Actually the election was better than I thought it would be. Here in Massachusetts the Democrats swept the Constitutional offices and proved that there was no enthusiasm gap – or if there was one it was on the Republican side. The Democrats proved that old fashioned shoe leather is still the way to get out the vote. The turnout was very good for a mid-term election in my precinct where Charlie Baker got all of 19 votes out of 433 voters. Equally significant the two most important propositions got voted down. We kept affordable housing laws on the books and didn’t reduce the sales tax. But remember we also voted for George McGovern.
I have mixed emotions about the scene nationally. On one hand, it probably means nothing will get done legislatively until after the 2012 Presidential election is over. We can only hope that Congress musters the votes for a continuing resolution on the budget. On the hand, it will be very entertaining to watch the Republicans try to deal with dissent in their party as the election of Rand Paul and others means the end to the lockstep voting of Republicans in Congress. And given what is happening in recent European elections, particularly the Conservative take-over in England (and while we are talking, can someone please explain to me why the Liberal Dems there are in a coalition with them?) we shouldn’t be surprised that the Republican-Tea Party coalition won. But how bad is it really?
There was a 60 vote swing in the House. But remember that before the election the Democrats held 255 seats. After the election the Republicans hold 239. Even if all 8 still undecided races break Republican, they will hold 247 seats. So yes, there was a huge swing, the biggest since, I believe since the Truman mid-terms, but even so, the new Republican majority is not as large as the Democratic one before the election. And I was very sorry to see my old friend, Rick Boucher, lose in Virginia as part of the wave.
The pre-election talk was a 9 seat pick-up in the Senate for the Republicans. Pundits on both sides were saying that the Republicans would have had the 10 seats to take over if not for Christine O’Donnell getting the Delaware nomination. But the gain is only 6 with Alaska still undecided. The Democrats still hold 53 seats in the Senate. Maybe Harry Reid can figure out a way to change the Senate rules to a majority instead of 60 votes.
Joshua Holland has a great piece posted on AlterNet titled “It’s Not the End of the World — 7 Things Progressives Need to Keep in Mind about Last Night’s GOP ‘Wave”.
Here are a few of those 7 things.
2. The electorate is hopping mad, but they still dislike Republicans. A month before an election that has swept some rather extreme GOPers into Congress, an Associated Press-GfK Poll found that “60 percent disapprove of the job congressional Democrats are doing — yet 68 percent frown on how Republicans are performing.”
A New York Times/CBS News poll last week found that while a majority of Americans voted GOP yesterday, the electorate “continues to have a more favorable opinion of the Democratic Party than of the Republican Party, with 46 percent favoring Democrats and 41 favoring Republicans.”
This will be the third consecutive year in which the party out of power wins. That’s not a measure of the country’s ideological leanings, it’s a sign that people are hurting and are mad as hell about it (in case one needed such a sign).
3. Blue Dogs took the brunt of it. The loss of Wisconsin’s liberal lion, Russ Feingold, is a blow to the progressive movement. Alan Grayson’s defeat in Florida hurts. Other good lawmakers were booted out of office last night as well. But in many cases, what we saw were conservatives with Ds next to their names replaced with conservatives with Rs.
That’s to be expected after two big Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008. They won in a lot of conservative districts, but as many observers noted at the time, many of those Dems winning in marginally “red” districts were the bluest of dogs, who have not exactly helped advance a progressive agenda.
In his new book, Ari Berman argues that a smaller, more ideologically coherent Democratic party would in fact be good for progressives. Whether or not one agrees, it’s hard to see a bunch of the most corporate-friendly Dems losing their seats as a tragedy for American progressivism.
5. A wave of low-information voters says more about our media and education system than our politics. In late July, a much discussed poll revealed that only 42 percent of Republican primary voters were confident President Obama was born in the United States. Compare that to 77 percent of the electorate at large.
It’s important to remember that many Tea Partiers are voting in an alternative universe where the decidedly centrist Dems are stealthily pushing the nation toward socialism, trying to enact Sharia law, taking over broad swaths of the economy, setting up “death panels” to decide if grandma lives or dies and plotting to join the United States with Canada and Mexico.
Given those beliefs, it’s really no surprise they’re so animated to “take their country back.” But all of that is a testament to the power of the Right’s mighty Wurlitzer, and says little about the state of our political beliefs.
So right now, I’m going to sit back and watch the Republican Party try to reign in Michele Bachmann and Rand Paul and the expectations of the people who voted for them that the world will now run their way while I hope that the President and the Democrats stick to their principles and don’t compromise them away. We don’t need them to become the equivalent of the English Liberal Dems.