FIELDS: Nancy, Nancy, Nancy
Happy politicians are all alike; every unhappy politician is unhappy in his own way. (Apologies to Tolstoy.) Nancy Pelosi, who in her heart of hearts must be unhappy about Nov. 2, insists publicly that the disaster was an occasion for the losers to celebrate.
She throws a party on Capitol Hill to honor the “accomplishments” of the 111th Congress. “We have no intention of allowing our great achievements to be rolled back,” she wrote to her Democratic colleagues. “It is my hope that we can work in a bipartisan way to create jobs and strengthen the middle class.” That would be something new. Until now, her “bipartisan way” was more like Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
Harry Reid takes comfort where he can find it, in mere survival, which is enough for most pols. But he won’t have much fun in the new Senate, getting to the table with a much smaller stack of chips. The casinos in Las Vegas that ordered their employees to vote early and often now put the odds against his doing much more than hanging on a little longer.
The surviving Blue Dogs, who showed more bark than bite, set out to push their party closer to the center, but their’s turned out to be an exercise in noisy futility, like a hound chasing a dusty Chevy down the road. Now Mrs. Pelosi can consign them to permanent residence in her doghouse. That should teach them to neither bark up the wrong tree nor chase after that dusty Chevy.
Successful Republicans, who normally would be celebrating, are playing down their victories and for once are playing it smart. John A. Boehner struck the right note on Election Day night: “We have real work to do, and this is not a time for celebration.” He understands that he and his colleagues got a mortgage on the House with low interest on the loan, but the season for foreclosures is likely to extend beyond the 111th Congress. Voters, like bankers, can be an unforgiving lot.
A midterm election is always a referendum on the president and his performance, but sometimes, like this time, it’s more than a referendum on performance. Anger fed the determination to punish the arrogance of the big majorities in both House and Senate as well as the smooth-talking president, and there was a certain glee in the way the voters went about their work, much like the boisterous fun of the original tea party in Boston Harbor on that cold December day in 1773.
Thomas Hutchinson, the royal governor of Massachusetts, had made a costly error of judgment, as arrogant government administrators often do. He didn’t understand that the partiers would rather throw the tea into the sea than pay the tax on tea. President Obama made a similar misreading of tea leaves. When he couldn’t deliver on his promise of jobs, which everybody wanted, and instead forced through Obamacare, which almost nobody wanted, his countrymen gave him a splash of shellac much like the splash of tea that soaked that royal governor in Boston more than two centuries ago.
While the economy was the primary reason Mr. Obama got his “shellacking,” it wasn’t the only reason. Timothy E. Donner, president of One Generation Away, a public-policy organization in Virginia, gets it right when he puts it down to “attitude.”
“While the health care reform bill is wildly unpopular,” he says, “the way it was passed was even more unpopular.” His organizationtakes its name from a speech by Ronald Reagan. “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” quoth the Gipper. “We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same. …”
The founding documents of the nation - the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers - provided a mantra for millions of voters this time, and neither the president nor the Democrats in Congress understood the source of the passion. The people understand what the wise men won’t.
Hubert H. Humphrey, a Democrat and a liberal one at that, understood, too. A half-century ago he called “we the people” the “three most important words in the lexicon of democracy.” It means government should reflect the wishes of the people. The midterm election of 2010 was fundamentally about the way these three little words have been battered, bruised and forgotten by the party in charge. That’s the lesson “we the people” applied to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, who won’t be able to sit down without a very soft pillow for a long time. An odd something to celebrate.
Suzanne Fields is a syndicated columnist.
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