The fury coursing through the meeting last Thursday in the basement of the Capitol was just the latest manifestation of the foul mood of House and Senate Democrats as they suffer through the final days of the 111th Congress, watching their power ebb while scores of them cast their last votes.Did they really think that he would be different? They really are going through the stages of grief. And they are surrounded everywhere by the signs of their loss.
Many are having difficulty adjusting to their abruptly changed circumstances just two years after a triumphant inauguration of a new president who sealed Democratic hegemony over Washington. Deepening the wound is the fact that Democrats are still in charge, yet the White House struck its tax deal mainly with Senate Republicans.
And, incredulous Democrats say, the administration made a bad bargain even as it left fellow Democrats out of the loop.
“People are just baffled that the administration couldn’t cut a better deal,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat and party leader who says the White House got taken in the tax talks.
Other Democrats and party strategists say the antipathy goes much deeper than simple unrest over the proposal to extend lower tax rates to the most affluent Americans and give up on a core Democratic belief.
House Democrats in particular feel betrayed. From their perspective, they took extraordinarily tough votes in 2009 and 2010 to advance the new president’s sweeping agenda and suffered accordingly in the election. Then he immediately turned around and did business with Republicans before those defeated in November had even vacated their Washington apartments.
Democrats are contending with a complex set of circumstances and emotions. They are reminded daily of their severe election losses because the victims — their friends and colleagues — are still among them.Awwww.
Republicans are steadily and very publicly preparing for their House ascension by making pronouncements, electing committee leaders and filling their new slots on the panels. In some cases, Republican lawmakers and top aides stop by to check out the Democratic offices they will soon occupy. Democrats are visiting the smaller quarters they will soon be working in.
With divided government imminent, Democrats are using these final days to make a desperate push for priorities, including an immigration measure for young Americans who entered the country illegally and the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay men and lesbians.
But Republicans continue to confound them, denying them votes on these issues and others, choking off their hopes for a final feel-good victory. It only serves to drive home the reality of how marginalized they stand to be in the new Washington dynamic when they are stymied by Republicans and sidestepped by their own president even before they lose control of the House and six seats in the Senate.
One top Democratic leader said that the party was no stranger to losing and that it had managed to cope with defeats like that of Senator John Kerry to President George W. Bush in 2004. But it was not as if they were being tossed from the White House. And they felt then that the party was on the rise.
But at the moment, a resurrection of Congressional Democrats seems distant, the idea of recapturing the House in two years is a long shot, and the party is bracing for serious electoral trouble in the 2012 Senate races.
And this year’s loss involves relinquishing something very big — the hard-won control of the House. Clearly, it hurts.
“We only had it for four years,” one senior Democrat lamented. “It took so long to get it back, and now it is all gone.”
I'm sure the NYT had the same sort of deep sympathy for the GOP members back in 2006. Hey, any politician who thinks that victory is always certain is too dumb to be elected. Go read some history. Presidents have different priorities from members of Congress. And parties win and lose throughout history. Wake up from the fantasy world where Democrats run everything and run it well forever.