The year 2009 was definitely a lot of things: a year of change (the first non-white president and a near-filibuster-proof Senate majority), a year of denial (with many refusing to believe the president was indeed born American to refusing the democratic mandate for health reform), and a year of frustrations (health care compromises, bank bailouts, and much much more).
Most of all, 2009 was a year of obstruction -- mostly from the conservative side of things, with a few surprises from the center-left as well. TEA Party protesters rose up to call for an end to government growth (albeit in an extremist sort of way), and Republicans continued their unprecedented number of filibusters. Centrists (like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson) joined their conservative colleagues at times, stopping important legislation from holding any significance.
Sure, there were some progressive "victories" as well that deserve recognition, that were hard-fought by Democrats who knew the importance of standing firm against conservative obstructionists. We staved off an economic depression with the passage of a stimulus package; we confirmed the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court of the United States. And though other policies have taken or will take longer than wanted -- withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison facility -- they are on track to being achieved before the next presidential election in 2012.
But for the most part, the year 2009 was won by conservatives, who derailed health care reform with disruptive town hall rallies and threats of "death panels." Their tactics have caused Americans to view Democratic politicians in a negative light. Indeed, Americans are now just as likely to vote Democratic as they are to vote Republican in the 2010 midterms late next year, even though conservatives' strategies to defeat liberals were rooted in nothing more than lies, mistruths, and fears.
Those tactics began early in the year, as evidenced by Jim DeMint's comments that health care reform would become Obama's "Waterloo," likening the president's top domestic priority to Napoleon Bonaparte's failed military battle in the early 19th century ("We will break him," DeMint said of Obama). Likewise, these tactics continued well-into the year, ending only after health care reform passed the Senate (the Republicans even tried slowing down the process of passing a Defense budget, hoping the delay would cause health care to move into the next year).
The blame doesn't rest solely with conservatives; moderate and conservative Democrats also have themselves to blame, adhering to or doing little to stop the obstruction tactics that conservative politicians practiced.
The Democrats have no one but themselves to blame if they lose seats in 2010. Some will claim that they sided with obstructionists for FEAR of losing seats. But the American people elected a president whom they knew would be liberal, a Congress whom they knew would pass liberal legislation. Through all the lies the McCain campaign threw at Obama, through all the distortions that FOX News and other conservative media spread, the American public still wanted a liberal administration to change things.
Specifically, they wanted health care reform that offered a public option. The polls, up until the public option's death, reflected this.
If the Democrats lose a significant number of seats in 2010, it will be because they threw out their ideals, threw out their dedication to the people's wishes. An energized conservative base can only win seats next year if the liberal base lets them -- and right now, the liberal base is not as motivated as that conservative base is.
The obstructionists won 2009. So how can we ensure they don't win 2010?
The Democratic Party still represents the best chances of passing meaningful, progressive legislation. Health care reform, even if it wasn't the single payer reform we had preferred, had no chance of change at all with a conservative government in power. We need to continue to support Democrats, but only if they continue to support us. That means that those Democrats that aren't true progressives -- Joe Lieberman Democrats -- need to go.
We shouldn't support the party blindly -- I know that I will only donate money to the state Democratic Party and to specific candidates (in-state and out), but not the DNC itself, not until it tells conserva-Dems to fall in line.
That's my New Year's resolution: I will not give money to Democrats I don't support.
But I will continue to support the party's objectives: I will continue calling my legislators, telling them that I want real change, the kind of change I voted for and campaigned door-to-door for in 2008. If enough of us do that, we can continue to change America for the better.
Our leaders were elected in 2008 on the banner of "hope." Here's hoping that in 2010, they change hope into real and meaningful legislation that helps everyday Americans, not corporate interests.