Dave Weigel at Slate discusses the Great NY-9 Debacle, and finishes by pointing out a new Republican meme that really does worry me:
… Actually, this disastrous election gave the Democrats a few hints. The party tried, and failed, to wound Turner by telling voters he’d provide one more Republican vote to weaken entitlements. That worked in New York’s 26th district, where Democrat Kathy Hochul tore pages out of the Ryan plan and made her Republican opponent eat them. In the 9th, Turner and his surrogates tried to neutralize the entitlement issue by promising not to cut entitlements. In two robocalls, Koch promised voters that Turner wouldn’t cut Medicare or Social Security. The weekend before the election, Hikind said the same thing, and bolstered his case by saying Democrats were risking the programs.
“The president of the United States is now a member of the Tea Party!” said Hikind. “He said, in his own words, that there won’t be Medicare and Social Security for my children and your children and my grandchildren unless we address Medicare!”
That’s not really a wedge issue – it’s the slow death of a wedge issue. It’s the start of a problem for Democrats, who have gone from attacking the Ryan plans for entitlement reform to vouching support for some undefined “everything on the table” entitlement reform. There might not be any way for Democrats to dodge this, and there’s no sign that they want to. And that leaves all of them in the position of Democrats in New York’s 9th. Their traditional base, weary of the recession, not sure what Democrats have to offer any more, are ready to be wedged.
“This message will resound for a full year,” said Turner in his victory speech. “It will resound into 2012.”
[Emphasis mine.] I know: reasonable people, sensible compromise, demographic calculation, courting the independent vote… but people are scared. The economy is, at best, trembling on the brink of another recession; for a lot of people the last one never ended, and doesn’t look to be ending any time soon. The Repubs have a lock on the “Social Security ‘entitlements’ can’t be relied upon / are just another way for the government to steal your money”. I’d feel a lot happier about our Democratic chances in 2012 if our leadership (elected and otherwise) stuck to “We built Social Security, we’ve worked to contribute to Social Security, and we’re not going to gut Social Security because a few timid souls and grifters see a temporary respite in parroting the opposition’s lies & half-truths.”