I've been thinking for quite a while now that the health care bill would turn out to be the Panama Canal treaty of our time--a controversial and unpopular measure that barely passed, but ended up costing several Democrats their Senate seats in the next two election cycles. Indeed, this is the thesis of Adam Clymer's latest book
. But it turns out many Senate Democrats aren't even waiting for final passage and an election to heave them from office: they're throwing in the towel now, seeing the clear handwriting on the wall (i.e., the Dorgan and Dodd announcements today).
Other signs of liberal unease are building. Harold Meyerson, whom the WaPo
shrewdly recruited to its pages from the obscure LA Weekly
a while ago (unlike E.J. Dionne, Meyerson doesn't just spout DNC talking points, which is why he is worth reading), writes today about the absence of a serious liberal movement
behind the progressive politics he wishes to see move forward: "But if there's a common feature to the political landscapes in which Carter, Clinton, and now Obama were compelled to work, it's the absence of a vibrant left movement."
Now, on one level this is an odd thing to say, since the Media-Entertainment-Academic Complex represents a left movement of considerable proportions. But maybe we should focus on Meyerson's all important and non-superfluous modifier: "vibrant." After all, how many NY Times editorial pages and screaming lefty academic departments and gung-ho labor unions do you need to have a "vibrant" movement? The fact that no one would regard NY Times house editorials as vibrant (does anyone really read them except for the mothers of the anonymous authors?), but this speaks to a deeper problem, which is that leftist thought or leftist ideas are still weary, used-up things. Ultimately it is the ideas that matter to political movements, and the left still doesn't have any new ones, trading instead on the exhaustion and misfortune of Republican rule for a brief opportunity to rule big. Which makes all the more startling the growing despond of Democrats: it took Republicans more than a decade to slide into corruption and ineffectuality, and it took several years for George W. Bush's popularity to sink. Obama and the Democrats have accomplished it in a barely a year.
Add to this the angst of prairie populist Thomas Frank, the museum piece of cliche leftism that the Wall Street Journal
keeps around for laughs, who worries in today's column
that the GOP might successfully become the populist party that attacks big business: "it might be the Republicans who seize the opportunity to capture public outrage this time around, denouncing concentrated economic power, insisting on holding big business accountable, and promising to settle scores with the nation's erstwhile financial rulers."