If anyone in the political class is wondering why a strong anti-establishment, anti-Washington and anti-incumbent mood is speeding through the electorate, let me give you one hint: 10 percent unemployment.
People are losing their jobs, their 401ks, their homes and their health insurance. Americans don't think Washington is dealing with the problem, and they are completely right. Members of the House and Senate are doing next to nothing to help average people during this economic downturn. Instead, they have turned Congress into a cynical, elaborate piece of theater where they open by pretending to care for put-upon Americans. The final act is almost always the same: Well-connected corporations win.
The Senate has been playing this game for a long time. While it upset people before, in this new economic environment, voters are downright angry. Ten percent unemployment and blatant behavior to benefit bad corporate actors make a toxic brew. The bank bailout, resulting in even bigger profits and bigger bonuses for blundering Wall Street firms, was a step too far. In good times, people suspected Senators of caring too much about big business; now people think that’s all they care about.
If incumbents want to keep their seats, they need to take concrete action to improve the lives of regular Americans. Dancing around pretending like you will, only to sell out to a big industry willing to make large campaign donations, won't cut it.
Democrats have tools at their disposal, like reconciliation, to push legislation that could make concrete improvement in regular Americans' lives, despite Republican obstructionism. The question is, will Democrats let their misdirected fear of the right-wing noise machine or their desire to befriend big-money interest groups stop them from delivering for the voters?
We will see if Democrats got the message from Tuesday’s election. What they should fear most is not name calling by Republicans or the wrath of a few unpopular large companies but double-digit unemployment.