With great and groveling respect for the big shots in the Democratic establishment, I respectfully suggest that many of them have poop in their eyes when it comes to the real point of the upcoming election. This isn’t about whether the Democrats gain seats; they will. It isn’t about whether they’ll take control of the House; they probably will. It isn’t even about whether they take the Senate; they have a fair shot.
Barring an extraordinary turnaround (something comparable to Alan Schlesinger coming back to beat both Lamont and Lieberman in the Connecticut Senate race) this will be a Democratic year. That also isn’t the issue
The real issue is whether this is going to be a year like 1974, or one like 1994.
In post-Watergate 1974, Democrats gained 48 seats in the House and five in the Senate. But it changed nothing; the slow drift toward Republican political dominance barely missed a beat, exploding with a vengeance a mere six years later in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan and a Republican Senate.
The 1994 election, on the other hand, with Republicans winning 52 seats in the House and nine in the Senate, was a transformative political event. The Republican Party emerged as the dominant political party in the nation and has remained so ever since.
1974 was a hiccup, 1994 an earthquake.
So here we are today: And after 12 long years of watching the GOP cheating, lying and just plain treating them badly, the American people are ready to file for a divorce. What they haven’t decided yet, however, is whether to accept the Democrats’ offer to get engaged on the rebound.
We Democrats need to give them a better reason to say yes — a stronger argument, if you will, as to why we’re the perfect political party for them to settle down with, raise some kids and grow old together.
And a good starting place is a story that was in The New York Times yesterday.
With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.
That situation is adding to fears among Republicans that the economy will hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections even though overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.
The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.
As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as “the golden era of profitability.”
Boring right? That tends to be the response to economic issues these days. But strip away the technical details and what’s left is political dynamite. People are hurting; personal debt is at historic levels and rising. This despite the fact that people are working harder, spending less time with their families and living under more pressure than at any other time since World War II. Productivity is up, profits are up, but the people whose work helped produce that success aren’t even getting the table scraps.
It’s profoundly unfair; and unfairness is a powerful motivator. Any good trial lawyer will tell you that nothing is more effective in the trial of a lawsuit than getting the jury’s sense of unfairness working on your side. Juries want to do what’s fair; so do voters. And they also want to be treated fairly themselves.
If Democratic candidates can place themselves on the right side of this issue, first, by speaking out against economic unfairness, then, second, by supporting common sense policies designed to reduce the unfairness of our new everything for corporations and nothing for workers economic order, a political earthquake will start to rumble. Sure, even without it we’ll probably win in November, what with the disaster in Iraq, the betrayal of New Orleans and all the rest. But to settle for a good year, when there’s an opportunity for a transformative election, would be a pathetically poor wager.
Many establishment Democrats don’t see it this way, of course. But then that’s what happens when you’ve got poop in your eyes — even when you put it there yourself.