There has been quite a bit of commentary – not to say, ‘gloating’ – about the Democrats’ rather problematical 2016 prospects*. To wit: their front-runners are all old (late sixties to early seventies), all have baggage, and all distinctly lacking in any sort of executive experience whatsoever**. Worse, their front-runners are also their bench, as the surviving Democratic governors aren’t exactly anything to write home about, either. And that’s what I want to write about. Consider this list:
- Florida: Alex Sink (66)
- Iowa: Chet Culver (48)
- Michigan: Virgil Bernero (50)
- Ohio: Ted Strickland (73)
- New Mexico: Diane Denish (65)
- Pennslyvania: Donald Onorato (53)
- Wisconsin: Tom Barrett (61)
All seven people on that list (data via here) were Democrats who lost a governor’s race in 2010, but kept their opponent down below 60% of the vote (we’ll skip Maine, because those races are always weird). They’re also races where the GOP thus picked up the seat (Florida is a special case, because Charlie Crist, but it’s such an important seat we’re keeping it on the list). In other words, these were almost all Democratic-held governorships that were lost to the GOP.
Now, for the sake of argument: imagine that all of those Democrats had won. Further imagine that no more than one or two had lost in 2014, either***. In fact, imagine that Illinois didn’t flip (probably because somebody decided to switch out Pat Quinn in 2010). Add five or six fresh-minted, two-term governors to the Democratic mix, and their tactical situation for 2016 changes completely. Not as much as it could – even their hypothetical bench is unfortunately (for them) rather aged – but it’d be an improvement. Some of the people on that list even look young enough to pander to the youth vote and not be immediately be laughed out of town.
“Wait,” I hear you cry. “How is any of this Barack Obama’s fault?” Ah, that’s very easy: his ego wrote checks that his body couldn’t pay. The currently greatest open secret of our political system right now is that everyone more or less concedes that Barack Obama’s political coalition was designed specifically to get Barack Obama elected, and pretty much nobody else. Outside of the Presidency (admittedly a big exception), the Democratic party’s hold on the levers of government is at an ebb not seen in most of our lifetimes. And the Democrats didn’t get much in exchange for all that legacy power. A good deal of temporary pork. Some nice press clippings. Their names permanently associated with the most hated government policy since Prohibition.
But here’s the thing: they were promised that Barack Obama would be there to save them from all of that. And that’s a literal statement. From 2010:
[Former Rep. Marion] Berry recounted meetings with White House officials, reminiscent of some during the Clinton days, where he and others urged them not to force Blue Dogs “off into that swamp” of supporting bills that would be unpopular with voters back home.
“I’ve been doing that with this White House, and they just don’t seem to give it any credibility at all,” Berry said. “They just kept telling us how good it was going to be. The president himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes now.”
Instead 2010 was a bloodbath for Democrats, and 2012 was effectively a bloody draw in Congress, and 2014 was an even larger bloodbath. This can all be easily and justly blamed on the President: it’s his job to know the limits to his power. That Barack Obama is incapable of seeing any is a personal failing that should cause at least another three political disasters between now and 2016… but that’s not my problem.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: Let me just note, for anybody anticipating, with various flavors of dread, schadenfreude, and/or repressed masochism, the newly-unleashed power of the Presidency next year: this is Barack Obama, people. The only thing that he’s competent at is getting past 270 votes in the Electoral College. What, he’s going to turn into a Machiavellian schemer now?
*Yes, yes, yes, the GOP’s is worse and we’re all going to die. Seriously, people, grim despair is addictive and it’s not good for you anyway.
**Yes, that includes Vice President Joe Biden. The Vice Presidency is not a place where one goes to pick up tips on how to run things, given that it is (to mangle Harry Turtledove) the equivalent of a spare parts storage facility.
***Of that list, only one – Pennsylvania – flipped back to the Democrats in 2014, and that was because… well, no need to speak ill of the turned-out-of-office. Incumbents tended to do well that year, kinda-sorta: at least, better than incumbents did in 2010. OK, fine, incumbents did awful, especially Democratic ones. Still, surely some of the people on that list would have won re-election.