So conservatives are reacting with uncontained glee at the retirement of Rep. David Obey from Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District. Never mind he's 71 years old and has served in the House of Representatives since Woodstock. He's "running scared," they chortle, from a former cast member of MTV's The Real World.*
Yes The Fear, it is insisted, has gripped Mr. Obey. Verily it is The Fear, we are informed, that has Democrats nationwide uniformly cowering and scurrying for the closest exits (stage left, naturally). But as is frequently the case with apocalyptic Republican hyperbole, cold Enlightenment empiricism demonstrates to the contrary.
As it currently stands, more Republicans than Democrats are retiring from the House: 20 to 17. Of the 20, 12 are staying in the game and running for some other office: Six for the U.S. Senate, one for one of the other GOP-vacated House seats, and five for State positions.
(Including Rep. Adam Putnam, who is wagering that the inexorable tide of Glenn Palin's logical fallacies will sweep him to a coveted bureaucracy inside the Florida Department of Agriculture.)
As for the 17 Democrats, 11 are off to other pursuits. The remaining cohort is apparently not so enfeebled by abject terror, and its members are challenging Republicans either for desks in the federal Senate or, in the case of Rep. Artur Davis, who has to be super-duper Southern-frightened, the governorship of Alabama.
Thus in a body containing 435 members, only three more Democrats than Republicans — the former outnumber the latter by 75 souls to begin with — are leaving to do something other than continue at contesting elections. And of those three, would even a Family Values conservative begrudge any their health or other domestic concerns?
I understand that GOP strategery relies on fear as a matter of party policy, but there's no grounds for it here.
Assuming there were, they distantly pre-exist any Tea sipping or baggering; it's certain as a massé shot across David Hume's pool table that the party in the White House sustains a Congressional loss in midterm elections so obviously Democrats are in for a challenge.
As were Republicans in 1982, when their president enjoyed 41% job approval and they lost 26 House seats. Or 2006, when they lost 30 (just a few points shy of that president's approval number).
Yet it isn't a challenge Democrats are retreating from. To be sure, a number of them are already actively clamoring to replace Obey on the November ballot, notwithstanding "The Real World," whose unique conception of reality allows for a substantial component of fantasy.
* Stay tuned for the Republican VH-1 caucus.