Quite a few years ago I played on a rugby team. We had several very good players (note that I was not one of them) but overall lost more games than we won. One time in October 1984 we entered a tournament in Albuquerque, and in an upset beat a couple of teams we weren't supposed to beat. So the championship game was against a team from Holloman Air Force Base, which had also pulled off a pair of big upsets to get there. The game was played in the Albuquerque Sports Stadium. We had beaten Holloman 42-6 just a couple of months earlier and before the game one of our very good players (who had a poisonous attitude however) said, "It's only Holloman" and we laid back a bit and went in with an attitude that we would beat them soundly again. Final score: Holloman 18, Socorro 10. I did learn something that day (everyone did) about overconfidence.
It's a great time to be a Democrat. We've won big in two elections in a row (so that the Bush-Cheney-Hastert-DeLay-Frist cabal that held all the reins of power just a scant three years ago seems like a bad dream from which we-- and the country-- are fully awakened.) Overall, things seem to be going well. President Obama's stimulus plan seems to be starting to take hold as the economy is, though slowly and fitfully, beginning to sputter to life. Such bills as sCHIPS and the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act have been signed into law by President Obama in an even more robust form than the similar bills that President Bush vetoed last year (who says you can't win by losing sometimes.) It looks highly likely that we will have significant health care reform, credit card reform and a national service plan enacted by next year. The outlook for an energy plan is not quite as clear, but even without one there is much in the stimulus and elsewhere that will move us towards a greener future. Even in the states there is progress on what used to be slam-dunk conservative issues, as New Mexico just in the past few months became the thirteenth state to abolish the death penalty and Maine today became the fifth state to legalize any marriage between two consenting adults. We are finally finding out what was done to prisoners 'in our name' and guidelines have been approved to prevent it from happening again. President Obama has stayed at about sixty percent approval since he took office, defying the trend that has hounded former Presidents once they get to and pass their 100th day.
The outlook for Republicans is just as bad. They have pushed moderates out of the party and the result is a party that seems to be running ever more to the right. They seem to be a party of fits and starts that can't figure out how to connect with the American people. As one astute commenter on a blog I frequent pointed out, where are the 'teabaggers' now? Some 'movement,' it's gone within a couple of weeks of their big coming out party. Republican party ID is near an all-time low as people who had assumed they were Republicans have simply left the party and become independents or in some cases even moved over all the way to the Democratic party.
I'm afraid I'm going to have to rain on our parade a bit though. I detect an attitude of "it's only Holloman" running through a lot of Democrats (not so much here in Arizona, where we well know what our task is next year-- elect a sane legislature-- but nationally I detect it.) The truth is that the GOP is still a very dangerous opponent and we had best not rest on our laurels.
There were some unique factors at work in the last two elections that we can't assume will be repeated. The biggest one was simply that Americans were fed up and tired of eight years of failure and incompetence by the Bush administration. As long as George W. Bush was the President Democrats had the perfect foil. But Bush is gone now, along with the rest of that cabal I named that held power before. A second factor this last time around was the we had the most charismatic and telegenic Democratic candidate since at least JFK (and yes, that includes Bill Clinton) and Republicans nominated a guy who matched Bob Dole in the charisma department. President Obama will be running again in 2012 but it's safe to say that the GOP will have probably turned the page from John McCain. Third, we outhustled, outorganized and outraised the GOP (the last largely because the Obama campaign did not accept public financing and the accompanying limits.) The GOP has always held an edge in fundraising until recently so at the very least we can expect that to be much more competitive the next few election cycles. And John McCain depended on just reactivating the Bush ground game from 2004 and got smoked on the ground. Some of the files he was using hadn't even been updated since 2004. I expect that by 2010 and certainly by 2012 the Republicans will be up to speed on their ground game. We can still win it, just as we can still outhustle and outfundraise them, but it won't be a one-sided win if we do.
Now, I still believe that Republicans can only win if Democrats fail to do what we need to in order to win, but we have to be on guard against complacency, or we may be scratching our own heads in a few years asking how the mandate we had and the concentration of power that the voters had given us, had evaporated into thin air (which Republicans today ask themselves when they go back and read posts from three years back.)
Now is the time to go all out and build towards putting the next election away.