The Election Season is Dead! Long Live the Election Season!

4 Nov

The fever wave gripped the nation far tighter than New York. As we head to a Thompson-Grisanti recount and a potentially split New York Senate, Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Slaughter and Cuomo all cruised to their successes. Democrats nationally faired far worse.

Chris Smith recently asked where the GOP, in full embrace with the Tea Party, was ultimately headed. He projected a possible southern, regional party of dissention first. One hesitates to read too much into a single election, but the results on Tuesday were broad and deep. In Pennsylvania, where President Obama won by 10 points in 2008, Republicans gained the Governor’s mansion, a US Senate seat, four US House reps, and took over both chambers of the state legislature. That is Pennsylvania, not Texas, North Carolina or Oklahoma. Obama’s home state of Illinois went red, and brought Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin with it. When over 60 House and 7 (8 maybe) Senate seats are gained, few regions are spared. Republicans also gained big in state legislatures, so much post-census re-districting will be gerrymandered in their favor.

“How could this happen?” ask the Democratic faithful. The answer is easy, and based upon soon-to-be Speaker Boehner’s first public statements, he understands. First, accurately interpret the message of the electorate. President Obama was elected to bring competent government, after the debacles in Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, and Katrina. Change was a Change to good government. Second, deliver on the platform you were elected on, even if it is slightly different than the one you ran on. Obama spent his political capital on healthcare, but a $2.8 Trillion budget deficit over two years does not look like progress, it looks like incompetence. Enter Tuesday Night.

So what now? Three thoughts:

Hope that Boehner and Obama learn to enjoy a martini together. It was my prediction that the worst possible scenario was a Republican House, but a Democratic Senate and White House. Each side could blame the other, shun governance, and wait it out to 2012. Now that we are there, then the best we can hope for is that Boehner and Obama develop a Reagan/O’Neill relationship, and the Senate is ignored. If Harry Reid, despite the odds, stays Majority Leader, then he should be marginalized. If Schumer challenges and becomes Majority Leader, then he would happily join the two-some, and there is a chance bills leave conference committee and make it to the President’s desk.

Don’t fear the money. Meg Whitman spent $150 million and lost the governorship of California. Linda McMahon spent $50 million in Connecticut and lost. Tim Keane, DNC chairman, roamed the cable new airwaves (oxymoron?) Tuesday night complaining that $64 million was spent by unknown groups on attack ads against Democratic Senate candidates. $64 million. Avant cost more than $64 million. $64 million is a down payment on Canalside. $64 million is a pittance by any national standard. And in any case, money may be speech, but it clearly is not votes.  

Will the Tea Party amoeba “learn” from its overreach. At what point did a fight against deficits require a litmus test of one’s Birther credentials, or a call for Second Amendment Remedies? The most egregious Tea Party recruits, and the Sarah Palin picks – O’Donnell, Angle, Miller in Alaska – all lost. A small second tier of fringe candidates – Rand Paul – won. The big Tea Party successes were in the House, where some more extreme candidates made the cut. This should not be overplayed, however, as it is not a unique Tea Party phenomenon. A couple off candidates make it every cycle (Grayson from Florida, anyone).

Several exit polls indicate the number one voter concern is deficits. If the Republicans grab this Tea Party issue (while somehow managing to restrain themselves from the Muslim sleeper agent talk), and embrace it with the President’s Debt Commission, then we have a rare chance to address long term entitlement spending. Of the 428 non-incumbents running this year for seats in the House, the number one background of candidates (109) was “small business owner.” As the White House is long on academics, and short on practitioners, the Republicans could do well to harness some of the new budget acumen that the freshman are eager to display. And this new Chris Collins-esque national image makeover is already beginning. Haley Barbour, astute Republican governor of Mississippi, said yesterday that Republicans are the party of small-business, but there is no party of Wall Street or Big Business. Wall Street always goes with the winner. Ask Cuomo.

Two years ago I predicted the Republicans would Clinton-fy, eschew Palin, and tack to the center. I was wrong, but maybe not entirely. It was a predictable outcome that Republicans would go more anti-Centrist McCain after the 2008 loss, but a two year flirtation with Palin is not yet played out. If the worst of the Palin-promoted fringe candidates are left in the rearview mirror, and fiscal conservatism alone is what rules the day, then Obama, Boehner, and America’s budgets will be the beneficiaries.

9 Responses to “The Election Season is Dead! Long Live the Election Season!”

  1. Greg November 4, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    Brian, I always enjoy reading your stuff.

    If “fiscal conservatism alone is what rules the day”, then I might become a Republican. Just kidding. It wouldn’t happen anyway. We haven’t heard the last of Palin and her crazies. I’m worried that American wikk double down on the crazy, and that Palin really will be the nominee in 2012.

    Also, I don’t like your take on the money issue. Sure, it doesn’t always buy the election, but it’s a serious problem. You’re dismissal of it is a little troubling. Anyone think the Republican house will start to tackle this problem? No way — they benefit the most from it. Hopefully in 2012…

  2. Greg November 4, 2010 at 7:35 am #

    ^^ sorry, *Americans will

  3. Mike In WNY November 4, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    Brian, as a person who supports, for the most part, Tea Party candidates, I agree that the extreme birtherism and other craziness needs to be left behind. The main focus needs to be taxes, spending, jobs and the economy. I do disagree on your criticism of 2nd Amendment remedies. The 2nd Amendment needs to be held in the same esteem as the 1st Amendment, it is not a coincidence that it appears right after the freedom of speech amendment.

  4. BobbyCat November 4, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    I don’t understand why the pundits (or anyone) relies on polls. I don’t care what most Americans believe. Most Americans believe more in mysticism, mythology and legends than by facts or science. I don’t pay any attention to that stuff. Unlike most Americans, I DONT believe there is an invisible man who lives in the sky, who loves me very, very much… but…if I break one of his Effen rules, I will burn forever in a river of fire. That’s not love, that’s bullshit. But if my fellow Americans want to believe that, more power to them.
    Back to politics. If most Americans want to believe that you can REDUCE taxes and lower the national debt at the same time, what can you say? Of course it’s nonsense but you can’t fight mythology. The biggest threat to a prosperous America – not to mention democracy – is the ignorance of its electorate.

    Why should we be afraid of the new GOP House of Reps? Nobel prize winner, Economist Paul Krugman says this:

  5. Brian Castner November 4, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    @ Greg: I’m dismissive of the $$$ because the actual impact is so far out of whack with the rhetoric. Its like earmarks on the right – lots of sound and fury and righteous anger, but a small problem in the grand scheme of thing. Frankly, I’m surprised more isn’t spent on elections. It must be the spenders realize that $$$ does not equal votes in a 1:1 ratio.

    @ Mike: You can be pro-gun without alluding to armed insurrection.

  6. Eric Saldanha November 4, 2010 at 5:10 pm #

    Brian – one quibble….voters in Tuesday’s exit polls said the economy was their top issue, not deficits.

  7. Brian Castner November 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    @ Eric: I did see some of those. I also heard on NPR some Pew research exit polls that listed deficits (40%) as the #1, with jobs and other economic factors later. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link. So you could trust me. Or we could say its the economy.

  8. STEEL November 5, 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    There will be no way for the right to nominate ane elcectable moderate for a presidential run with Limbaugh and the tebaggers in charge. Obama will get another term no matter what the congress does or in this situation is not going to do.  In the mean time.  All Obama has to do is ask Boehner for his proposals for balancing the budget.  Boehner knows the only way to really do that is to F#ck over the old people and that pretty much assures electoral doom.

  9. Gabe November 5, 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    The biggest issue being “the economy”….bwhahahhaa, funny how most people are utterly clueless on how our ponzi scheme, finance-dictated clunker of an economy actually (dys)functions.

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