Stopping by Boxer HQ was a mistake from the standpoint of Election Night coverage but the right thing to do for a wider perspective. It was absolutely surreal to be in an atmosphere of jubilation and victory for a Democratic politician on a night like last night. This map tells you everything you need to know. It was a miserable night. Republicans will have their largest majority in the House of Representatives since 1928, larger than the entire Gingrich era. And they did it in one cycle.
It didn’t really matter what kind of candidate Democrats ran in the House. Fighting progressive like Alan Grayson or Tom Perriello in a swing seat? Gone. Scared of his shadow conservative Dem like Zack Space or Steve Dreihaus? Gone. New Dem like Melissa Bean? Looks like she’s gone too. Up-and-coming candidate like Joe Garcia or Dan Seals in a winnable pickup spot? No. Even California, where the Democrats at the top of the ticket won convincingly, there’s a chance for two Dem incumbents – Jerry McNerney and Jim Costa – to go down; those races are still uncalled at the moment and will be for some time. The success stories were few and far between (everyone held serve in Iowa, for example, which is notable). Basically, you got steamrolled by the economy and the D next to your name and it didn’t matter what strategy you offered to combat it.
Those were the less visible House races. In the more visible Senate races, we are likely to have a +6 GOP outcome. High-profile Republicans like Sharron Angle, John Raese, Carly Fiorina, Christine O’Donnell and Linda McMahon were defeated, and it looks like Ken Buck and Dino Rossi may get nipped as well. Pat Toomey and Mark Kirk barely survived. Even Russ Feingold made a race of it, and heck, Alvin Greene got 356,000 people to vote for him. It seemed like these races captured more media attention, highlighted the positions of the Republican candidates, and made it more possible for Democrats to go against the grain of the election. Nobody could get hidden in the weeds, and believe me, there are a lot of weeds in that new House GOP.
But this can’t be a consolation. We have a sick economy, a looming lost decade, millions of people out of work and millions more fighting to keep their home. There doesn’t seem to be a way to combat that legislatively until 2013 now at the earliest, and that really won’t be good enough for our competitiveness in the world.
Bottom line, we’re in a small-d depression, as I’ve heard it described today. These results are the kind of thing that happens in that circumstance. Democrats did not provide tangible enough results for people, things they could touch and feel, to show they were on the right course. That’s just the bottom line.
UPDATE: Just a couple things to add to this. If you were a longtime old bull of the House and even a committee chair – you could lose. Jim Oberstar, Ike Skelton and John Spratt fell. If you were a Blue Dog and wanted to hide in the weeds and act all conservative, you could lose. The Blue Dogs went from 54 members to 26. If you brought new energy to the caucus and a fresh perspective, you probably did lose. There wasn’t any rhyme or reason to this. Democrats didn’t hang together, but they sure did hang separately.