Daniel Henninger
The Wall Street Journal

Nov. 13, 2014

The Democrats who were caught standing on the beach last week when the GOP’s 40-foot wave washed over them are now explaining why it wasn’t their fault.

No. 1: It’s not us; it’s what’s his name, the unpopular president. (And that awful Valerie Jarrett. )

No. 2: It was a midterm election with a bad map; we’ll be back in 2016. Hillary to the rescue.

Official Obama Explanation : My ideas and policies are fine; I just have a messaging problem.

USS Democrat Captain Nancy Pelosi : “There was an ebbing, an ebb tide, for us.”

This all reminds me of the classic film satire, “I’m All Right, Jack,” about the dying days of the British trade-union movement. When an idealistic young factory worker shows the efficiency gains possible from actually using a forklift, the union steward calls a strike. Three guesses which Democrats in the U.S. version would play the roles of Peter Sellers, Terry-Thomas and Margaret Rutherford.

A few Democratic voices, mostly party professionals whose job is winning elections, have said the donkey herd that just ran off the cliff needs to rethink its sense of direction. No one is listening to them. Most Democrats, especially the left that took control of the party in 2008, deny any problem. And well they might. There is no Plan B.

The Democrats’ standard political model is generally attributed to FDR confidante Harry Hopkins : “We will spend and spend, and tax and tax, and elect and elect.” Hopkins denied ever using these words, but the formula lived on.

Tax, spend and elect just slammed into the mountain.

In Wisconsin, the party’s armies not only lost to Scott Walker (twice!) but watched Republicans gain the most seats in the state’s legislature in 50 years. How else to explain former businessman Rick Snyder winning re-election as governor in Michigan? New England, notably Massachusetts, is bleeding red again. Nevada’s state government is so red that Harry Reid may have to sneak into Nevada from the California side of Lake Tahoe.

Then there’s Maryland. We may look back on Maryland’s 2014 gubernatorial election as the battlefield where the long liberal advance stopped. In blue Maryland, and elsewhere, the Democrats are losing for the same reason medieval potentates fell: They resorted to plundering their own people.

Maryland’s victorious Republican gubernatorial candidate, Larry Hogan, deserves credit for alerting the population to the dangers of Democratic pillage. He ran hard on the reality that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley in two terms raised some 40 taxes and fees, including the corporate income tax, sales tax, personal income tax and a “millionaire’s tax.” Maryland was a progressive Utopia. But it is the wave after wave of fees in Maryland and other states that is killing the Democrats politically.

The Maryland Democrats imposed or raised fees on anything that moved—license plates, liquor, fishing, birth and death certificates, even something called “storm water management fees” based on the size of people’s roofs, driveways, patios and such. Bridge and tunnel tolls rose every year from 2011 to 2013.

Less noticed outside Massachusetts than the election of Republican Charlie Baker as governor was that voters also overturned a law that ratcheted up the state’s gasoline tax each year at the inflation rate. No more.

Illinois residents, who just put GOP businessman Bruce Rauner in the statehouse, experienced a similar fee and tax mania under Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

The Democratic Party has become the Nickel-and-Dime Empire. Their compulsion to chisel money out of the population is collapsing the empire from within. Here’s how:

The Democrats are the party of the state and public sector. Over a long period, the costs of maintaining the state have risen inexorably, especially in the North due to public-union costs and transfer payments. We may call this phenomenon political global warming, with the gases of public spending driving the fiscal tides ever higher.

Unwilling to restructure government, state Democrats used taxes as sand bags. First they raised taxes on large business. Then the “wealthy.” Then came the fees and regulatory costs for smaller businesses. In Maryland and Illinois, companies and the wealthy fled.

It still wasn’t enough. Over the past decade, Democratic politicians (and some Republicans) started imposing regressive fees on everyone. Which means the party’s pols are now siphoning cash straight out of the budgets of their blue-collar and middle-class base. That hurts.

Traditional Democratic liberals understood that the private sector at least needed room to breathe. The party’s left, having self-deported from the private sector, does not. Thus at the same time their governors were bleeding the base, congressional Democrats voted through ObamaCare with its “Cadillac tax,” device tax, Transitional Reinsurance Fee and noncompliance penalties. As you can see, it’s just a messaging problem.

It was good being the party of Robin Hood. Until they morphed into the Sheriff of Nottingham. In November 2014, the forest people in at least four states figured out who has been picking their pockets. What the Democratic Party’s answer will be in 2016 to this public rebellion is so far nonexistent.

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