Message to Democrats: Don't Worry, Be Happy!
There are good reasons to be hopeful after the midterm elections. Just look at what happened in 1994.
First Patrick gave a clear message about the things his administration and state government were doing right on the economy, on education and on health care. There was no bashfulness or hesitance about making the case for a record and for a real Democratic agenda. Advancing this agenda included making it clear that Patrick and other Democratic leaders in the state understood that too many people were still struggling economically and that much work remained to be done to get it right.
Second, he and others emphasized the record of his Republican challenger. Doing so meant that the simplistic nostrum of "shrink government, cut taxes" and the whole "something for nothing" Republican logic lay exposed as inadequate to the real challenges of the times. And third, there was scrupulous vigilance about mobilizing voters. There was no taking for granted that voters would turn out.
So the 2010 midterms were a setback for Democrats. Let's remember that this outcome was completely foreseeable in light of the economy. Republicans will celebrate with some measure of justification. But the presumption that Americans have repudiated Democrats and endorsed Republican ideology, or that Obama's electoral fate is now sealed, is just plain wrong. Assuming the economy continues to improve and the Democrats, including Obama, heed the lessons of Massachusetts, I'm feeling pretty good about 2012.
Lawrence D. Bobo is the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University.