Jonathan Bernstein points out that the biggest errors the Democrats made in the FY2011 appropriations fight actually happened months and months in the past:
1. Failing to pass appropriations for FY 2011 when they had large majorities in Congress;
2. Failing to pass a large debt ceiling increase when they had large majorities in Congress;
3. Failing to even consider acting on DC Statehood when they had the votes to do it in 2009 (relevant here because apparently the tradeoff for saving ACA, EPA, and Planned Parenthood was allowing screw-the-District riders to survive).
To this I would add that they failed to pass a formal budget for FY 2011. The DC thing we’ll leave to one side since there was no consideration given to this whatsoever. But the other decisions were discussed, and in all cases the Democrats on the questionably theory that deferring these topics as long as possible would help them in the 2010 midterms. I suppose it’s possible that it did (though it’s hard to see the evidence) at the margin, but still nobody really ever laid out the math as to why all things considered this was the best approach. All in all it added up to a massive strategic failure.