Looking at the election results now, several days after the fact, puts it all in a little sharper focus even though the results in some states and districts are not final. This much we know: Republicans and the Tea Party won big. Both winners have much to thank each other for, and much to be suspicious of as well. It is an uneasy alliance. Republicans picked up 60 plus seats in the House, giving them a healthy majority and dethroning Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Democrats still control the Senate, but that should be little comfort to them. It is not likely that very much will get done in D.C. over the next two years. That is a good thing. Right now it may be the best of things.
House districts all over the South and Midwest went Republican, leaving few in the hands of Democrats. In fact, white Democrats nearly were swept from the political landscape in the Deep South. It mattered not that these were among the most conservative Democrats in Congress. It mattered not if they voted against the health care and cap a trade bills. It mattered not that some had been in Congress for years and held key leadership positions. What mattered, and what did them in, was their membership in party of Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. Angry citizens watched the Democrat's agenda unfold in the White House and Congress over the past two years. When they spoke out against the Democrat's agenda at town hall meetings or through phone calls, they were treated with scorn and contempt. These same citizens watched as so-called conservative Democrats voted yes to some of the most unpopular legislation ever considered. As votes were cast and bills were passed, it became clear in the minds of many that the existence of conservative Democrats might be merely a myth. It is no longer even a myth. Angry citizens got their revenge at the ballot box and the Blue Dog conservative Democrats paid the highest price of all for the hard left agenda of the Party's leadership. When the Democratic Party in Congress reconvenes on January 3, 2011 it will be simultaneously smaller and more liberal. There will be very few in Congress who will even attempt to call themselves conservative Democrats. The Blue Dog kennell will be nearly empty and for those that remain it will look like a shelter for kicked puppies.
If there was any silver lining for Democrats it was in the Senate, where they remain in control. Majority Leader Harry Reed, though down in the polls, pulled out a victory in Nevada, which means he will likely continue in his leadership capacity. Having Reed continue as the Democrat's leader in the Senate, however, might be more of a benefit to Republicans than Democrats as he gives them a target to continue to blame for the excesses of the past two years. Republican wins narrowed the margin of Democratic control, and given the way the Senate operates, it really makes little difference who wields the gavel. Nothing of consequence is likely to get done the upper chamber, and whatever passes there, will most assuredly die in the House. Likewise, any legislation that passes in the Republican controlled House will either languish or be defeated in the Senate. Gridlock, blessed gridlock, will be the result. Where Senate Democrats will still have some measure of power is in confirming judicial appointments. However, with a number of those so-called conservative Democrats in the Senate up for re-election in 2012, they will be far less likely to support controverisial nominations than they were over the past two years. Most likely no more Sotomayors or Kagans will be confirmed. One hopeful result of this past election is that it has put the fear of voters back into the hearts of politicians. Maybe. Just maybe.
So, what about the big winners? One of the ways that Democrats and their allies in the media tried to spin the coming election was to claim it was going to be an anti-incumbent, rather than anti-Democrat, election. It was, to a certain extent, but that played out almost entirely in the primaries with some spill over to the general election. The primaries went well for Democratic incumbents. The general election was an outright disaster. While Democrats lost over 60 House seats on Novemer 2, Republicans lost only 3. In the Senate, Republicans picked up 6 seats, while Democrats picked up none. Without a doubt, voter anger was aimed overwhelmingly at Democrats. There is just no other way to spin this now. For Republicans, it was an anti-incumbent primary. A number of Republicans had to face Tea Party challengers and some of the incumbents lost. Bob Bennett lost in Utah. Lisa Murkowski lost in Alaska. In Delaware, Mike Castle left his House seat to run for Joe Biden's open Senate seat only to lose in the primary to Christine O'Donnell. In Florida, standing governor Charlie Crist announced he would run for the Senate seat vacated by Mel Martinez, but was challenged by Marco Rubio. Crist eventually dropped out of the Republican race and ran as an independent, losing to Rubio in the general election. In Nevada and Colorado, Tea Party candidates Sharon Angle and Ken Buck beat the Republican Party nominees for Senate in the primaries in those states. The November results were a mixed bag. Tea Party candidates O'Donnell, Angle, and Buck lost to Democrats in the general election. In Alaska, which is still undeclared at this time, it appears that Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who ran a write-in campaign as an independent, has defeated Joe Miller, who had beaten her in the primary. Some members of the Republican party have been openly critical (or in some cases anonymously critical) of Tea Party candidates who they believe cost the Republican Party control of the Senate. However, establishment Republican candidates in California, Connecticut and Washington state also lost. Carly Fiorina, the establishment GOP Senate candidate in California, lost by 9 points to an unpopular Barbara "Don't Call Me Ma'am, Call Me Senator" Boxer. Linda McMahon, the estblishment candidate for Senate in Connecticut, lost by 12 points to a likewise unpopular Democrat, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. In Washington, Republican challenger Dino Rossi lost a close race to Democratic incumbent Patty Murray, another weak candidate whose win was the result of heavier than expected Democrat turnout in King County (Seattle). If the establishment GOP candidates did so poorly against fairly weak, although well known, Democratic incumbents, why are Tea Party candidates being singled out as costing Republicans control of the Senate? Tea Party enthusiasm was the engine that drove the train of anti-Democrat sentiment. And anti-Democrat sentiment did not mean pro-Republican sentiment. That Republican incumbents were being challenged at in a number of primary races should make it clear that voters were less than happy with the GOP. Furthermore, a large number of independent voters, and even some registered Democrats, were involved in and supportive of, the Tea Party. Without the Tea Party, it is questionable how much success the Republicans, who are still held in disrepute by many Americans, would have had. It was failure on the part of the GOP that led to liberals running amok in D.C. It was liberals running amok that led to the Tea Party movement. It was the Tea Party movement that led to massive gains by Republicans in the election last week. Looking at this way, it is tempting to use President Obama's tiresome "keys to car analogy." But let's not take it that far.
Lessons can and should be learned from this election. If the Tea Party is going to continue to influence national politics it will have to make some choices. This is easier said than done for a grassroots movement with no real leadership. Perhaps the most important choice is this: Is the Tea Party going to work with the Republican Party or offer a third option outside either major party? There is a great danger in breaking off from the Republicans and forming a third party. The risk is that it splits would be Republican votes and almost assures victory for the Democrats. Working within the GOP is going to be frustrating. Some of the Republican leadership is hostile toward Tea Party upstarts and the situation is only going to grow more tense as likely candidates jockey for position in the upcoming presidential primaries. The Republican Party, especially the leadership, must realize and acknowledge that without the Tea Party, they might well still be in the minority in both houses of Congress. An attitude of "thanks for the votes, but go sit in the back and shut up now" might be all it takes to ensure that Barack Obama wins a second term. The Tea Party must be careful as to which candidates it supports. It matters little how conservative a candidate is if they have no chance of attracting enough votes to win. That said, some of the struggling Tea Party candidates in this election might have stood a better chance if the Republican Party had gotten behind them and supported them. Instead, many in the GOP were simply embarrassed by them. In some cases, the establishment candidates actively sabotaged their Tea Party rivals. Mike Castle refused to endorse Christne O'Donnell (and the Republican leadership was openly hostile to her), Lisa Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate against Joe Miller, and Charlie Crist quit before losing to Marco Rubio to run as an independent. Sore losers indeed. The Republican leadership needs to swallow its pride and find a way to work with the Tea Party. The simple solution is to embrace the Tea Party platform, which, afterall, is nothing more than the traditional Republican Party platform: Lower taxes, smaller government, less regulation, less intrusion. Many Republicans have grown too comfortable in D.C. Like adolescents in junior high, they would rather be in with the popular kids (their colleagues across the aisle, the mainstream press, the lobbyists, the powerful, the sophisticated, and the beautiful) than hang out with the awkward and ungainly nerds and dorks of the Tea Party. The real problem is, many Republicans would rather remain in the political minority than govern in the majority, or in the White House, if doing so means associating with the likes of the Tea Party riff raff. And that is truly disgusting (and downright unAmerican). It's time to decide where loyalties lie. Both sides have a common opponent, and the sooner they decide to join forces, at least until Obama is defeated, the better for them and for the country.
On the Democrat side of things, it seems Nancy Pelosi wants to run for minority leader in the House. Since most of Democrats who would oppose her have lost, it is quite possible she could remain as face of the Democratic Party. This would be not only a departure from tradition, but also an absolute rejection of any responsibility for the loss her party has just endured. But then, responsibility was never Pelosi's strong point. Besides, it probably does not trouble her at all that over sixty of her party members got fired. She used them to get what she wanted--radical legislation that under any other circumstances would have never passed. Once she forced them to take career ending votes, she left the to die on the political battlefield. She will continue to lead her diminished ranks, shedding no tears, and feeling no remorse for the pawns she lost. Once touted as the most powerful woman in the world, and the most powerful and productive House Speaker ever, Pelosi has probably become the most hated person in America. Having her, along with President Obama and Harry Reed, reminding voters who really calls the shots for Democrats should be an extraordinary blessing to Republicans in 2012. That is, IF Republicans do not kill off, or drive off, their own Tea Party pawns.
A few more thoughts:
There are two new black members of Congress--Tim Scott in South Carolina, and Allen West in Florida. Both are conservative Republicans. Both are from overwhelmingly white districts. How many black Democrats represent majority white districts? How many represent very white districts? I would venture go guess very few, if any.
There were a number of Hispanic Republicans who also won.
Republicans also won in a number of districts with large Hispanic populations.
Christine O'Donnell received more national press coverage than any other candidate, despite the fact that she trailed her Democratic opponent by double digits for practically the entire race. No, what really matters, at least to many journalists and political commentators, is that O'Donnell dated a Wiccan in high school, spent years going to college before she finally graduated, and has had money problems. She was crowned worst candidate by the media, and by many members of her own party. You know what is really funny about this? Mike Castle, and by extension the anti-Tea Party Republican establishment including Karl Rove, got beat by her. :-) If O'Donnell was as bad as she was made out to be, what does that say about Castle and his cronies? Way to go, Christine. By the way, O'Donnell won in two of Delaware's three counties. Just sayin'.
Sharon Angle nearly toppled the Senate Majority Leader. When someone with as much clout as Harry Reed nearly loses to a heretofore unknown candidate something has gone terribly wrong for the party in power.
Michelle Bachmann was the Republican incumbent that Democrats identified as their number one target to defeat. She won by 12 points.
Disgusting Democrat Alan Grayson lost by 18 points. 18 points. Surely, a more vile excuse for a human being has never skulked through the halls of congress. Well, except for John Dingell, who was re-elected to the seat he has held since 1955. Before that, his district had been represented by his father since 1933. Truly astonishing.
Chris Matthews is an embarrassment to field of journalism. He proved it again on election night when interviewed Michelle Bachmann.
And, not necessarily related to the election last week, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was reported to have said that Obama was the most arrogant man he's ever met. Good grief, if Bloomberg thinks you're arrogant....
Poli Sci Southern Fried