Alex Massie

Let the Democratic Recriminations Begin!

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Tuesday is mid-term day and the only thing left is to measure the height of the Republican wave that's about to swamp Democrats. This is the third "change" election in a row (which itself might be something that should trouble the White House as it looks to 2012) and one that, in the end, can't be spun away by Democratic strategists. (See this useful Dave Weigel piece for more on that. Also Nate Silver who, in making the best case possible for Democrats reminds us that a night as bad as the 2006 mid-terms were for Republicans would be considered a good result by Democrats.)

Brendan Nyhan
, however, has a very useful round-up of the many, many things the Democratic defeat will be blamed upon and, gratifyingly, has even produced a bingo card so you can play along at home:


Now there are other things you could add but it's what's missing that is most important: the economy. But that's precisely the point. There'll be lots more to say tomorrow but the key truths are a) that Democrats were close to if not actually at, their ceiling anyway and b) the economy, the economy, the economy. Other things matter too, but it's the economic failure (which has in turn spawned economic decisions that have had and helped concentrate unhappy political consequences) that counts for most of the problems the Democrats have had*. (See Toby Harnden, mind you, for some of the excuses Democrats have been preparing in advance.)

That doesn't mean the White House hasn't made mistakes, some of them serious others trivial but telling, these past two years (this too is a matter for later), but just as some people perhaps over-interpreted the intensity of the GOP's defeats in 2006 and 2008 (yup, I'd include myself in that group, though in terms of long-term trends, well, we'll see won't we?) so one should be wary of over-interpreting these results too. Certainly, the electorate isn't keen on what the Democrats have been delivering; that doesn't mean they like what the GOP is selling either. (That's obviously the logical place to begin from anyway.)

Will a Congress led by Mitch McConnell and John Boehner be that much better than one steered by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi? Only up to a point. Will there be a "Tea Party Caucus"? Perhaps and perhaps it will do some good. But there are few grounds for optimism. Kicking the bums out is all well and good but it's not so much if you just replace them with another bunch of bums.

Still: it should be an interesting night, though not one that will end well for the Democrats or, for that matter, for the President.

*This is unfair but inevitable. I think a government's ability to make the economic weather is vastly over-stated by press and public alike. Avoiding monumental blunders and setting a framework of sensible monetary and fiscal policy is about as much as can be hoped for. Politicians, of course, like to claim more than that and so, in the end, invite to be judged on matters over which they have precious little control. This is not wise. But they all do it.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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