What hurts even worse is reading today's column by E. J. Dionne. As I said on Tuesday, I have always liked Dionne. Yet, reading the piece left me feeling frustrated that someone who has displayed an understanding of the realities of politics at various levels, and had an eye and ear for nuance could pen the following lede:
The Democratic surge that began in 2006 continued in elections around the country on Tuesday. But how the Democrats won provides a cautionary tale for the national party.
Without belaboring the point, Dionne notes that the various elections this past week were good for Democrats. Yet, he doesn't seem to fathom the notion that these were local and statewide elections, turning mostly on local and state issues - corruption in KY, immigration in VA - in which the Republicans had either a history of corruption (KY's governor was the Richard Nixon of the Frankfort statehouse) or had staked out a party position that was unpopular. Local and regional elections turn on different issues from national elections. Technocratic skill, basic competence, and an attention to detail are key; whether one is ideologically opposed to tax hikes is just plain irrelevant. Local government is all about the efficiency and economy of the delivery of services.
Next years national elections will not be focused on balancing growth and taxation in the sprawling DC suburbs of northern Virginia. Next years national election will be focused on Iraq, our national collapse, and Iraq, and not in that order. Of course, the Democrats have big leads among the voters as to whom they think will deal with these issues better (which is why they are so ticked at the current Congress; they want the Democratic majority to do a better job of reigning in the insanity).
Becoming the Dukakis Party won't cut it next year. Competence is an issue, and if Giuliani is the Republican's nominee we can add sanity as well to the mix (I still think Romney will get the nod, which will only shift the added burden from sanity to consistency and trustworthiness). Yet, it is not now, nor has it ever been as vital as it is in statewide or local elections. These are, for the most part, people we all know - our neighbors, the guy who runs the bank or the big hardware store. We know them, and understand their hearts are in the right place. We just want to make sure they understand what they are getting themselves in to, and can deliver the goods on time, economically.
I suppose, however, that I shouldn't be surprised that Dionne thinks the results of the elections are bad for Democrats. After all, everything the Democrats do that is successful is bad for them and the country. It's been this way for thirty years, so why should it change now?