When Democrats lose an election, they can be counted on to fall to their knees and beg forgiveness from the voters who rejected them, even in an election like this one where the results were determined almost entirely by turnout (which this year was the lowest since 1942). This happens again and again despite the fact that it never works.

Today we’re learning of a new plan to embark on an absurd fool’s errand to save Senator Mary Landrieu, who is embroiled in a tough run-off election in Louisiana, through the inevitably unsuccessful tactic of giving Republicans what they want:

Senate Democrats are working on plans to hold a vote authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline — approval that Democrats believe might bolster the chances of Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a tough runoff election next month.
It was not immediately clear Tuesday night whether Republicans would consent to proceeding with such a vote during the lame-duck session that begins on Wednesday — especially given the high stakes surrounding Landrieu’s reelection race. Such a move would also draw howls from the environmental movement who had hoped that President Obama would resolve a years-long dispute over a long-awaited energy project in their favor.
Several Senate Democratic aides confirmed on Tuesday evening that talks are underway to allow for a vote authorizing construction of the pipeline in the coming days.

I find it incredible that there are any Democrats who think this is actually going to save Landrieu. If there’s anything we learned from last Tuesday, it’s that in midterm elections, turnout matters much more than persuasion. And in a runoff election where turnout will be particularly low, the time for persuading Louisiana voters that Mary Landrieu is the oil industry’s best friend is past. If Landrieu has any hope of winning, it lies in motivating Democrats to get to the polls, which will be a particularly hard task, given that they just suffered such a huge defeat and are surely demoralized. Something tells me that the Keystone XL pipeline is not the thing that’s going to get Louisiana Democrats excited.

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Even more egregiously, Democrats are willing to hand Republicans a significant policy victory while getting absolutely nothing in return. Let’s stipulate for a moment that the practical significance of the Keystone XL pipeline has been exaggerated by both sides. Tar sands oil is just about the most environmentally pernicious form of energy on earth, but the unfortunate reality is that the Canadians are committed to pulling it out of the ground and selling it whether it comes south to the United States or not. On the other side, the Republicans’ claims that building the pipeline will have a significant impact on the American economy are laughable; it will create a few thousand construction jobs while it’s being built, and the number of permanent jobs will literally number in the dozens. (And before anyone gets mad, yes, I realize that I’ve oversimplified the issue here.)

But what’s undeniable is that Republicans have made an emotional investment in the pipeline, and if Democrats are going to give in, they should at least get something meaningful in return. But as so often happens, they’re ready to just fold.

Take a look around at what happened in this election. Every Democrat who tried to avert defeat by saying “Please don’t hate me!” to Republican voters lost. Alison Lundergan Grimes said “I’m not Barack Obama,” shot guns and sang the praises of coal, and lost. Mark Pryor voted against the Manchin-Toomey background check bill (which was supported by huge majorities of voters), and lost. Mark Begich said he’d be a thorn in Obama’s butt, and lost. They might have lost anyway, but it’s clear that all but denying they were members of the Democratic party didn’t help them.

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The Democrats who survived the bloodbath did so by making sure not to alienate their own base. The one Democrat in a close Senate race who won was New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen, who forthrightly defended the Affordable Care Act and didn’t bash President Obama like so many other Democrats did. Turnout in New Hampshire remained strong, and she prevailed. In Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper held on despite being targeted by the NRA for his gun control efforts. He didn’t run away from that record or cut ads with him shooting to try to convince the voters opposed to him that he was really on their side.

The issue of oil in Louisiana isn’t in quite the same category — it’s about economics and doesn’t have the same partisan intensity associated with it as something like guns, at least in that state. But what exactly do congressional Democrats think voters there will conclude if they hear that the Keystone XL pipeline is going to be built? That Mary Landrieu loves oil? I’m pretty sure they know that already. If you were a Louisiana Democrat, would that make you eager to turn out in a runoff election to support Landrieu? Hardly. And it won’t convince any Republicans or independents to come to her side, particularly when her opponent comes from the “Drill, baby, drill!” party.

After they’ve given Republicans this huge gift, and Landrieu ends up losing anyway because Democratic voters don’t see much reason to turn out in the runoff, the Democrats in Congress will say, “Gee, I wonder why that didn’t work?”

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