The party in power will lose in midterm elections and the loss will be proportionate to the nation’s economic pain.
It is as predictable as the sun setting in the west and as simple as a three-chord song. The 2010 election results, a convincing takeover of the House of Representatives, a narrowing of Democratic control of the Senate and a net loss of nine governorships, was neither surprising nor representative of any philosophic change. The effect of the Tea Party movement was negligible and the effect of unrestricted corporate funding of electoral campaigns was stunningly muted.
Against a backdrop of a prolonged recession and a real unemployment rate far exceeding ten percent of the working force, the only surprise was that the Republicans failed to take control of the Senate. Had they done so, it would have set up a war between Congress and the White House for the next two years. It would have challenged the president to wield the power of the veto. As it is we will have gridlock, paralysis, two years of posturing and politicking without substance. There will be no major legislative initiative. There will be no repeal of healthcare reform. Nothing will change.
It would have been interesting to see if a president irrationally dedicated to negotiation and compromise with an irrationally entrenched opposition would have had the stomach to push back with the veto. Now we will never know.
Among the lessons of this election is that those candidates affiliated with the Tea Party are often not ready for primetime on the national stage. The more you see of them the less appealing they become. On the local stage you can get away with a barrage of attack ads with a sprinkling of the “I’m just like you” ads. But when you run for statewide office you need to be prepared for scrutiny.
Of the major Tea Party candidates seeking statewide office, those who succeeded were knowledgeable conservatives or libertarians. Their philosophies were neither created nor defined by the Tea Party movement. They won in states where virtually any mainstream Republican would have won in this election cycle. To a large extent, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah were candidates who latched onto the Tea Party movement to secure funding and notoriety. Their philosophies were already in lockstep with the corporate mandate so there was no transformation.
By contrast, Sharron Angle of Nevada, Christine O’Donnell of Delaware, and Joe Miller of Alaska were creations of the Tea Party movement. They defined themselves by the Tea Party and in the end they exposed its vulnerability. If you are going to champion the Constitution then you should be familiar with its contents. If you are going to defend the founders then you should be well versed in what they believed. If you’re going to decry deficits and taxes then you should be prepared to say how you would balance the budget.
It is not surprising that these candidates failed where traditional Republican obstructionists might have succeeded.
Given that Joe Liebermann, the junior Senator from Connecticut, would surely have turned coat at the first opportunity to shove it in President Obama’s face, the loss of senate seats in Nevada and Delaware was the failure of the Tea Party movement.
Looking backward, the lesson the White House strategists should take from this setback is that nobody cares how hard they worked on healthcare reform to pass legislation that even the president billed as virtually identical to what Republican Bob Dole proposed back in the day. We don’t know what all it entails but we know it is not what we wanted. We don’t see or feel the benefits. We don’t want mandatory insurance when our rates keep going up even as our wages keep going down.
Looking back, it would have been better to propose an extension of Medicare. Plain and simple.
How this White House could consider itself politically astute and yet neglect the one and only initiative that could have altered the political landscape for this election is beyond redemption. Where are the jobs?
There was a golden opportunity presented by the disaster the Obama administration inherited but it was squandered. No matter what your beliefs, no matter your philosophy or party identification, we can all agree that the best way to create jobs is to create jobs. Instead of trusting the middleman (Wall Street) to deliver the goods, the government could have hired people directly to build and repair infrastructure. The government could have jumpstarted the Green Revolution. The government could have put the people to work.
That accomplished, anything would have been possible. New legislation could have made more profitable to keep jobs in America rather than shipping them overseas. Real change could have happened. But the president and his circle of advisors were petrified by the charge of socialism. They were intimidated by Wall Street and the minority opposition in congress.
Maybe it was just a dream. Maybe the majorities in both houses of congress were just an illusion. Republicans replaced the conservation Democrats. Who cares?
Maybe we never really had a chance at change. Now any chance we had under the current system of government is gone. Maybe this is what the powers behind electoral politics wanted all along: A government full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
It’s all for show from here on out. Kabuki theatre. Obama will wear the mask of reconciliation. Speaker of the House John Boehner will play a flirtation game until the Tea Party erupts. A battle royal for the heart and soul of the media (or an apportionment of fleeting fame) will follow and drag on to the next election. Obama will focus on foreign policy and both sides will play the waiting game.
The Republicans have no interest in a recovering economy except that part of the economy that registers profits on Wall Street. They have no reason to compromise. They have no motive to create jobs. Why should they? As long as they can keep Wall Street safe and main street discontent, they will win the White House in two years.
Obama will hope that the normal business cycle provides an adequate reprieve, allowing him to win re-election against a Tea Party opponent.
Both sides will play Russian roulette with the economic system. In the absence of meaningful regulation and Wall Street reform (that party has left the building) there is no assurance that what happened at the end of the Bush administration will not happen again. In fact, it is only a question of when.
Maybe we should start calling it American roulette.
It’s a dangerous game and a terrible waste of government.