...if there's any broad lesson to be taken from Tuesday's election (about which I remain agnostic for the moment), it's this: independent voters are getting a little weary of endless political battles with no results. The problem is not that Congress is trying to tackle too much, but that Congress isn't getting anything done. That's the wake-up call.
The answer to that is to get something done. Pass healthcare reform, for example. That would be (no pun intended) a huge shot in the arm for Dems of all stripes, demonstrating to skeptical voters that they can indeed govern effectively. Ditto for financial regulation, which is a golden opportunity to harness some populist anger against the financial industry. All Congress has to do is stand up to the finance lobby1 and put some serious constaints on Wall Street's ability to screw people. Think that won't be popular?
Democrats in Colorado have controlled the legislature since 2004 and the governor's office since 2006 and in broad terms (and that's how independent voters think) they haven't accomlished shit. Not a damn thing on education, on healthcare, on transportation, on our perpetual fiscal crisis. We're building some windmills here and that's great, I really mean that, but that's not enough.
If you sit on your hands afraid to offend anyone because you might be voted out then you will please no one and you will still be voted out. Eventually the party in power will go out of power, that's the cyclical nature of politics folks. You can't stop the cycle in any meaningful way. You might postpone it for a couple of years but what's the point of holding on for an extra two or four years when you won't actually use that extra time to achieve your policy goals? The trick is to actually achieve portions of your agenda when you have the opportunity.
It's not rocket science - win an election, pass as much of your agenda as you can, run on that agenda. If you win re-election, great try and pass more of your agenda. If you lose your election, at least you got some good legislation passed! Entrench yourself, beat back what you can and try to win back power.
There doesn't seem to be any willingness to embrace the cyclical nature of politics. Instead every pundit, prognosticator, pollster, consultant and candidate is entirely focused on their ability to end the cycle and to build something resembling a permanent majority. It's never going to happen. Stop trying to game the system and embrace the system. Use it to your advantage instead of trying to penny ante your way to an extra term or two.