Yes, Democrats, it’s OK to panic. The sky—or at least President Obama’s poll numbers—really is falling.
Reuters says it. Pew says it. Gallup says it. Just a week or two ago Republicans were yelling to high heavens about how political polls are biased: Now some of them are already chilling the champagne for a Mitt Romney victory.
And there’s a good reason for all of this: President Obama kind of stunk up the joint in last week’s Denver debate. Republicans know it, Democrats know it, and now we have a fair amount of evidence that most Americans know it, too.
For Democrats of a pessimistic bent—which, often, seems to be all of them—it all feels too familiar, like the losses of 2000 and 2004. Victory feels like it’s slipping away. There are two things you can do about this: Feel sorry for yourself. Or fight.
Of course, President Obama might lose even if you do fight. So maybe it’s not a bad time to start preparing yourself for a Mitt Romney presidency and the inevitable Dark Ages that will ensue. Some advice if that happens:
• Don’t lament. Things won’t go to hell overnight. The federal government is a big ship, and steering it is a complex job. For all of Mitt Romney’s promises to undo the Obama presidency, the truth is that some things either can’t or won’t be undone.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? That was eliminated under the Obama Administration, and while some Republicans grumble about that still, it’s highly unlikely President Romney will resegregate the armed forces.
Obamacare? Unless Republicans capture a filibuster-proof 60-vote Senate majority—and they won’t—it will be impossible for Romney to completely erase the Affordable Care Act. What’s more, Romney has promised to keep a key element in place: The requirement that insurance companies can’t dump patients for pre-existing conditions. That’s the part of Obamacare that makes much of the rest of the legislation go.
There are a million examples like this: Cars and trucks are due to see a rise in their fuel-efficiency requirements, for example, and the evidence is that the car industry is on board. Bottom line: Even if President Obama loses, he’ll still have made good progress on issues important to Democrats.
• Get ready to fight. When Republicans lost the White House in 2008, they made an important decision: They would cooperate with President Obama on absolutely nothing at all. Period. Granted, there were issues where GOPers would have been unlikely to help anyway. But the Republicans’ utter intransigence made governing much more difficult for Obama to govern. And those difficulties have (intentionally) made it harder for him to be re-elected.
If Romney wins, Democrats should do exactly the same thing.
Minor appointees to government agencies? Block ‘em. Judicial appointees? Filibuster ‘em. Resolutions naming post offices? Vote against ‘em. Every time a Republican says “yes,” Democrats should say “no.” Every time. Obstruct, obstruct, and obstruct some more.
This is crappy advice to give, frankly. Some stuff that might be good for the country will go undone if the Democrats take it. But here’s the thing: Republicans need a taste of their own medicine. If they’re free to undermine a Democratic president without paying a price when they govern, Democrats will never again be able to hold the White House effectively. And if you’re a grassroots Democrat, your job is to spend the next four years working to make sure Bob Casey Jr. doesn’t go wobbly on that strategy.
• Don’t threaten to move to Canada. Just, you know, don’t.
Now, who knows? Maybe this advice won’t be needed. Polling guru Nate Silver still gives President Obama a 71 percent chance of winning re-election. While we tend to say that every election is “the most important election of our lifetime,” the truth is there’ll be another election after that. And one after that. Obama might lose the presidency next month. But all that will mean for Democrats is that the offense is leaving the field, and that it’s time to play some smash-mouth defense. It won’t mean the game is over.