Having just been all doom and gloom, let me note what I see as the other side of the equation. Partisans contest elections to get power to do certain things — usually, though not always, to pass laws. You contest the next election to keep what you did or do more. Now, human nature and the calendar being what it is, it’s sort of inevitable that people lose sight of this fact and start thinking about winning elections and the next and the next one after that as and end in itself.
During the Health Care drama, particularly during that interlude in which it looked like the Democrats would give up on Reform at the 2 yard line, I wrote a post (wish I could find it) in which I argued that what would really be catastrophic would be to have won an historic election, choke when it came to passing the big legislation, and then get clobbered would be something approaching tragic. But that didn’t happen. The Democrats passed Health Care Reform. They passed Financial Services Reform. And though they’ll likely not get credit for it for some time they passed the admittedly inadequate Stimulus Bill that prevented another Great Depression.
If the Democrats get clobbered in November, those accomplishments won’t disappear. They’re banked. And they were worth doing. They are the sorts of things it’s worth contesting and winning elections for. In 2011 and 2012, they won’t be going anywhere because of President Obama’s veto pen. And even if the Republicans continued on a roll in 2012 and 2014, which I find doubtful, I think these reforms, like so many before them, would prove difficult to dislodge. By the end of the decade Michael Steele will be explaining how Health Care Reform was really passed on Republican votes.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.