The midterms were a referendum on Obama from the D base, and that's why the Ds lost
The Democratic Base Stayed Home
Core Democratic groups stayed away in droves Tuesday, costing Democratic House candidates dearly at the polls.
Hispanics, African Americans, union members and young people were among the many core Democratic groups that turned out in large numbers in the 2008 elections, propelling Mr. Obama and Democratic House candidates to sizable victories. In 2010, turnout among these groups dropped off substantially, even below their previous midterm levels.
In short, everybody that Obama threw under the bus. Hispanics? No immigration reform and increased deportations. African Americans? Horrific unemployment and continued jailing under the War on Drugs. Union members? No card check and the HCR sellout. Young people? Horrific unemployment again, along with the big "Fuck you" on issues like gays and marijuana legalization. The numbers:
Voters under the age of 30 comprised 18 percent of the electorate in 2008 and nearly 13 percent in 2006 but only made up 11 percent of the electorate in 2010. The share of voters from union households dropped from 23 percent in 2006 and 21 percent in 2008 to 17 percent in 2010. African Americans made up 13 percent of the electorate in 2008 but fell to 10 percent in 2010. Such apathy likely cost the Democrats House seats as voters in each of these groups cast ballots for Democratic House candidates by at least 15 point margins.
Ian's right: "The left must be seen to repudiate Obama, and they must be seen to take him down. " What this election shows is that the votes are there to do that.
Adding... I'm not taking account of Obama losing independents, so I'm not sure the referendum is national, or that there was a single referendum. But in the D party, there surely was a referendum, and Obama and his faction lost. Badly.
UPDATE The Blue Dogs lose, too.
Yes. It is Obama's fault. He is the leader of the party and he has squandered the best political opportunity the Democrats have had probably since LBJ. He is a complete, abject failure as a strategist, his administration is in the pocket of Wall Street, and he has managed to get his pathetic, milquetoast bit of Republican economics branded "Socialism".
I half expect him to switch parties to show how bi-partisan and cooperative he can be.
Ouch. Unless Obama's an R mole. If all you had to go by was behavior...
What actually happened, of course, was that Obama failed to do enough to boost the economy, plus totally failing to tap into populist outrage at Wall Street. And now we’re in the trap I worried about from the beginning: by failing to do enough when he had political capital, he lost that capital, and now we’re stuck.
But he did have help in getting it wrong: at every stage there was a faction of Democrats standing in the way of strong action, demanding that Obama do less, avoid spending money, and so on. In so doing, they shot themselves in the face: half of the Blue Dogs lost their seats.
And what are those who are left demanding? Why, that Obama move to the center.
UPDATE Kevin Drum:
Lots of Democrats, including me, have been pointing out that structural factors alone predicted a 45-seat loss in the House this year. In other words, the bulk of the expected Democratic losses weren't due to healthcare reform or Obama's remoteness or liberal overreach or anything like that. It was baked into the cake all along.
But the model I wrote about, which comes from Douglas Hibbs, only predicted a 45-seat loss, and it looks like Dems are likely to lose at least 60 seats. That means Democrats underperformed the Hibbs model by 15 seats or so, which is a record for them. (See chart below.) They've underperformed by ten seats a couple of times in the postwar era, but never by more than that. So at the same time that it's correct to blame most of their losses on structural factors, it's also correct that this was something of a historically bad result. I think it might be fair to say that the economy is so epically bad that Hibbs's model might not account for it entirely, but that's mostly special pleading. It really does look like there's a fair amount of scope to place a lot of the blame for tonight's Democratic debacle on both tactical and policy missteps.
You had majorities. And I KNOW, okay, but all America sees is that you had majorities and you wasted them. Because that's what the GOP told them, and you said, "buh buh buh" and couldn't point to anything you did right, not even with the unwashed hippies holding your arm up for you. You had majorities, and you had Harry Reid, refusing to be mean to Republicans by shoving stuff through. You had majorities, and you had Barack Obama acting like he was already an ex-president and could be gracious and social with these pricks. You had majorities, used them to do some stuff, and then sat back and acted like we should be grateful when we can fucking count.
We can fucking count, out here. We know what 51 means. We know what 257 means. We're not morons. And all the procedural whatsit you argue today, about ConservaDems and Blue Dogs, doesn't mean shit. You had it, and we worked hard to give it to you, and we see you calling things impossible which are just very hard, and we get fucking annoyed, because we don't get to get away with that shit. Not at our jobs and not in our lives. ...
You had majorities. You had power and you told us you were powerless. Why would anyone reward that with more power? Why would anyone think that's a good idea?
UPDATE Glenn Greenwald:
The number of Obama followers writing to me on Twitter and elsewhere telling me that left-wing critics of the President are the primary cause of last night's outcome -- rather than massive economic suffering and the actions of their Leader -- is even more than I expected. Bizarrely, they actually seem to have convinced themselves of this; I suppose one who is desperate to cling to their leader-love will find any theory that shields him from responsibility. Behold the supreme power of the Professional Left!!
Well... That would make the left power-brokers, right? That's bad why?
UPDATE Lord Eschaton weighs in:
One can spread blame around a lot, but it has been distressing to watch failures of both policy and politics. The policy failure was about the economy and the foreclosure crisis, and the politics was the failure to recognize how deeply this mattered. No matter what people say in polls, nobody cares about the deficit or "spending," they care about whether they have any money. Foreclosures are devastating individuals and communities, and whatever the merits, speeding up small business investment depreciation just doesn't provide an adequate message. Obama said he wants to turn the economy around to fix the foreclosure crisis, but he has many more tools at his disposal to deal with the foreclosure crisis than he does for the economy generally, absent help from Congress.
I don't know how politicians lacked the self-preservation skills to recognize that if they failed to deliver on the economy they would fail, but that's what happened.
K Street awaits!