Their message was to cut government spending and reduce the size of government. Let’s make our response not about explaining away their concerns but about showing that our party is willing to put all options on the table in the name of fiscal responsibility, even the sacred cows.
A unique opportunity awaits the next Congress as it reviews the report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The commission provides not only bipartisan cover to do the right thing in cutting farm programs and increasing the retirement age for Social Security benefits but also a way to reclaim the balanced budget moral high ground for Democrats politically.
Take a hard look at that map and all the voters who have already deserted the party or who maybe feel the party has deserted them. The Blue Dogs who lost voted predominantly against cap-and-trade legislation and health care reform. They didn’t lose because they followed the party line. They lost because the party line was a noose around their necks.
It’s time to change the party line. You have nothing to lose by shrinking the government programs that you helped create and that voters now rail against. The very people you’ve been trying to help sent a message very different from “thank you” in the 2010 midterm elections.
Kelly Bingel is a partner at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti and a former chief of staff to Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.).