1. Opinion

Ruth: Cowering Democrats got the result they deserved

Published Nov. 5, 2014

As the chattering class sorts through the political carrion of what's left of the Democratic Party in the wake of Tuesday night's scorched earth elections, there will be no shortage of theories as to how it all went so terribly awry.

There's a temptation to recall Adlai Stevenson's great line during his presidential campaign against Dwight Eisenhower, when a woman told him "all thinking people" were solidly behind him, to which Stevenson responded: "That's not enough madam, we need a majority."

To be sure, a funny quip. But it would be too simplistic to suggest gullible people succumbed to the unending lava flow of negative ads, or that Charlie Crist and the Florida Democratic Party did a miserable job of generating voter turnout, especially in South Florida.

There is certainly something to be said for those alibis. The negative and invariably false commercials were effective. And lack of voter enthusiasm played a pivotal role in Crist's last fan dance.

It's merely a guess, but the 2014 midterm mugging might well go down in electoral history as a great example of the politics of "Run away! Run away!" Rarely has a political party turned into a bigger gaggle of gutless poltroons than this assemblage of Democrats who spent the past few months trying to pretend: a) they really weren't Democrats and/or b) they barely remembered the name of the president of the United States.

Instead, Democrats stood haplessly and helplessly by, allowing the Republican Party to effectively establish the absurdist narrative of Barack Obama as the American political equivalent of Marshal Petain meets Che Guevara.

There are few institutions in life where loyalty carries less value than the Zimbabwean dollar than the American political system.

During this cycle, most Democratic candidates would have preferred to have Anthony Weiner campaign on their behalf than find themselves sharing a dais with Obama.

The Barack Whatshisname shunning reached its crescendo of stupidity when Kentucky Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Grimes refused to say whom she voted for in the 2012 presidential election. That wasn't being coy. It was clueless to the optics of coming off as a feckless dope for not acknowledging the obvious.

Voters want to know what candidates stand for. It's not an unreasonable expectation. And it was awfully difficult to know what Democrats stood for in 2014 when they campaigned from a whimpering fetal position, fearful that some brutish Republican might remind everyone their party affiliation was the same as Obama's. Now there's a profile in cornmeal mush for you.

Disheartened Democrats can sit shiva all they want over Tuesday's results. They can decry the Republican takeover of the Senate. But this much is clear. While Democrats might disagree with the Republican Party and its extremist tea party wing, at least the public knows what Republicans believe in, what they stand for. What core principles did Democrats advance during this election season? And no, hiding behind a tree doesn't count.

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Wouldn't it have been refreshing for a Democrat like, say, Crist to stand up and say something like, "You're &^%$#*^ right I'm a Democrat and proud to be associated with a president who dragged the country out of the Bush recession, saved the auto industry and bumped off Osama bin Laden. And yeah, I'm proud to stand with a president under whom GDP is up, gas prices are down, unemployment is at its lowest level since 2007 and the deficit has been slashed by a third — accomplished I might add while having to deal with an obstructionist Congress. You have a problem with that?"

Would having the leader of the free world come to Florida to stump for Crist have changed the outcome of Tuesday's election? We'll never know. But it couldn't have hurt, especially in boosting South Florida voter turnout. And it would have done wonders for establishing Crist's Democratic bona fides, which were always suspect.

Instead, vast swaths of Democrats ceded the Obama-as-the-bumbler-in-chief talking point to Republicans without so much as a Chicken Little peep of protest. Don't you suspect that even in defeat if Democrats had put up a fight instead of cowering for fear of being linked to a sitting president, the party would have at least earned some respect? And perhaps even a victory or two?

There's an old axiom that the body politic gets the government it deserves. That's true.

By the same token, the Democratic Party got the election it deserved by offering a quivering voice and a spine of Jell-O. That's not leadership. It's first-degree political incompetence.


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