As Santayana said, “Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.” Congressional Democrats: Take note!
Are the elections of 2009 precursors of the same kind of massive partisan upheaval in Congress that we experienced in 1994? The historical data says yes, they are.
In Virginia, the outcomes in 1993 and 2009 were almost identical. In 1993, after the Democratic incumbent, Doug Wilder, could not seek reelection, the governor’s race pitted Republican George Allen against Democrat Mary Sue Terry. Allen won handily, 58-41 — virtually the same margin by which McDonnell defeated Deeds this week.
And in New Jersey, the parallels between 1993 and 2009 are equally striking. Democrat Jim Florio, then the governor, was seeking his second term against Republican Christie Todd Whitman. Just as in 2009 Chris Christie beat Jon Corzine, so in 1993 Whitman edged out Florio by 49-48. Chris Christie’s margin was bigger, but his vote share was almost identical to Whitman’s.
So if New Jersey and Virginia both behaved the same in 2009 as they did in 1993, will 2010 bring the same kind of sweeping Republican victory that 1994 did?
And will the Democratic defeats in these two states presage trouble for President Barack Obama’s healthcare proposals in Congress?
Will history repeat itself? It depends on the depth and half-life of Democratic arrogance. If Democratic incumbents from red states start to take account of their own self-interest, the political environment for healthcare legislation in the House and the Senate will change dramatically. Democrats like Sens. Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) will have to rethink their support for a bill that is dragging their party down.
It is clear that healthcare legislation and rising unemployment are exacting a toll on Democratic legislators and cost Corzine and perhaps Deeds the governor’s mansion.
Will Democrats get the message?
If Democratic congressmen and senators continue to believe that they can be saved by Obama or by massive campaign budgets, they have only to look to New Jersey to understand how little either factor counted. Corzine outspent Christie by three to one and Obama campaigned actively in the bluest of blue states for the Democratic governor.
Of course, the 1993-94 political calendar was a time of improving economic news. The recession had ended in 1992 and unemployment was dropping.
The budget deficit was declining. So the worsening job picture so far in 2009 and the dire warnings of a jobless recovery in 2010 make this cycle even more perilous for Democratic incumbents. The message is clear. The handwriting is on the wall. But can Democrats read it?
The recent indication that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is considering a vote on healthcare reform this coming Saturday, blithely continuing as if the New Jersey and Virginia elections had not turned out the way they did, is evidence that she, at least, cannot read the writing on the wall.
For the House to pass Obama’s healthcare bill five days after so huge a repudiation of the Democratic Party and its program is breathtaking in its arrogance. Voters all over America will get the point: The congressional Democrats don’t give a damn what the voters think.
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