Good God, I hope this is just rhetorical bullshit.A single election, or pair of elections, is not going to override the logic and rhetoric and presumptions of the Villiage. Those presumptions are still generally Republican-based: that "conservatism can't fail, you can just fail conservatism" or "the American people distrust liberals" or "the market cures all" or "Democrats need to be careful to avoid overreach" or some such nonsense. And I don't think Rahm's presence in the middle of all this is necessarily going to help, either. I don't think he was a bad choice, Obama needs a partisan attack-dog and Dean has thoroughly made his point on the 50-state thing, but he's still an old-style DLCer.Democratic leaders are tamping down on expectations for rapid change and trying to signal they will place a calm hand on the nation’s tiller.
“The country must be governed from the middle,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday. Repeating themes from election night, she said she plans to emphasize “civility” and “fiscal responsibility.”
After saying the word "change" at least 175,000 times in the last year, the Democrats had better not start sounding too much like Republican grandpas or millions of people who voted for them might get the feeling they've just been taken for a bunch of chumps. I get that they are trying to calm the village and keep the restive Republicans from staging a hissy fit right out of the gate. And delivering on all this massive change was never going to be easy.
But they had better keep in mind that they were elected by a lot of new voters and liberals too and they are going to need very high levels of support for a sustained period of time to get anything done. I don't expect them to cater to the base like Rove did, but they'd better not take it too much for granted either. We've seen what happened after 2006, when they raised expectations that they would fight Bush hard on the war. Their approval ratings ended up worse than Bush's because they were loathed not only by the right wing (who will loathe them no matter what they do) but by their own base as well. They simply can't afford to let that happen again.
There's nothing inherently wrong with co-opting conservative rhetoric for their own use, but the other side is very good at making them wish they'd never made promises they had no intention of keeping. (It's what they are really good at.) I just don't think the Dems are clever enough to play sophisticated rhetorical games and not end up hanging themselves with their own words. They should just say what they are going to do as forthrightly as possible.
Of course, that might be exactly what they are doing.
(Nor is Obama's own temperment going to help; he does like to try to walk the tightrope between two sides, which isn't necessarily going to work when one of them is descending into lunacy.)
But all the conventional wisdom in the world hasn't changed the fact that the Dems won, that the last few years have seen Republican conventional wisdom take an absolute beating, and that Americans want the same sort of things that usually get called "liberal." If the Dems--including Obama--want to keep their jobs, they're going to need to tick some Republicans off.
Edit: I agree with a point several people made in digby's comments that you have to think about what "middle" we're discussing here. If it's the American middle, that's fine, since that middle is pretty progressive these days. If it's Washington middle, they're just dumb.