E.J. Dionne nails it.
In 2008, the largest number of voters in American history gave the Democrats their largest share of the presidential vote in 44 years and big majorities in the House and Senate.
How did Republicans react? They held their ideological ground, refused to give an inch to the new president and insisted that persistent opposition would eventually yield them victory. On Nov. 2, it did.
Yet now that Democrats have suffered a setback – in an election, it should be said, involving many fewer voters than the big battle two years ago – they are being counseled to do the opposite of what the Republicans did, especially by Republicans.
Democrats who stand up to say they were right to reform health care and stimulate a staggering economy are told they "don’t get it" and are "in denial." Liberals who refuse to let one election loss alter their commitments are dismissed as "doubling down" on a bad bet.
President Obama made the word "audacity" popular, but conservative Republicans practice it.
Mainstream commentary typically bends to the more audacious side. As a result, there was far less middle-of-the-road advice in 2008 urging Republicans to move to the center than there were warnings to Obama not to read too much into his victory. The United States, we were told, was still a "center-right" country. The actual election result didn’t seem to matter back then.
Funny that when progressives win, they are told to moderate their hopes, but when conservatives win, progressives are told to retreat.
Worse, Democrats tend to internalize the views of their opponents.
This is right in so many ways. And it’s largely because progressives haven’t fought back against the mainstream media that tends to reward GOP puck by framing issues in the GOP parlance.
But there are other reason. The principle difference between Republican and Democratic leaders is that Republicans have principles, can articulate them and defend them. If Democrats have principles, they can’t identify them, and they certainly can’t put them in pithy phrases that pierce the media clutter. And if they could, I’m not sure they would fight for them.