Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Lessons from the 2010 Election

So there seem to be, in absence of detailed exit poll data, certain things that we CAN take away from this debacle.

First, to misquote Gordon Gekko, obstructionism WORKS. Obstructionism is GOOD. The American people voted in the Dems in 2006 and in 2008 to enact real, positive change. The Republicans made damned sure that wouldn't happen by posing a united front in the Senate. The Dems tried, over and over again, to try to pin the Senate's failure to enact cloture on the Republicans. It never stuck. It was never GOING to stick; the press was too busy focusing on horse races, and the public doesn't give a damn. They'll blame whomever is in power.

That also goes for the Republicans' negotiation tactics. Playing at being convincible when talking with the President and Congressional leadership, extracting concession after concession with no concession in turn, and then walking away at the end worked SPECTACULARLY well for the Republicans. It might not have if they ended up getting blamed for the resulting legislation, but they never, ever did. Part of that was due to Obama's own overly-concession-prone negotiation style, and the Dems' inability to create and stick to a message. But I think a lot of it is just the simple fact of politics, and something the Dems should remember going forward when they work to frustrate the Republican house.

Second, Citizens United paid off BIG for the Republicans. I don't think there's any doubt about that. Dems were yelling that they were getting HAMMERED with corporatist advertising in State after State. Obama tried to tie the ads to big money; but, again, the public was simply not in the mood for justifications or excuses. It's only going to get worse; I think that 2012 may be the first election that is basically bought-and-paid-for if things go badly.

Third, I also think that the teabaggers paid off for the Republicans, too. Sure, they lost Nevada, but Rand Paul managed to pull it off, along with others. More importantly, they did what they needed to do to relabel their party. The teabaggers are really just the same old, white, upper-middle-class conservative males that have ALWAYS been the backbone of both the conservative movement and the Republican party. What's changed is that now they have an identity to look at, and that the media can freak out over. That's something the progressives don't have, and have never really had. Partially it's because of their tendency to splinter, but I think it also has to do with our fourth reason.

Fourth, the Dems completely destroyed their electoral machine. OFA is a sad shadow of what it used to be. It was never going to be as big as it was in 2008, of course. But as one of the people on CNN pointed out, Reagan made sure that he kept his young Republican groups engaged throughout the term, instead of just trying to rally them when election time rolled around. The rest of the progressive groups were if anything WORSE off, thanks to the combative, hostile relationship the Obama administration had with its own base. The enthusiasm gap was dramatic throughout the race, and I expect that in the days ahead we'll find out just how dramatic it was. But I think it didn't need to be, and that it's Obama's own fault that it

And finally, the combination of the hatred of BOTH parties and the results, along with the economic situation, shows that the American people still want change and not necessarily what the Republicans are peddling. This may be the Republicans' undoing, since their policy prescriptions will NOT make thing batter. The best they can hope for is a slight spike from businesses and investors who assume that their party will be pro-business, but I suspect that the fundamental problems will likely reassert themselves soon enough. The Republicans' plans are economically suspect at best, and likely catastrophic; they would be best buried by the Democratic president and Senate. But since I doubt the Dems will have that kind of sense, it's likely that they'll try to "work with the Republicans" in enacting part of the Republican agenda. Then, when things get WORSE, the finger-pointing will begin.

This isn't what I would have wanted. THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED. The Dems and the President should have known that this would be the ultimate end of their frustrated, inadequate, poorly-focused efforts over the past two years. THIS is what happens when you listen to people like Rahm Emanuel. THIS is why they need real victories to show the American people. THIS is why catering to the blue dogs to the exclusion of all else doesn't work. (They got hammered tonight.) THIS is why you don't abandon the networks you built up. And THIS is why you need to develop a strong identity and pay close attention to your Supreme Court nominees.

But I suspect that they'll get the wrong message. They'll think that they've "moved too far left" or some such nonsense. It's not about left and right. It never was. It's about people wanting some security and prosperity in their lives. And when the Republicans fail at providing it, things are going to get a whole lot uglier.

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