It is clear that Democrats over-interpreted our mandate. Talk of a “political realignment” and a “new progressive era” proved wishful thinking. Exit polls in 2008 showed that 22 percent of voters identified themselves as liberals, 32 percent as conservatives and 44 percent as moderates. An electorate that is 76 percent moderate to conservative was not crying out for a move to the left.
We also overreached by focusing on health care rather than job creation during a severe recession. It was a noble aspiration, but $1 trillion in new spending and a major entitlement expansion are best attempted when the Treasury is flush and the economy strong, hardly our situation today.
And we were too deferential to our most zealous supporters. During election season, Congress sought to placate those on the extreme left and motivate the base — but that meant that our final efforts before the election focused on trying to allow gays in the military, change our immigration system and repeal the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. These are legitimate issues but unlikely to resonate with moderate swing voters in a season of economic discontent.
With these lessons in mind, Democrats can begin to rebuild. Where to start?
Instead of listening to the Dem base, Bayh of course wants Dems to publicly tell liberals to go to hell and listen to the "most zealous members" of the Republican base instead. They'll surely vote Democratic then, just like they did last night when the Blue Dogs who ran on exactly that strategy got slaughtered, right?
Or maybe the problem is tens of millions of Dem voters stayed home because they thought the Democrats didn't give a damn about them.
When somebody tells you Dems can win by running to the right, ask them how the Blue Dogs did in 2010.
[UPDATE] Rachel Maddow destroys Bayh's argument.
Does Sen. Bayh's sarcastic critique of health reform as a "noble aspiration" (but really a horrible liberal overreach) apply to himself pushing for it? Or does it only apply to people who take responsibility for their policy decisions?
And that's about as angry as I've ever seen her get.