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The Midterms Are All About the "Still...."

danps's picture

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

It was probably inevitable that the Tuesday election post mortems would focus on process and conventional wisdom. An outfit like Politico can pump out a feature length article on it almost by rote: There is a great deal of populist anger out there, from tea parties on the right to the netroots on the left; incumbents are the targets and cannot take anything for granted; new forms of organizing and fundraising are changing the possibilities for candidates; Democrats once again had a better ground game and better strategy.

There is something to each of those points: A good part of the electorate is angry. Calling it "populist" gives it a vaguely irrational and menacing subtext, but sometimes anger is legitimate, and sometimes it is channelled in productive ways (like, for instance, in a primary challenge).

It is also true that some of the new actors on the scene are subverting old structures. A site like Daily Kos lets partisans bypass a traditional media that may ignore or be hostile to issues important to liberals. Act Blue can make candidates easily available to small donors across the country and has somewhat improved candidates' ability to succeed without lots of large contributors or institutional support.

And yes, party machinery plays a role. The DCCC has a nice little winning streak going, and maybe it has some kind of advantage in election day "get out the vote" operations. There certainly seems to be some kind of structural advantage in that regard.

Even granting all of that, the analysis looks skewed because it misses the big picture. Like the fact that we are still waging two wars nearly four years after voters flipped control of Congress largely out of deep unhappiness with Iraq. Maybe voters are angry because the thankfully soon to be retired David Obey said the following in 2007:

As chairman of the appropriations committee, I have no intention of reporting out of committee any time in this session of Congress any such (war funding) request that simply serves to continue the status quo.

Yet somehow, three years later, we are still there. Obey is hardly the only one guilty of this, either.

Maybe the fact that the Afghanistan war has become deeply unpopular but still endlessly grinds on has people a little upset. Maybe the ramped up program of remote murder has people thinking that perhaps we are doing more harm than good there, and maybe any vital national interest there (if it exists) could be achieved at a less fearsome cost. Maybe the fact that tens of billions more dollars will soon be approved for our wars is making folks not feel very kindly inclined towards incumbents. Maybe the fact that the money will come from the same off-the-books deception that George Bush was such a fan of doesn't strike people as very responsible (or mature). Maybe they remember Barack Obama congratulating himself that he had foresworn emergency supplementals in favor of a budget that "accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules."

The unemployment rate lingers near double digits; what has Congress done to address it? All of Washington seems to just be waiting for the economy to correct itself. Perhaps those outside the Beltway do not view the situation with the same equanimity.

I know I tend to have a bee in my bonnet over civil liberties, but maybe there is a broader discomfort over the ongoing efforts to weaken Constitutional protections. Or the fact that the same scumbags who wrecked the economy not only escaped entirely unscathed from their crimes, but came out of it with a system rigged to guarantee their further enrichment. Or that the company that just unleashed (via) the biggest environmental catastrophe since Chernobyl is dictating terms to the government.

To spare a few thoughts for conservatives, most of them were never particularly thrilled with the bailout, and it has come to take on iconic status for the Republican base. Being associated with it is by itself discrediting, much like the Iraq war vote has been for liberals. From Florida to Texas to Utah, those who can stick that label onto their opponents are doing so, and winning.

In short, Washington has for several years now been fully committed to disastrous policies. Citizens are responding by getting rid of those responsible in the hopes that the policies will change. It is not the result of some rabid, irrational rage but an emphatic vote of no confidence in the things they are doing. Getting all wrapped up in the weather in Pennsylvania obscures the fact that on almost the full range of issues people care most about, America's leaders are doing things that voters really, really hate.

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danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

No problem, and thanks for letting me know.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

but I can't think of a single member of Congress that deserves re-election. We are in the midst of a grand FAIL and Congress is full of people who've gone along with it (both entirely or at various points) and those who have not opposed it strongly enough (both entirely or at various points). They are a go long, get along, group of people who now need to go.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

than liberal vs. conservative. At this point, anyway. The first time we see an executive from a multinational given a highly publicized and orchestrated perp walk we may be close to seeing that change. But Goldman Sachs, BP, Blackwater, etc. roll on unscathed. Enriched, actually.

Submitted by lambert on

... that the spectacle of Kucinich prancing about on the House floor, whipping for the HCR bill he'd opposed on principle just one day before, along with Sanders selling out S703 for $10 billion in clinics, should really show us where the "progressive" baseline is. I mean, Admiral Sestak is well to the right of these guys, and the Hosannas are deafening. Feh.

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

I will almost certainly be voting to re-elect Barbara Boxer.

The race will be close, so my vote will make a difference. And I can in fact tell the difference between her and the three stooges that are running to replace her:

Tom Campbell is the most moderate of them and he's a wingnut when it comes to federal spending and deregulation: tax cuts, budget cuts and industrial deregulation forever.

Carly Fiorina is an example of the Peter Principle in action, she was just competent enough to nearly run Hewlett-Packard into the ground and I don't want to give her a chance to work her magic in the Senate.

And finally, there's the real prize, Chuck DeVore. An anti-abortion wingnut fanatic of the first order, original teaparty before the teaparty existed. Like Col. Flagg, I'm sure he has written permission to die in the attempt.

You might not be able to tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans in DC, but in California we sure can. And California doesn't deserve any of these idiots as senator.

Barbara Boxer is far from perfect, but she's the one senator who stood up in 2004 and said "this vote is bogus, there was systematic disenfrancisement of black voters."

So yeah, I'll be voting to re-elect her.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

when Democratic primary voters in two states were docked half of their delegates because of bills written and passed by Republicans, resulting in a Democratic nominee that did not win the most votes. Had Hillary Clinton taken the nomination, she would have been responsible to the voters. Obama is only responsible to the CEO of a health insurance company who arranged for him to get the nomination, and he has paid him back in spades.

So, no, I won't be voting for the senate seat. Who ever wins does so without my help.

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

But if you expect Chuck DeVore to stand up for anything you believe in, you've got another thing coming.

It's not scare stories about these Republicans that I have a problem with. They all have track records and I'm familiar with them, and I don't want them in the Senate, not from my state.

basement angel's picture
Submitted by basement angel on

I didn't say I was voting for Chuck. I said I wasn't voting. Boxer's not good enough. Neither Chuck or Carly, but I will not reward Boxer's failure to take a stand. When the Dems nominate someone with some backbone, I'll give the campaign 40 hours a week if they want it.

Submitted by lambert on

None of them are standing up for anything I believe in.

They're both heading for the same goal -- the Rs at 98 mph and the Ds at 89 mph.

Worse, at least the Rs honestly say who they hate and what they want to do about it; the Ds have the same hates and the same goals, but they project their desires onto impersonal forces that they can't control, so they can feel they have clean hands.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I'm not saying don't vote for her or that she isn't better than her competition (low bar). It's not a matter of not being able to tell the difference between individual candidates, it's a matter of not being able to tell the difference between how the parties run the country, at least with regard to the big issues. The entire political class has failed - that includes Boxer and her GOP opponents (who are almost certainly members of the elite if they can raise sufficient funds to run for state-wide office in California).

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

For being the best available candidate on the ballot. Certainly neither Campbell, nor Fiorina, nor DeVore deserve it more. And if the election wasn't close, I would consider a null vote. But it is, and not putting my preference in makes it more likely that one of them (probably Campbell) would be elected. No thank you.

Submitted by lambert on

For my part, I'm tired of eating shit because it's the best available shit on the plate.

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

She has consistently supported extending unemployment and COBRA benefits both in time and in coverage (introduced a bill that extended COBRA to cover domestic partners, for instance). None of the Republicans would do this, and as I'm laid off and looking for a new job, I need that personally.

Submitted by lambert on

We'll wait. You'll be where so many of the rest of us are soon enough ;-) After you get a job, you'll need single payer, for example.

cenobite's picture
Submitted by cenobite on

I already want it, or an NHS-type complete nationalization of health care.

Democrats in the California legislature have passed single payer 3 times, and it's been vetoed by our Republican governor 3 times. You can tell the difference between the parties here.

Submitted by lambert on

The parties retain some vestigial functioning there. At the national level, nada. So I don't agree that the state Ds at least pushing the right policy translates to a D vote at the national level. (And in my state, the only difference between the two is the scale of the rot, not the nature.)

Even at the state level, I'd vote for a third party candidate or NOTA there too, just to keep them honest. My object is to destroy the legacy parties, not to enable them on the basis of this or that policy.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

You've got the ruling class, those who support what the ruling class is doing, and those who don't support what the ruling class is doing.

The biggest group by far is the group that doesn't support what the ruling class is doing. Yet somehow, the ruling class continues to rule, and the impotent people are screaming about Obama's birth certificate on the right, and Sarah Palin on the left.

Our problems cannot be solved be electing different people at this time. They are endemic to our system. If we ever want to make real change, we've got to stop falling for the two-party shuffle.