Pennsylvania Democratic Party chair Jim Burn, the former Millvale mayor and Allegheny County party chair, is in Washington today to meet with the Democratic National Committee, the White House political team and members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation. He also took the time to meet with Pennsylvania's D.C. correspondents (all two of us) and talk about the lessons from the 2010 "tsunami" -- his word; I prefer Obama's "shellacking" -- and the road ahead.
Burn said the electorate's Republican turn was a reaction of fear related to poor economic conditions and the "misinformation" coming from the tea party movement about Democratic policies.
In our fast-twitch culture, Burn said, politicians can be voted out "if you can't fix my government as fast as someone can order something online. Voters are going to have buyer's remorse with this crowd faster than at anytime in history."
Democrats' failures, he said, were of messaging rather than policy, allowing their foes to define the Democratic agenda.
"Don't make excuses for tough decisions; defend tough decisions," Burn said, vowing a more aggressive messaging campaign in the next cycle. It's already begun, with frequent attacks on freshman Republicans who are not following Butler Rep.-elect Mike Kelly's lead in renouncing their federal health benefits. Burn said Democrats' would find more instances of hypocrisy as they arise.
For U.S. House seats, it's hard to plan for 2012 because the commonwealth will be chopped up again in redistricting. With Republicans making Harrisburg their own personal fiefdom these days, the Democrats will have little control over the process, but they will be ready to go on the attack. Burn, an attorney himself, said a top-flight legal team will be ready to challenge any line that could be construed as illegal, and Democrats will be urging members of the public to attend any public hearings they can to speak up.
Recalling the outrage in some corners over secret deals being struck during the health care reform debate, Burn said: "The American people and Pennsylvanians are about to see what a real backroom deal is, and that's Republicans redistricting."
Locally, Burn said Democrats are awaiting Dan Onorato's decision on whether he will seek another term as Allegheny County Executive next year. When asked how he sees the field shaking out if Dan-O steps aside, Burn (who's been rumored as a candidate) grinned and said the party will field a fine candidate and keep the office in Democratic hands.