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The Dark at the End of the Tunnel

Don't get me wrong -- barring some miracle, current tax cuts are not going to be extended. Period. But the thing is, Conrad, Nelson and Bayh already know that. They don't need some blogger in his pajamas to tell them that. And Webb knows -- again, barring some miracle -- that under this Administration, there is going to be no restructuring, fundamental or otherwise, of our racial spoils system.

In fact, Bayh has already announced his retirement. Conrad and Nelson aren't even up for reelection this cycle -- and are probably doomed in 2012, again barring some miracle. Webb's ticket doesn't need to get punched until then, either, but he's popular (and centrist) enough that his seat might just be bulletproof regardless.

So none of these guys really needs to tilt at windmills to help their reelection chances. And yet, each of them is going all Don Quixote on us. What's up with that?

We don't know for sure -- but we sure can speculate. And my guess is the men of this Gang of Four are trying to save their party from the train wreck coming in November, 2010 -- and in 2012, and 2014 and 2016 unless policy changes and public perception changes start coming, and quickly.

Candidate Barack Obama ran as a moderate. He promised a "net spending cut." Health reform was not, we were assured, intended to take over the insurance industry or feature an individual mandate. Taxes would go down for anyone making under $250,000 a year. "Too big to fail" was to be a thing of the past. Our nation was to become post-racial by the long-awaited election of a black man to the White House. And so it goes.

Instead, we got… more of everything. Taxes, spending, regulating, mandates, racial division -- the entire liberal waterworks turned up to the max and pretty much all at once.

And moderate Democrats -- genuinely moderate Democrats -- like Messrs Bayh, Conrad, Nelson and Webb must be horrified. The candidate from 2008 who ran on the notion of returning us to Clinton-era surpluses has instead repudiated every policy and notion that made them possible.

Obama, they might rightly fear, is going to tarnish their party for a generation or more -- and at the exact moment the Republican brand was so tarnished that the Democrats very recently were poised for a generation or more of national dominance.

So wish this Gang of Four the best of luck. Because we're all going to need it.