Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Other Big Loser

Maybe I should have titled this post simply "The Big Loser." Because, let's face it: everyone expected the Democrats to get hammered. After all, the economy is still on the rocks, unemployment remians high, and Wall Street and Big Business, having gotten what they wanted out of the Obama adminsitration (a bailout and a stabilized economy) now want to get the party back in power that will allow them to go back to doing what they were doing before the economy collapsed, and thanks to the Supreme Court's recent Citizens United decision, they had carte blanch to throw money at the race. Seen in historical context, then, the Democratic losses are about what one would expect from the party in power during a mid-term election taking place before the backdrop of a very sour economy. This really is little different from what happened to Bill Clinton in 1994. So all in all, it's not a terrible night for the Obama adminsitration. And it should not be forgotten that keeping the Senate in Democratic hands was a major plus for the Administration.
Which brings me back to the real loser of last night: Sarah Palin. Because, let's face it, Democrats kept the senate largely by winning races Nevada and Delaware, two states where the most extreme of Palinite, Tea Party candidates faced off against mainstream Democrats. Nevada is perhaps the most important bellweather. Harry Ried was (unfairly) highly disliked in Nevada, but apparently voters were even more mistrustful of the radical right-wing candidate with the Sarah Palin press strategy (run awaaaaaaay!). And in Delaware, Chris Coons, the Democratic candidate soundly trounced a pretty, perky and oh so dumb Christine O'Donnell (basically a younger version of Sarah Palin). These were races the Democrats would probably have lost if Republicans had chosen a more moderate opponent. As much as the Tea Party movement helped energize Republicans, last night's elections proved that there is definitely such a thing as too much tea in many parts of the country (even in Alaska, it seems, where Lisa Murkowski's write-in candidacy appears to be on a path to defeat Joe Miller, for whom Sarah Palin campaigned exhaustively). So I think we can officially announce, from this, that last night constituted the nail in the coffin of any presidential aspirations that Sarah Palin may have harbored.
Yes, gridlock will be the order of the day for the next two years, but it's not all bad. After all, despite what you may have read, the Democrats actually managed to push through a pretty astonishing agenda these past two years, including an ambitious health care reform package that will bring coverage to 95% of Americans for the first time in history, important Wall Street and Financial industry reforms, the rescue of the U.S. and World Economies from a potential depression, the rescue of General Motors (a leaner, more survivable company) and a host of smaller issues as well. Ezra Klein has a good summary of what was accomplished here.
These next two years are going to be rocky, but at least the Democrats don't have to deal with the illusion (and it was really more illusion than reality) that they have a fillibuster proof majority in Congress and can get anything they want. It's going to be interesting seeing things unfold.
On the economic front, however, things look much gloomier. If Paul Krugman is right (and he's been right about almost everything so far) then we're looking forward to a decade or two of high unemployment, rising debt and slow economic growth. My guess is that the debt situation will only be exacerbated by the resulting swings in voter loyalty over that time as the country bounces between Democratic administrations pushing stimulus and successive Republican administrations chocking off whatever green shoots might sprout by mandating austerity when it's their turn to govern.

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