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Disappointed, disaffected Dems

BREINIGSVILLE, Pa.

David Goodman had no idea his son Harris had registered as a Democrat more than a year ago until the 19-year-old mentioned it on election night.

“Really?” Goodman asked half-jokingly.

“I was feeling it at the time,” Harris replied with a grin.

The Vassar sophomore sat with his father for hours in a Holiday Inn banquet room, waiting to see if Pat Toomey would be Pennsylvania’s new U.S. senator-elect.

Harris was “feeling it” Tuesday for Republican Toomey. So was his father, a native New Yorker and self-described “dyed-in-the-wool Democrat” who settled his family in Allentown around the time when a Billy Joel song about that city became a blue-collar anthem.

Amid the confetti and overall fawning of the 2008 presidential election and Democrats’ control of Congress, most pundits suffered collective amnesia about what happened to the party on its way to back-to-back election victories.

In 2006’s midterm takeover of Congress, moderate to conservative Democrats won in competitive House districts, then were led by a House speaker from very progressive San Francisco.

In 2008’s cantankerous presidential nomination process, a very smart Barack Obama shored up delegates and superdelegates in state caucuses (dominated by party elites and activists), causing Hillary Clinton to lose despite winning the popular vote (dominated by traditional and working-class Democrats).

In January 2009, powerful but fractured Democrats were confident that a charismatic president would heal — or at least hide — their party’s wounds.

“They could not have been more wrong,” said the elder Goodman. “The direction the Democrats have taken this country is counter to our natural center-right compass.

“I supported the presidency of Barack Obama. I wanted him to succeed. I thought it would be good for the country.

“He has turned out to be a great disappointment.”

The younger Goodman, wearing a USA Olympic hockey sweater with a “Toomey for Senate” sticker on his chest, agreed — contradicting conventional wisdom about how young people love Obama and Democrats.

This obviously was a great year for the GOP in Pennsylvania: five U.S. House seat pickups, plus a U.S. Senate seat, plus control of the state House, Senate and governor’s office.

“It was a tough night,” admitted U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who grew up a little more than an hour north of here.

Casey was part of that moderate-Democrat recruitment of 2006; he beat incumbent Republican Rick Santorum largely because his values were considered pretty close to Pennsylvanians’ as a whole. (The “D” after his name only gave him greater cachet with unions.)

Casey ran as pro-life, pro-gun. He was the first and only statewide elected official to endorse Obama over Clinton in the 2008 primary; although Obama lost by nearly 10 points, their friendship was forged.

In Philadelphia days before Tuesday’s election, the president sought Casey’s advice between campaign stops at Temple University and the Famous 4th Street Deli. Casey told him Washington doesn’t understand the depth of Americans’ anxiety.

“In 10 years we have not only had a horrible terror attack, but terrorism is constantly on our minds,” Casey explained. “Add that to two wars, the economy diving and China emerging as this world leader in a lot of things we used to lead in, and you have widespread anxiety.”

Casey also told Obama that Washington must do a better job of listening.

You don’t need an exit poll to tell you Democrats just cratered with the white working class; the drive along winding back roads from Pittsburgh to the Lehigh Valley told that story in the lack of political yard signs in working-class cities and towns.

Progressives can’t imagine that their Democrat cousins did not get behind the party, largely because they don’t understand that traditional Democrats rarely see eye-to-eye with them on their signature issue — that government knows better than you do.

Progressives believe everyone else lives in some alternative universe, that they are morally right, morally justified — precisely the arrogance that turns off the rest of the country.

David Goodman holds no hope that Obama will move to the center.

“More than likely he will decide to try to fortify his liberal base before re-election,” he predicted, “rather than examine the evidence the American people just landed on his doorstep.”


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