Midterm Voters Will End Two Years of Unchecked Democratic Power
Fans of "The Jetsons"—the animated space-age TV series from the 1960s—recall George Jetson's familiar refrain as Astro's treadmill runs amok: "Jane! Stop this crazy thing!"
The American people are desperately sending Washington Democrats the same message. After two years of racing ahead on a policy-making treadmill, feeling they're going no where no matter how fast they run, Americans just want it all to stop.
In most elections the party in power campaigns on what it has done and they plan to do should they retain power. This year, Democrats—holding the White House and commanding control of both the House and Senate—are doing neither.
Democrats can't run on what they've done—the stimulus and health care reform in particular—because those accomplishments are unpopular, and they can't run on what they're going to do because they've actually achieved nearly every item on their agenda.
And the issues Democrats failed to accomplish, like immigration reform and climate legislation, are perilous even within their own party ranks, and near the bottom of most Americans' priority list if not outright opposed.
The irony is that the Obama Administration and congressional Democrats have spent much of the past two years bemoaning Republican "obstructionism" even as they muscled through one of the most ambitious legislative agendas in history. While Democrats attempted to label the GOP with the "Party of No" moniker, many Americans hoped congressional Republicans actually could have stopped or limited much of that agenda.
After years of countless federal programs supposedly intended to help, Americans are simply exhausted and fed up with Washington. While the recession was deemed to have ended last June, the economy appears to have stalled dramatically this summer; the recession seems never to have ended for most families and small businesses.
Having little to campaign for, Democrats instead made a strategic decision to campaign against: against President Bush, against phantom Republican policies, against House Minority Leader John Boehner, and now, against the Chinese—hoping against hope that Americans will accept some other bogeyman other than the ruling Democrats.
Republicans have understood that simply running against Democrats' policies won't be enough to close the deal in midterm elections, and so produced an agenda—"Pledge to America"—outlining a governing roadmap reflecting the more intense views not only of the party's base, but also among independent swing voters.
Nothing has been heard from Democrats about what they would do if they retained power, reflecting their conundrum of having achieved wildly unpopular success. In fact, there is little Democrats can tell Americans today that will make a difference for voters in November. Recent proposals for business tax cuts, small business assistance and foreclosure mitigation have fallen on tired, skeptical ears.
This is adding up to an expected Republican wave in November, where the GOP will likely wrest control of the House, and even the Senate is now in play. Voters see Republican control as a necessary check on activist Democrats, limiting an excessive, expansive and expensive approach to governing. On Wall Street, "Greed is good" has been replaced by "Gridlock is good" as traders price in an end to new anti-business legislation.
Every party has misread the intentions of the American people once handed all of the levers of power. For Democrats with unchecked power during the past two years, their policy over-reach has Americans calling on Washington to stop this crazy thing. In November, they'll stop it themselves.
Tony Fratto, a CNBC contributor, is Managing Director of Hamilton Place Strategies—a strategic economic policy and communications firm based in Washington, DC. He is a former White House Deputy Press Secretary for the George W. Bush Administration and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TonyFratto.