Opinion Brief

Did the Democrats do too little — or too much?

As the pundit class furiously analyzes where the party went wrong, retiring senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) thinks Dems "overreached"

The Democrats lost badly Tuesday and in many ways, argues retiring Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) in The New York Times, "we're the authors of our own misfortune." Democrats "over-interpreted our mandate" and "overreached" on things like health-care reform, when Americans were most concerned with jobs and economic growth. To win back moderate voters, Democrats should occupy the center that increasingly conservative Republicans are vacating. Is Bayh right that Democrats tried to do too much? (Watch a discussion about why the Democrats lost)

Bayh misdiagnoses the problem: Bayh's argument "starts out quite sensibly," says Zaid Jilani in Think Progress. But things go wrong when he pivots to his real point: Democrats should be more like moderate Republicans. "The truth is that the policies he identifies did appeal to the center." Moderates, in fact, want to end tax cuts for the rich, and their beef with health-care reform is that it doesn't go far enough.
"Bayh argues that Democrats can only win if they do the opposite..."

Ignore Bayh at your own peril, Dems: "Obama Democrats" can go on believing that their record is "is moderate, accommodating — if anything, overcautious," says Michael Barone in RealClearPolitics. But if they ignore the anger over their spending and debt-buildup, they'll continue losing. What voters told them is that the expansion of government into the economy didn't work, and to "leave the private sector alone" so it can recover in peace.
"Obama's economists missed what voters plainly saw"

The problem is the messenger: "Whatever the merits of Bayh's argument," he "has no standing" to lecture the Democrats, says Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo. In abandoning "a winning Senate seat," he basically "walked off the field in the middle of the game" and took his $10 million war chest with him. "Who can respect that?"
"Buh-bye"

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