be a good deal more explicit about it. The Democrats are in this mess because in 2006 and 2008 they decided to treat what was a natural and transitory shift in American voting practices into an excuse to do every stupid political thing that progressives have wanted Democrats to do since the end of the New Deal. Worse – from the country’s point of view – in 2008 they got elected President possibly the first man ever to hold that office who seems oblivious to the fact that there’s more to being President than doing the public rites of kingship*.
This killed the Democrats in 2010. It absolutely did; because Barack Obama made them do stupid things for the sake of Barack Obama, with never a thought to what it’d do to the state parties. And then the Democrats apparently didn’t learn better then, because in 2012 the Democratic party didn’t derive the right lesson from Barack Obama’s much narrower victory. And since that lesson was The Democrats are in deep trouble for 2014 if they don’t watch out we had the highly entertaining 2014 elections, which proceeded to solidify Republican gains across the country.
Fortunately, the Democrats are apparently still not learning their lesson, which is why we’re seeing them run candidates that we already know how to beat. And I wouldn’t be too confident about any polls being bandied about right now, either. First off, it’s a year out, which means that they’d be meaningless even under normal circumstances. Second, and more importantly: these aren’t normal circumstances. I can’t think of many political movements lately who have relied on public polling and ended up happy that they did…
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*If we had a constitutional monarchy, then sure: Barack Obama would make a reasonably good figurehead. Unfortunately, in this country we expect our head of state to also work for a living.