In Terminator, a member of the underground from the future tells John Connor's mother, Sarah "The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves." Democrats still have two months in which to determine their fates. If they get their message right, they can survive. Arnold Schwarenegger is not running for re-election in 2010 so he doesn't have to worry about the anti-incumbent fever sweeping the country. But Democratic incumbents in Congress do.
The hostility towards incumbent Democrats is mostly a function of the bad economy and Democrats are having a tough time talking about the economy. Quick action by the President and Congress prevented the Bush Great Recession from becoming the Bush Depression. But it's hard to crow to voters about something that didn't happen and the economy is recovering at a snail's pace.
The big question for Democratic candidates and strategists like me is what they can say to voters about the economy in the next 60 days to turn the tide? In other words, what message will work best over the last two months of the campaign?
I just saw an ad for a plumbing company (not Joe the Plumber’s) that read “the difficult we can do quickly; the impossible takes a little longer.” This is the best way for Democrats to make the case for patience this fall. Democrats should argue that they have worked hard to lay the groundwork for a recovery while Republicans have sat on their posteriors. The GOP opposition to the president’s proposal for tax breaks to small businesses is a case in point.
Democrats should paint the GOP as the party of “don’t just do something, stand there” because Republicans have no economic policy except for extending tax breaks for billionaires and cutting retirement benefits for people who have paid into Social Security their entire working lives. Which is why the Democratic Party is the party of go while the Republicans represent the party of no.