Monday, November 08, 2010

The Short Lesson of the 2010 Elections

cross-posted at Dagblog

So almost every op-ed page agrees that the lessons of the 2010 midterms are as follows:

1) The Democrats should compromise more with the Republicans, because the Republicans now have about a 50-vote majority in the House.

2) The Republicans should get to decide what counts as "compromise," because the voters are on their side.

3) Obama should apologize to everyone, all the time, for everything he did in his first two years as President. He has been Rebuked by the People and should atone for his Sin of Pride.

That's certainly one way to look at it. Here's another:

The Republicans just made serious gains by not compromising. They turned Not Compromising into 60+ House seats. If last Tuesday night was a shellacking for Democrats, the last election (and truth be told, the one before) can only be described as a shellackety-ackety-acking for the GOP. Even their big angry red wave in 2010 couldn't put the Democrats in a hole as deep as Boehner and Cantor were standing in two years ago, with their sorry 180 seats to Pelosi's 255. Never mind the big Presidential loss they'd taken, and their lopsided weakness in the Senate. But they decided that they had not been Rebuked by the People, no matter what the vote count looked like. They decided they were the True Voice of the People and acted accordingly.

I freely admit that being in opposition and being in the White House require different strategies. But even so, the post-election consensus among opinion journalists flunks the Listening to Themselves Test, badly. The Republicans just followed a political stragegy to major Election-Night gains, and the conventional wisdom is that the Democrats should not follow that strategy.

This advice is either counter-intuitive or just plain stupid. If it comes with a reasonable explanation and an alternative strategy, it's counter-intuitive. If it's just announced as plain common sense, it's plainly stupid.

Democrats should never pay attention to what the Republicans say (or vice versa). The Republicans have absolutely no interest in giving their opponents useful advice. Democrats should pay attention to what their opponents do. That's the lesson. If the other side beats you by playing aggressively and working the refs as hard as they can, you don't counter that by playing less aggressively yourself. Either you figure out a way to make their strategy work against them, or you hit 'em hard and cry foul as loudly as you can. That's what they would do.

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