So. What the heck happened last night?
The GOP picked up 60 seats in the House, effectively reversing their losses there from 2006 and 2008, and returning control of that body to them.
The GOP picked up some 6 seats in the Senate, but the Democratic Party retains control there.
The GOP picked up several governor seats as well.
And it was a very good night for the GOP in local races around the country.
I should be suicidally depressed, right?
Don’t get me wrong: I’m disappointed as the next progressive. Disappointed in the party, in the party leadership (Doctor-Governor-Chairman Dean, we miss you and your 50 state strategy!), in knowing I’ll have to hear the phrase “Speaker Boehner” for the next 2 years, in every failed vote and compromise and missed opportunity of the last 2 years.
I’m far more confused, or bemused, than angry or sad.
What I don't get is how non-sensical the results are, when taken as a whole.
Despite what the pollsters, the pundits, the media, the GOP leadership, and the defeated TEA-baggers who seemed unclear on what the words “concession speech” mean, all tried to tell us today, there is no single clear “message” to take away from this election.
The People Have Spoken, but they all spoke at once, and not many of them agreed with each other.
It's not that GOP victories don't make sense: I expected them. Incumbents always lose in the midterms; the economy still pretty much sucks; the major reforms and achievements of the past 20 months have been distorted or ignored; and the GOP has both a major “news” network, and a multi-national secret fundraising machine.
It’s the inconsistency behind those victories (and losses!) that don’t make sense.
Sarah Palin's candidates won some races, but lost spectacularly in other races. Including, it is widely assumed, in her home state of Alaska.
So, is Palin a king-maker, an idiot, or a stopped clock? (Or all 3?) But more importantly, when will her 15 minutes finally be over?! No one in the GOP wants her to run in 2012. She’s started to lash out at her party and supporters, just like she has for her entire political career. And OMG, when will her daughter stop dancing?
For all the “Throw the bums out!” anti-incumbent mentality of this season, several incumbents did quite well. Harry Reid is probably the most surprising incumbent victory, but he’s not the only successful “old guard” campaign. Barney Frank of MA held on to his seat (like anyone was surprised), after fending off a primary challenge from a dining room table, and a general election from a TEA Bagger. Here in CT, incmubent Chris Murphy beat challenger Sam Caligiuri by a very comfortable margin, even in Caligiuri’s own town.
True to form, the electorate was largely unimpressed by self-funders (buh-bye Linda McMahon and her WWE game-face, Meg Whitman and her maid, Carly Fiorina and her “So yesterday” campaign, Iott and his spectacular Nazi uniform, and almost everyone who ran using their own fortunes), even though the best way to beat a self-funded "outsider" is to be an "establishment Washington insider:” Welcome back, Senator McCain!
Speaking of Palin and McCain, they don’t seem likely to get the band back together for a reunion tour in 2012.
But, if I were the kind of person to spread ugly rumors (and you may want to skip the rest of this sentence), I’d wager that they must have the best hate sex since Mary Matalin and James Carville.
Of course, Marco Rubio was a self-funded candidate, backed by Mama Grizzly, and a likely criminal to boot, and he, sigh, managed to win.
(I can’t even begin to explain Rand Paul. But then, I can’t explain much about Kentucky. Enjoy him. What other choice do you have?)
Several key races were nail-biting heart-breakers (Sestak-Toomey in PA, Giannoulais-Kirk in IL), that “shouldn’t” have been so close. Toomey would have beaten Specter in the primaries, if Specter hadn’t switched parties. And given the Blagojevich/Burris debacle in IL, and Giannoulais’ banking ties, it was time for Illinois residents to be disgusted by Democrats, instead of Republicans (who here remembers George Ryan?).
Other races were mind-numbing landslides: Ayotte over Shea-Porter in NH; Rubio-over Christ (and, I guess, Meek) in FL; Feingold-Johnson in WI.
Ayotte I understand. NH really is “ruggedly independent” state: I think they enjoy bucking trends, when they’re not setting them. They’ve flipped from GOP to Dem in 3 times in the last 20 years (Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Kerry by a nose), and chose Hillary over Obama in the democratic primary. Ayotte, despite Palin’s “Mamma Grizzly” merit badge, really isn’t a hardcore conservative.
Rubio was able to take advantage of the 3-way race in Florida. (The final tally was 50-29-20. So, if Meek had bowed to the pressure applied by Bill Clinton and dropped out, FL might have flipped to Christ, who would likely have caucused with the Democrats. Not that I blame Meek for running.)
Feingold I just don’t understand. WTF, Wisconsin? That was the electoral equivilent of pawning your grandmother’s heirloom jewelry for a few bucks at a Cash 4 Gold store, so you can go out on Friday night.
I especially don’t get this one from the TEA-bagger perspective. Feingold was anti-war and pro-campaign finance reform, things TEA-baggers are supposed to appreciate. It only makes sense if the TEA Party is really the GOP in a tea bag. (Oooooohhhhhhhhhh.)
We lost too many progressives last night, but the Progressive Caucus is still in tact. But, voters kicked out half of our "Blue-Dog Democrats."
I actually think this is a good thing.
It hurts to lose the seats, and the committee chairs in the House. But. The Blue Dogs are not exactly helpful to getting progressive legislation passed. The GOP has been purging its ranks of moderates (and non-crazies). Blue-dogs sold out the progressive base of their own party to appease the more conservative voters in their own districts. This is poetic justice. And, it leaves room for more progressive candidates to emerge in those districts.
Because I think, the take-away message from this election is this: the American voter is impatient, underinformed, and impulsive. The entire electorate just said, “Squirrel!”
I say this because, although the Democrats took a “Shellacking” last night, it’s not because the electorate loves the GOP. They don’t.
Seriously. The electorate just broke up with Barack Obama to go back out with the guy they know is going to cheat on them, and possibly beat them up.
A few thoughts:
1. No one realized that Change doesn’t come by overnight FedEx. And so, like Americans in crisis (like, when the computer freezes) do, they started pounding all the buttons on the keyboard at once, hoping to make something work. The Obama administration, the Congress, the press, and the public, share responsibility for this communication fail.
2. They forgot the things the Obama administration, with the Democrats in congress (and really, not 1 GOPer), actually accomplished.
Or, if you can’t sit through the whole thing:
There. FTFY, America.
3. Also, the country seems to have forgotten what the GOP did to us.
4. The Citizens United Ruling from the Supreme Court really did unleash a vast Right-wing conspiracy. Really.
This has to be the worst ruling since Plessy v Ferguson. But, even that bone-headed ruling was eventually overturned. This too shall pass.
5. The media really, really, REALLY wanted to tell the “Democrats are in trouble” story, and so they did. (See my earlier post, http://drinkliberal.blogspot.com/2010/10/rope-what.html
about how off-the-mark the coverage of the Blumenthal-McMahon was. BTW, Blumenthal won by 10.5 points. It wasn’t even close.)
Here’s one thing that it wasn’t: a repudiation of “liberalism”
But. We’re back together with the cheating, punching, ex-boyfriend. What’s life going to be like now?
See? Obama’s aprty lost because they refused to compromise (which apparently means, “capitulated to all the opposition’s demands”). Now that the the tables have turned (sort of), we can expect …. NO Compromise from the GOP!
And they’re going to roll back Health Care Reform (here’s where I think Christine O’Donnell is speaking through them). Good luck getting past the Democratic-held Senate and the Presidential veto …. And the percentage of your constituents who actually would rather not go back to being without reform!
And they’re going to cut the budget: everything is on the table, except the stuff that’s not.
Good luck with that too.
Oh, and they're going to impeach Obama. Because he must have done something to deserve it. Even if they can't figure out what it is.
That'll get people back to work.
So basically, we’re looking at More. Of. The. Same. For another 2 years. From the GOP. And the TEA Party.
But. The Democrats may have learned something from this season.
For one, DADT is going to come before the legislature in the lame-duck session.
And so are the Bush-era tax cuts.
At this point, Dems have nothing to lose, and much face to gain, by going to the left on both of these issues. Even the outgoing Blue Dogs.
The Senate now has the opportunity to reform the rules for the filibuster. They should.
And congress, either in the lame-duck session, or in the new session, needs to address the debacle of Citizens United. Because whether they wear a powdered wig or an “I’m With Reasonable” t-shirt, the voters are pissed as all hell at the way campaigns are financed.
But whatever happens, I’m pretty sure by 2012, most voting Americans won’t remember who did what when. What they will care about is, whether or not they have a decently-paying job, and whether or not they have a home not in foreclosure. And I remain confident that the Obama administration, with or without a majority in congress, can make that happen.
As maddening as the electroate’s ADD is to endure, I take comfort in knowing that today’s Wunderkinds will be tomorrow’s bums. And today’s wave will collapse tomorrow. But, even though we swing back and forth and back and forth like a carnival ride, we still move foreward in the long term.
So I remain optimistic.
I turn to National Treasure, Jon Stewart, to put it all in perspective.