Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Regarding The Elections Tonight

I've heard the GOP say pretty much the same thing: they plan on extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone (including rich people), repealing the (water-down) health care reform, sealing the border and cutting spending on things that make up less than 10% of the budget.

I noticed a trend here: these are all (for Republicans, anyway) domestic agendas.

As in, "they haven't really talked about foreign policy." Nothing about Iraq. Or Afghanistan. Or Iran. Or North Korea.

Nothing about Al-Qaida. Or the Taliban. Or Osama bin Laden.

That's probably because talking about "fighting them over there" has run its course. Fear of things outside America has been trumped by fear of things inside America (we can thank the Housing Crisis for getting that ball rolling).

Nevertheless, it's certainly shocking to see a political party who was all about military-based patriotism (read: they supported the wars but they'd be damned if they had to actually fight them, and even then they preferred to outsource normal military functions) suddenly turn to the "kitchen table" only after the President decided to address an issue that's been around for, well, 60 years. It's surprising to see a "grassroots" party arise not because of the spending that went into the Bush Administration's grand adventure in Iraq, but because of a Health Care Reform Plan that's pretty much paid for.

It'll be interesting to see if the GOP-controlled House of Representatives focus any attention on foreign issues like they did when Bush was in office, or if they just fart around trying to bog down the Senate with go-nowhere legislation or "investigating" the Obama Administration.

As for the Democrats: With Grayson and Feingold losing, progressives can't say, "If the Democrats embraced their base, they'll be rewarded accordingly." Obviously if that were the case, these two wouldn't be getting ready to pack their things (and sure, local issues are a factor, but isn't the liberal base supposed to be smart enough to navigate the nuances and relate that to potential voters)? At the same time, acting like Republicans didn't help a lot of "Blue Dog Democrats" keep their seats either. So don't be surprised to see some confused and/or timid Democrats over the next few months.

The Democrats in the House can now sit back and let the GOP fight amongst themselves to get something passed (and some may welcome the reversal).

The Democrats in the Senate, with a smaller majority, now has less pressure to embrace more progressive issues. But if they were smart, they would just allow the GOP to actually filibuster something.

The Obama White House isn't that impacted (Obama can still veto stuff, remember?) but maybe now he has a viable, tangible opponent: the GOP House. It wasn't really a far fight when your foes are radio hosts and ex-governors who can't really affect policy. Now he can face a group that has the power to put their money where their mouth is (and in some issues, they'll be forced to do this literally).

Does this mean that the Tea Party has replaced the progressive netroots? Hardly. The Congressional losses that the Democrats suffered weren't entirely unexpected, they were nowhere near the losses the Democrats suffered in 1994, and turnout for Tea Party-favored candidates came predominantly from older white males, while younger voters still seem to be trending Democratic. If anything, there's a lesson for progressives from both Howard Dean's Fifty-State Strategy (which partially resulted in getting Blue Dogs) and Tom Kaine's Traditional Strategy (which meant abandoning "loss cause" Democrats): it's not about getting "more Democrats" or "popular Democrats," but real Democrats. Being a Democrat with a Republican voting record isn't going to help anymore than being a nationally popular liberal who struggles in their home state. If you want to run under the Democrat Brand, you have to be real.

Overall, this may be good for both the Democrats and the Republicans. Can't say much for their respective bases, though. Things are more balanced, and when that happens the middle tends to trump the base.

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