Some Democrats have come up with a nifty slogan for 2012: "We're really hopeless, but the other guy could be worse."
This is a steal from certain Republicans, who often campaign as sad-sack losers eager for whatever crumbs fall from the grown-ups' table: "Vote Republican; we're not as bad as you think."
Neither approach has the robust optimism of Ronald Reagan's promise of a new "morning in America," and finally Republicans, with spines stiffened by deep drafts of strong tea, have dispensed with the usual formula. Neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Perry is a nice country-club Episcopalian, and Joe Btfsplk, the little man in the old Li'l Abner comic strip who walked around under a perpetual little rain cloud of his own, is all Barack Obama has to cheer him. Mr. Btfsplk (pronounced like a well-executed Bronx cheer) is a well-meaning little fellow, but all his luck is bad, and he shares it with everybody he brushes up against.
The Republican sweep of special elections to fill vacant Democrat-held House sets in New York and Nevada only deepens White House gloom. Despite Pollyanna talk in the Executive Mansion, the president's wise men understand that going into 2012 with an unemployment rate of 9 percent and no relief in sight is not a good way to win a second term.
Spinning results is what Washington wise men do, and this week, the shrill grinding noise in the neighborhoods along the Potomac was like unto that of a morning after a blizzard, with everyone spinning his wheels in a forlorn attempt to get his car moving through icy ruts. The White House pretends that losing a seat that had been in Democratic hands since 1920 doesn't mean anything. One White House aide told Politico, the Capitol Hill daily, that the election of Bob Turner in New York couldn't have been a referendum on Mr. Obama's presidency because both the Republican and the Democrat were running against the president: "So I don't understand how anyone could say this had anything to do with [Mr. Obama.]" Another Democratic operative finds solace where he can: The minute Anthony D. Weiner, the disgraced Democrat who had to surrender the seat, started taking off his clothes for his Twitter fans, the Democrats knew they would lose the seat. So they didn't really try to keep it. Rep. Joseph Crowley, the Democratic leader of Queens, turned to political argle-bargle for an explanation. The district straddles the border between Queens and Brooklyn and, Mr. Crowley said, "We won Queens County 52-48," leaving unstated that Democrats lost big in Brooklyn. He means the Democrats lost the Jews.
It's true that the Jews in New York's 9th Congressional District are mostly Orthodox Jews, who hold as tightly to the tenets of Judaism as their forebears did, with no truck for squeamish compromises with modern times. That means, among other things, only one man at a time atop the wedding cake. David Weprin, the Democratic loser on Tuesday night, endorsed the same-sex-marriage legislation enacted this summer in New York and paid heavily for it. Worse, because he's a Democrat, he was badly damaged by the widespread perception that Mr. Obama has to bite his tongue and sometimes hold his nose when he talks about Israel.
The president has been hanging out with the wrong crowd most of his life, and he sounds sincere only on those frequent occasions when he's apologizing to, or flirting with, Muslims. Now the Democrats are terrified that the Jewish vote was fractured permanently by the result in New York. Jewish voters, having seen no thunderbolts striking either Brooklyn or Queens on the day after, might give up worshipping the Democratic Party as the golden calf of American politics. They might see where Mr. Obama's heart really lies.
Mr. Obama had sloppy wet kisses for the Muslims in Cairo in 2009, apologizing for everything American; he urges Israel to trust the Palestinians, who have broken every promise they've ever made; he restrains Jerusalem from answering the vow of Iranians to "wipe Israel off the face of the map." These decisions ought to make it difficult for Jews to trust such a president, particularly without verification.
"This Republican win," says Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition, "is a significant indicator of the problem President Obama has in the Jewish community."
Rep. James P. Moran, a fiercely partisan Democrat in Northern Virginia, agrees it's tough to put a positive spin on election night. He finds it hard to believe that with such a heavy concentration of Orthodox Jewish voters and a Jewish candidate, the Democrats still lost. Joe Btfsplk would understand.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
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