All the smart liberal bloggers -- Chait and Drum and Yglesias, and I'm sure E. Klein would too if he wasn't under the weather today, and I'm sure there are more if I looked harder -- are sort of beside themselves at how those wacky Kentucky conservatives foolishly think that Mitch McConnell is, as Chait puts it, a "Democratic Patsy." Now, they're all good posts, but really...couldn't one of them have pointed out that this is basically exactly the same situation as Democrats on the left faced during the previous decade, and Democrats on the left reacted exactly the same.
No, Dems didn't have 60 in the Senate -- but Republicans didn't try anything as difficult as health care reform, preferring an eat-dessert-always program of tax cuts, increased spending, tax cuts, wars of revenge, and tax cuts. And, yes, Dems didn't always react by filibustering everything (and as everyone knows many Dems voted for various Bush things, but generally for things that would have passed anyway), but they did filibuster quite a bit...that's why the Bush tax cuts were set to expire, because the threat of a Democratic filibuster forced the GOP to use reconciliation. I'm confident that had the Democratic leadership followed the strategy that Republicans have followed in 2009-2010 that basically the same things would have passed, and liberal activists would have reacted the same way: by blaming Democrats for being too weak.
Here's my sense of it. Given a Madisonian political system and a very large nation, the winners are always going to be frustrated because, well, they won, and why isn't everything they wanted getting enacted? And the losers are always going to be frustrated because their side has all the energy and it sure feels as all those people with all that conviction that the governing party is wrong must surely count for something in a democracy.
Me? I tend to feel sorry for the pols who have to put up with such stuff. But I'm funny that way, I guess.