Let’s get it out there.

Last night was ugly. There are a lot of reasons to be disappointed. I had friends lose their congressional seats, and more friends lose their congressional jobs.

Waking up a little late today, (I got home at 3AM last night, having driven home from Bucks County, PA) I just tuned in to watch the President’s post-election press conference, wondering what he would say.

Would he dig in his heels with a Bush-like “Bring it on?”
Would he come to the table full of contrition?
Would he outline a strategy to keep his agenda moving forward?

Unfortunately, none of the above.

In the head of the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama’s ability to maintain his cool at all time earned him the nickname “No Drama Obama.” I’m glad he can keep his head on straight when faced with critical decisions about national security, terrorism, etc. I feel good knowing that he examines all sides of tough economic questions before taking action.

But last night was about politics. It was about his agenda and, in many cases, it was personal.

His base is disappointed, afraid and demoralized, but there was hope. The President was going to speak at 1:00. He was going to answer questions. He was going to, we hoped, signal a direction for the next two years.

I wanted to hear him say “stay and fight.”

I wanted to hear him say, “I will veto any attempt to repeal the health care bill.”

I wanted to hear him say, “There’s more to governing than just saying no.”

I wanted to hear him call out the Republican leadership for announcing that they will refuse to compromise. When the President was asked about the compromises he would need to make in the 112th Congress, the answer I wanted to hear was, “I have been willing to compromise, and HAVE compromised. And every step of the way, the GOP has said ‘no.’ When it comes to matters of principle, I. Will. Not. Compromise.”

But we got “No Drama Obama.”

The president is obviously disappointed in last night’s results. He did say he “feels bad” that so many of his allies (even some who weren’t such great allies) lost. I guess that’s a start.

Democrats, we have approximately 9 hours left to lick our wounds. By tomorrow, we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back on the field.

The Republican Party of the 112th Congress will be the most extreme bunch of folks to ever take office, but they’re also going to have one of the best-organized propaganda machines ever devised. The Limbaugh/Beck network has incredible reach and doesn’t care about truthiness. Watch what happens in January, when the class is sworn in. It’s going to be festival of right-wing noise aimed at defining not only the new members, but the right’s next targets.

(It turns out, they didn’t even wait that long:This is the list of Republicans the Tea Party are targeting. Be sure to read the comments).

Democrats in the 111th Congress let the right define us. We let them peg trillions of dollars of “wasteful” spending on us. We let them saddle us with a “government takeover” or healthcare (sorry—“OBAMACARE”) and an “assault on the constitution.”

We need to change the definitions. We need to do some defining of our own. We need to play offense.

When let opponents talk about “Obamacare,” rather than talking about the end of insurance company abuses, we’ve already lost.

When we let opponents talk about a “failed stimulus” rather than talking about middle class tax cuts, cops who are still on the beat, bridges that are being built, and teachers who are still in classrooms, we’ve already lost.

When we let opponents talk about TARP as if money was flushed down the toilet without mentioning that 90% of the money has been paid back with interest—and that the program was initiated by President Bush, we’ve already lost.

In politics, whenever you’re playing defense, you’ve already been defined. And you’ve been defined by your opponent, you’ve already lost.

Well, last night reminded me that losing sucks. A lot. That’s why I was disappointed in the President’s press conference today. He was almost too willing to accept defeat. Having been punched in the gut by the GOP, he sounded like he was just glad that Republicans didn’t break their thumbs in the assault. I was hoping to see some fire in his eyes, some fight in his belly, some commitment to redouble his efforts and a recognition that his White House—which has compiled a stunning list of accomplishments in just two years—has totally failed to present concrete examples of that progress to the American electorate.

Instead, I saw a calm, cool and collected president giving answers that were too long and too abstract. And I worried that, somewhere in Washington, the Republicans were gathered in a room, getting ready to define the next two years before we have a chance to regroup.


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