I Remain A Political Cassandra

by Jonathan Chait | March 4, 2010

Yesterday, John Judis  -- last seen invoking the specter of McGovern, which he had also done in 2008 -- turned shockingly optimistic about the Democrats' political prospects:

I hate political predictions, and I have certainly heard my fill of them lately. The recent Conservative Political Action Conference echoed with predictions that the Republicans would obliterate the Democrats in November 2010. And the esteemed Charlie Cook has recently pronounced the Democrats to be toast in 2010. But—and there are some “ifs” coming—if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can get the health care bill through Congress and on to Obama’s desk, and if Obama has truly learned his lesson and begins to draw a sharp distinction between the Democrats’ approach and the Republican approach, and if he begins to propose initiatives that highlight this distinction, the Democrats will retain the House and Senate in November. They will probably lose seats, but they won’t get obliterated.

I may be more optimistic than the depressive Judis, but I'm way less optimistic than the manic Judis. I think it's certain the Democrats will lose seats, and very likely control of the House as well. Passing a health care bill could help forestall a worse disaster where they lose not just 40 but 60 or more House seats. It's a midterm election, you have double-digit unemployment, and the House is (somewhat) structurally tilted toward Republican control. I have a very hard time imagining Democrats keeping the House under the best of circumstances, even though I do agree with John that a health care bill plus some fights over financial regulation and a bank tax could be helpful.

Stu Rothernberg's take looks about right to me:

Unfortunately for Democrats, passing legislation between now and November isn’t likely to change the political landscape nationally, though it could close the enthusiasm gap by energizing Democratic voters who have been disappointed by the Obama administration’s performance.
Republicans are not likely to change their views of the president and the Congress before the midterms, and the opinions (and political behavior) of independents and weak Democrats are much more likely to be tied to their perceptions of the economy and the job market than to whether Congress passes a particular piece of legislation.
Still, Democratic leaders from the White House to Congress have to do anything they can to alter the trajectory of the 2010 elections, and with eight months to go until Election Day, almost anything is possible. But the one thing Obama and Congressional Democrats need is some good news.

The Democrats absolutely have to pass the bill, or else they'll all go down in flames. But a lot of them are going to go down regardless.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/i-remain-political-cassandra