Taking Tuesday's tough defeat to heart can make Democrats tougher to beat the next time.

Notes from the political sidelines.
Jan. 20 2010 11:54 PM

Cowboy Up

Taking Tuesday's tough defeat to heart can make Democrats tougher to beat the next time.

(Continued from Page 1)

Obama did well with swing voters in 2008 and can do so again. The key is to keep reminding his supporters that he was elected to fix Washington, not put up with it. By definition, independent voters don't care about party labels and disdain partisan gamesmanship. They want Obama to keep pressing both parties to work together—no easy trick these days—and they want their president to be a spur to congressional action and a check on congressional excesses.

Third, health care retains its title as the Middle East of domestic policy. Democrats should find a way to get some form of health reform done, because, as Bill Clinton has reminded them, we know what happens to Congress when it fails to act. But on no issue is the gulf so great and so persistent between the need for national action and people's trust in government and the political system to get the job done right. Scott Brown is living proof of health care's exasperating contradictions—a man elected to the Senate for opposing for the country what he voted for in Massachusetts.

Advertisement

Finally, Democrats should remember that a party willing to take voters' lessons to heart has the chance to build a strong, more enduring bond with the electorate because of it. In 1994, Bill Clinton took the voters' message as a directive to govern the way he campaigned and be the president he was elected to be, not the president Congress wanted him to be.

The country didn't change teams on Tuesday. Americans still want Obama to succeed and still trust him to run the country far more than the other guys. As Curt Schilling might say, the Massachusetts race was more of a brushback pitch—a warning to those in power without regard to party that an electorate in a foul mood is always a force to be reckoned with.

The best advice for Democrats might come from Kevin Millar, another member with Schilling of the famed squad that went on to reverse the Red Sox curse. Millar made the team motto "Cowboy Up"—which means get back up, dust yourself off, and make sure it doesn't happen again. In politics, like baseball, what matters in the end is not what happened last game, but who's standing tall in November.

Bruce Reed, who was President Clinton's domestic policy adviser, is CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council and co-author with Rahm Emanuel of The Plan: Big Ideas for Change in America.E-mail him at thehasbeen@gmail.com. Read his disclosure here.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 22 2014 11:54 PM The Actual World “Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.