As this NYTimes blog from last year points out, many progressives were very upset with the administration for its caving to Republicans and conservative Democrats in the healthcare legislation that violated many of the campaign promises then candidate Obama made in 2008.
Once again, the GOP have managed to move the markers for what constitutes the "left" and "center" of political discourse. By consistently lashing out at policies proposed by the administration and the Democrats in Congress as being far to the left when in fact they are right of center, the Republicans have waged an incredibly successful public relations campaign and if polled, many Americans would believe that the Affordable Care Act was far to the left but that's without a single payer system or even a public option. How can something so vehemently decried by real progressives as over compromised and a gift to the insurance industry also be some Maoist takeover of the American government?
What caused this dramatic swing in the electorate was not so much people changing their voting patterns from 2008 but rather so many of the Democrats' key supporters being disgusted with the horse trading that went on in the last year and a half. African Americans voters and young voters who show solid support for the President did not come out to vote on Tuesday. While some of that can surely be chalked up to the unreliability of young voters to show up at the polls with some celebrity urging them on, it looks like a larger part of it was simply voter disappointment with how the Democrats had compromised their legislation and themselves in the short time that they held massive majorities in both houses of Congress. This disappointment resulted in much lower turnouts in those core constituencies.
This further boosted Republican outcomes because those who disagreed with the fundamentals of helping your fellow citizens and ensuring that everyone has access to health care regardless of what pre-existing conditions exist were clearly fired up to come out and vote for the GOP, but those who were upset with the Democrats and saw little differences between the two parties are the ones who stayed home. And while I personally believe that not voting is one of the most cowardly acts a citizen in a democracy can commit, I understand the frustration that made people feel that packing the bong, playing another round of Madden on the xbox, and proving pundits right that young voters are unreliably AKA should be ignored, was the best thing to do on Tuesday.
The Democrats lost on Tuesday because the early economic predictions of bad times to come were too cautious, the stimulus was too small, the health care reform too conservative, and the financial reform too toothless. The Democrats, in an effort to woo independents who are too stupid to stick with one political direction for more than 2 years, lost their base and were abandoned on election day by the people who sent them there in 2008.