When times get tough, it’s really important to believe in yourself. This is something the Democrats have done splendidly this year. The polls have been terrible, and the party may be heading for a historic defeat, but Democrats have done a magnificent job of maintaining their own self-esteem. This is vital, because even if the public doesn’t approve of you, it is important to approve of yourself.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that Democrats have become role models. They have offered us lessons on how we, too, may continue to love ourselves, even in trying circumstances.
Lesson one. Think happy thoughts. Never allow yourself to dwell on downer, depressing ones.
Over the past year, many Democrats have resolutely paid attention to those things that make them feel good, and they have carefully filtered out those negative things that make them feel sad.
For example, Democrats and their media enablers have paid lavish attention to Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino, even though these two Republican candidates have almost no chance of winning. That’s because it feels so delicious to feel superior to opponents you consider to be feeble-minded wackos.
On the other hand, Democrats and their enablers have paid no attention to Republicans like Rob Portman, Dan Coats, John Boozman and Roy Blunt, who are likely to actually get elected. It doesn’t feel good when your opponents are experienced people who simply have different points of view. The existence of these impressive opponents introduces tension into the chi of your self-esteem.
Similarly, the Democrats and their enablers have paid lavish attention to the Tea Party this year. It’s nice to feel more sophisticated than those hordes of Middle Americans, who say silly things like “Get government off my Medicare.”
On the other hand, Democrats have paid little attention to the crucial group in this election — the independent moderates who supported President Obama in 2008 but flocked away during the health care summer of 2009 and now support the GOP by landslide proportions.
Losing friends makes you sad. It is better to not think about why these things happen.
Lesson two. Always remember, many great geniuses were unappreciated in their lifetimes.
Democrats are lagging this year because the country appears incapable of appreciating the grandeur of their accomplishments. That’s because, as several commentators have argued over the past few weeks, many Americans are nearsighted and ill-informed. Or, as President Obama himself noted last week, they get scared, and when Americans get scared they stop listening to facts and reason. They get all these crazy ideas in their heads, like not wanting to re-elect Blanche Lincoln.
The Democrats’ problem, as some senior officials have mentioned, is that they are so darn captivated by substance, it never occurs to them to look out for their own political self-interest. By they way, here’s a fun party game: Get a bottle of vodka and read Peter Baker’s article “The Education of President Obama” from The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. Take a shot every time a White House official is quoted blaming Republicans for the Democrats’ political plight. You’ll be unconscious by page three.
Lesson three. Always remember: You are the hero of your own children’s adventure story.
Some low-minded people could look at events this year and tell a dull, prosaic story. They would say that parties that promote unpopular policies tend to get punished at election time, These grubby-minded people would point out that Democratic House members who voted against health care are doing well in their re-election bids, while those who voted for it are getting clobbered.
But many Democrats have a loftier sensibility. They see this campaign as a poetic confrontation between good (themselves) and pure evil (Karl Rove and his group, American Crossroads).
As Nancy Pelosi put it at a $50,000-a-couple fund-raiser, “Everything was going great and all of a sudden secret money from God knows where — because they won’t disclose it — is pouring in.”
Even allowing the menace of secret money, embracing this Paradise Lost epic means obscuring a few inconvenient facts: that Democrats were happy to benefit from millions of anonymous dollars in 2006, 2008 and today; that the spending by Rove’s group amounts to less than 1 percent of the total money spent on campaigns this year; that Democrats retain an overall spending advantage.
But legend rises above mere facticity, and this Lancelots-of-the-Left tale underlines a self-affirming message — that Democrats are engaged in a righteous crusade against the dark villain who tricked Americans into voting against John Kerry.
In short, it’s hard not to be impressed by the spirit of self-approval that Democrats have managed to maintain this election. I say that knowing it may end as soon as next Wednesday, when, as is their wont, Democrats will flip from complete self-worship to complete self-laceration in the blink of an eye.