This article in the New York Times on the awkward disconnect between the President of the United States and the political party that he’s presumably in charge of is actually… not too bad, really. This, for example, is pretty clear-headed:
In 2006 and 2008, Democrats did something that had not been done in American politics since the Great Depression, which is to string together two consecutive “wave” elections — roughly defined as a gain of at least 20 seats in the House of Representatives. They gained a total of 55 House seats and 12 seats in the Senate; the tide came in twice and with unusual strength. That means that some significant number of the Democrats elected in the last two cycles, to put it bluntly, really don’t have much business holding their seats in the first place. Either their districts normally trend Republican — 49 Democratic House members were elected from districts that voted for John McCain — or they themselves probably wouldn’t have cleared the threshold for a successful candidacy in a more conventional election year.
…where it breaks down is in considering some of the implications. Well, that’s why we’re here.
The central problem that the Democratic party has right now is that there are two Democratic parties: the one that tries to elect Congressmen, and the one that tries to elect Presidents. The one that tries to elect Presidents has a President in office, so it is generally running the show; and the current President is pretty famous for wanting to run in perpetual campaign mode, so you can safely assume that 2012 is first and last their prime concern.
Now here’s the thing. The White House’s strategy – or Organizing for America’s strategy, or the Democratic National Committee’s strategy; take your pick, they’re all the same these days – is to recreate the magic of 2008 in 2010 by bringing back all those first-time voters for Obama, or at least enough of them to avoid disaster. Sounds simple enough, right? – Only, one problem. There are, again, 49 Democrats holding seats in districts that John McCain won. Which is another way of saying that there are 49 Democrats who are being told to rely on an electoral strategy that historically did not work in their districts in 2008.
It’s the old problem with Electoral Votes versus Congressional Districts. Almost all states assign EVs based on statewide totals, so the first priority for Presidents is to get the best net turnout per state. So if a policy stance drops you 25K in one place but gets you an extra 50K elsewhere, and all the alternatives are worse, well, that’s not a hard political calculation to make. But the local politician that might have been depending on those 25K votes might disagree. And if you’ve stuck your neck out for the President – as many Democrats have done wrt TARP*, stimulus, cap-and-trade, health care rationing, and the various bailouts – by voting against the collective opinion of your district; well, I can’t imagine being told that the President plans to reward you by encouraging the voters who weren’t able to vote for you last time to vote for urban Democrats in November.
Mind you, if you’re an urban Democrat, this offer by the President is a great deal and a bit of a relief; but only a little, as you probably weren’t in trouble in the first place.
*Yes, I know that technically TARP is a Bush-era program. Guess what? Bush. Isn’t. Here.
Crossposted to Moe Lane.