Democratic nightmare on Capitol Hill: Who’s next?

Democrats on Capitol Hill fear the light at the end of the tunnel is the light from a runaway locomotive called voter anger.

The loss of a Massachusetts Senate seat held for so long by Sen. Ted Kennedy has shaken the party of the jackass to its roots. The same voter backlast that put Democrats into control of Congress in 2006 and Obama into the White House in 2008 has turned against them.

They’re the party in power now and things haven’t changed in Washington. They’ve gotten worse.

Voters still want to throw the bastards out. Only now the bastards are Democrats.

So doom and gloom roam the halls of Congress.

Reports Politico:

The Republican victory in Massachusetts has sent a wave of fear through the halls of the Senate, with moderate and liberal Democrats second-guessing their party’s agenda — and worrying that they’ll be the next victims of voters’ anger.

“If there’s anybody in this building that doesn’t tell you they’re more worried about elections today, you absolutely should slap them,” said Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Republican Scott Brown rode a wave of voter discontent to defeat Democrat Martha Coakley in the race for Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat. Republicans moved quickly to capitalize Wednesday, with National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) telling POLITICO that he’s approaching possible candidates who passed up his initial entreaties to join the 2010 field.

“People, I think, are going to sense opportunities that they didn’t sense” Tuesday, Cornyn said.

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called the Massachusetts race a “wake-up call” for his party and said his colleagues were in a “reflective” mood at a private lunch Wednesday.

Editorializes The New York Times:

The victory by Mr. Brown, a Republican, should be setting off alarms in the White House. Most immediately, it jeopardizes passage of the reform that the nation desperately needs. The Democrats could try to get the House to pass the Senate’s bill, although their chances seem dim, or as Mr. Obama seemed to suggest on Wednesday, they could seek a stripped-down measure that could win bipartisan support. They certainly should not try to ram a combined House-Senate bill through the Senate before Mr. Brown is sworn in.

The Democrats had an exceptionally weak candidate in Massachusetts, but the results call into question their tactical political competence. The party now has less than 10 months to get it right before the midterm elections, when they are in danger of losing more seats in the House and the Senate. It is indisputable that the Republicans have settled on a tactic of obstruction, disinformation and fear-mongering, but it is equally indisputable that the Democrats have not countered it well.

In an opinion piece on Politico, John Fortier argues:

Democrats owe Joe Lieberman an apology. Not that he should expect one.

He and other Senate moderates have been reviled by the left during the health care debate. But if someone had listened more carefully to them, Democrats might already have passed health care reform and incoming GOP Sen. Scott Brown would not be driving to Washington in his pickup truck.

Moderates were always the key to getting health care reform done. For many months, the path to passing health care was clear. Democrats would have to accept most of what Sens. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Bayh, Landrieu, Lincoln, Baucus, Conrad, Carper, both Nelsons and other moderate Senate Democrats wanted. And realistically, they should have secured the votes of moderate Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, too.

Democrats had numerous chances to make a deal with moderates but continued to hold out in the belief that something more progressive might prevail.