Thursday, December 31, 2009

Republicans deserve blame for Democratic excesses

Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken won his seat by 312 votes out of nearly 3 million cast, which means that if just 157 Franken voters had chosen Republican Norm Coleman instead, Franken would not be in the Senate. What if that had happened? Or what if the Bush Justice Department had not wrongly prosecuted Republican Sen. Ted Stevens on corruption charges, leading to his conviction just days before voters went to the polls? Or what if a conservative third-party candidate had not funneled thousands of votes away from Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith? If any one of those races had turned out differently, there would be one more Republican in the Senate, and we might not be facing a far-reaching, coercive and cripplingly expensive makeover of the nation's health care system. But the close ones went the Democrats' way, which -- along with the defection of former Republican Sen. Arlen Specter -- gave Democrats the 60 votes needed to stop GOP filibusters all by themselves. Every time Democrats have their way on a controversial bill -- stimulus, budget, health care -- Republicans mutter, "Elections have consequences." And then some of them quietly blame themselves. They know the GOP created the conditions that set in motion the electoral swings of 2006 and 2008, leading to the overwhelming majorities that allow Democrats to pass legislation the public doesn't want. They know the combination of disaster in Iraq in 2006, plus what might be called the Republican governance deficit -- a combination of the response to Hurricane Katrina, the abandonment of fiscal discipline and ethical lapses -- destroyed the public's faith in Republicans' ability to govern. So when the next crisis came around -- the economic meltdown, smack in the middle of the 2008 campaign -- voters had no confidence that Republicans could handle more

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