Archive for the ‘indecision 2010’ Category

Why They Lost

Posted: 10 November 2010 in indecision 2010, politics, republicans

Apparently there was some sort of election a few days ago?

I spent the entire day stumping for my state representative, and despite the fact that his win in 2008 over the incumbent Republican was attributed to the Obama surge, he managed to win by a larger percentage against the same opponent this time around.   My polls had solid turnout for a midterm, despite the fact that the district is heavily Democratic.

Of course, what happened in my district apparently didn’t happen nationwide.  A look at the breakdown shows that blue districts where Obama won less than 55% of the vote turned red.  Plain and simple, Democrats failed to get people to the polls.  The narrative that Republicans poured out in droves doesn’t necessarily hold true – voter turnout was down nearly 20% across the board coming off of a Democratic wave in 2008.

So why did Democrats lose?  Why did their base stay away?  Why did Republicans retake the House?

Let me tell you, it wasn’t because they were too progressive.

Also let me tell you, it wasn’t because they were too centrist.

In fact, it had nothing to do with their policies – it had everything to do with message.

Starting in 2006, Democrats managed to seize control of the message, the basic political narrative.  Not necessarily that they were better able to handle things, but simply that Republicans had fucked things up so badly that the only possible solution was to switch parties.  Notice that there weren’t actually a lot of ideas coming out of the Democrats, at least not “Contract With America” style ideas.  Sure, they actually did have a lot of ideas, but they didn’t sell those ideas.  Democrats in 2006 and 2008 simply sold the idea that “Republicans broke this shit. Do you really want to let them keep at it?”

Unfortunately, the Democratic establishment saw that this message was a winner, and ran with it.  In 2010, Tim Kaine unveiled the “Don’t Give Them Back The Keys” campaign slogan.

No, really, that’s what they were trying to sell.  The problem is that after everything that they actually did (or tried to do), they couldn’t even come up with a cohesive “this is why we deserve your vote and they don’t”  message.  They didn’t actually control the message, they just jumped into the stream as it bent toward them for a bit.

Republicans have effectively dominated the political narrative for well over a decade.  They understand the concepts of political theatre, misdirection and blatant falsehood as tools for the maintenance of power.  Sure, those weren’t very effective in 2006 and 2008, but upon closer inspection, they actually were.  Like a bear going dormant, the ass-kicking that they received those years didn’t serve to change them, didn’t serve as a refutation of their message – it simply served as a way to burn off some fat and come out hungry.

Democrats dropped the ball almost as soon as it was handed to them in 2006.  Nancy Pelosi unveiled her “100 Hour Plan,” which was actually a big success, except for the branding and follow-up marketing.  Sure, the House passed all of the legislation she’d promised.  Of that list, five (lobby reform, deficit reduction, 9/11 Commission recommendations, minimum wage hike, and ending tax subsidies for oil companies) went on to get Bush’s signature, while the other three (lower drug prices, stem cell research, more college funding) died in the Senate.  A 63% success rate for the first 8 pieces of legislation that the Democratic tide was elected to enact is pretty amazing, but did they campaign on that?  Marginally.  2008 became a referendum on Bush, which, to be honest, is how the Republicans probably would have played it if it had been the other way around.  The problem comes in 2010.

This year’s campaign was dominated by a single narrative that will sound familiar to voters in 1992:  “It’s the economy, stupid!”  Gone were the Democrat’s salad days of winning through blame.  They’d have to stand on their own record!  Unfortunately, they declined.  Obama and the Democratic Congress have actually achieved a lot that has been good for the economy, but they couldn’t be bothered to tell us about it.  The best they could muster was “they caused this, don’t let them back in!”

Letting the Republicans dominate the message with completely wrong-headed narratives like “we should cut spending in a recession!” is what lost them the election, but the fact that they let the Republicans any manner of control after January 20th, 2009 is what lead up to that.  It was obvious from the very beginning that Obama was going to get nothing but sabotage from the Republicans.  He asked for their help on health care and received ideas from them that were quickly shot down as soon as they were incorporated.  Republicans actually filibustered their own ideas and pinned them on the Democrats.  That Obama, Reid and Pelosi didn’t get the message by May 2009 is what cost them the House in 2010.  Political theatre, Republican Style, could have prevented this, and here’s how:  Filibuster.

Republicans took their 41% majority and used it to control the Senate, requiring every bill to have 60 votes.  Unfortunately, Democrats only had 59, and sometimes members would go rogue, dropping their vote count all the way down to 55.  Every single time this resulted in failed legislation.  They ceded control.  They should have taken it.  If the Republicans wanted to kill legislation with the threat of a filibuster, the Democrats should have called their bluff.  Let Jim Inhofe stand there with a phone book for five hours in order to stall climate change legislation.  Democrats should have been rolling in cots and taking turns talking to any camera they could get in front of about how Republicans were obstructing the people’s business.  Do that once, it’s theatre.  Do it twice, it’s annoying.  Do it correctly three times, and suddenly, America is looking at the Republicans like they’re the asshole that just barfed in the sink.  They either back down, or they start loosing support.  Once numbers get bad enough, they’d have flinched.  Then the real work could have begun.

If there had been actual control of the Senate from May of 2009, health care would have been done (and done better) in August.  Works projects would have been underway.  Spending would have gone up, but the economy would have recovered faster as people got back to work.  Jobs numbers would have started to look less grim.  The Tea Party could have been reduced to a squawk box simply by showing real improvement and a path to deficit reduction.

Democrats also failed to comprehend that Republicans had turned America into a bunch of dimwits.  Anti-intellectualism dominated the landscape.  Therefore, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were not the best choices for getting the message out.  Grab some Southern Democrats and push them in front of a microphone with this message:

“So, Republicans want to cut spending in a recession.  Sure, that sounds like the right thing to do, but we’re talking about unemployment benefits here.  Employment is the engine that drives the economy.  If your car blows a cylinder, and you’re strapped for cash, do you not figure out a way to fix it in order to get to work?  Do you quit your job because you can’t get there?  No, you suck it up and spend money you might not have, because if you don’t, you’ll have no money at all.  Republicans want to let that car rust in the driveway and let the kids starve.  What we’re doing might not seem perfect, but we’re going to get that car moving again. We’re going to fix this engine, because it’s time to get America back on the road!”

Hammer it home.  Adapt it to “Do you sit in the pit with a blown engine or do you fix it and try to win?” in the NASCAR areas, but don’t let go of that narrative.  Whenever a Republican talks about “belt tightening” and “deficits” and “smaller government,” respond with “you can’t drive to work with a broken-down engine, and it’s not going to fix itself for free.”

Economics and narrative.  That’s what it boils down to.  Now, the Democrats have a smaller margin in the Senate and have lost the House.  There’s only two ways to change that in 2012: change up.

Demand the filibuster, and either take credit for the economy rebounding or blame the Republicans if it doesn’t.  Chances are, it will show remarkable improvement by this time next year, so it is imperative that Democrats do not allow Republicans to claim it was their changes that cause the turnaround.

Will Democrats do that?

Probably not.

Christine O’Donnell is a sack of hilarity, a veritable tea bag of chuckles.

O’Donnell complains of ‘character assassination.’

Of course, this would imply that she has a character to assassinate.  Helpful hints:  When you get in front of the camera and a) claim to have once been a Satanic witch and b) demand that people stop masturbating, don’t blame the “liberal media” for showing these videos.

In her latest ad, she says “I’m nothing you’ve heard.”  Considering all of the crazy shit I’ve heard about Christine O’Donnell has come from the mouth of Christine O’Donnell, I guess what she’s saying is “I’M A FUCKING LIAR PLEASE DON’T TRUST ME!”  Of course, she might be lying there.  Who knows?

Slacktivist has discussed and analyzed and dissected O’Donnell and her statements, and Jay Smooth has offered his take.  Here’s what bothers me about her: She’s so obviously ridiculous, yet the “liberal media” doesn’t seem to realize that they’re getting punked.  You’d think it would be obvious from her photo on Wikipedia that’s reminiscent of faked Bigfoot evidence.

We have here a candidate that rode a faux-populist anti-incumbent surge to knock of a moderate Republican candidate in the Republican primary in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 62%-38%.  She managed to convince about 10% of the voting public in Delaware that she was the better choice.  Her opponent in the primary was the generally popular Mike Castle, who was accosted by birthbaggers last year at a town hall meeting about healthcare.  Castle has Kennedy-level support in Delaware, and it was looking like Joe Biden’s seat was going to move to the other side of the aisle until O’Donnell came along.

The problem with O’Donnell is that the media treats her like an actual candidate and not the non-sequiter producing machine that the she is.

She’s an self-styled Evangelical Christian/Catholic who believes in abstinence and lived with her boyfriend in a house that she paid for with public campaign funds and was cited numerous times for letting the property deteriorate.

She’s said that she has classified intelligence that proves that China is plotting to overthrow our government.

She has stated that she believes that homosexuals have a personality disorder.

She believes that there’s more evidence for creation than evolution.

She’s a perennial Senate candidate who happened to get lucky in one primary.

Plainly stated, she’s a joke.  Hilarity should be ensuing.  The media should be pointing and laughing at her, but in the strange interest of “balance,” they’re treating her as if she was a legitimate candidate.  It’s like the episode of Family Guy, Running Mates.  One candidate is a serious, qualified, actual candidate, and the other is a buffoon.  Here’s a hint, “liberal media:”  O’Donnell isn’t being played by Lois Griffin here.

Sometimes, when Mrs. Còmhradh and I are sitting on the couch, I’ll start getting one of our dogs riled up. She (the dog) is pretty easy to get going, and she’ll do the whole snappy-barky “knock it off!” thing that dogs do when you’re playfully annoying them. Then, when I’ve got her really good and miffed at me, she’ll turn and nip at Mrs. Còmhradh, presumably because I’m avoiding the gnashy-toothed snapping she’s attempting to lay on me.

Stan Huskey’s latest column reminds me of that. He gets himself all in a tizzy over our Congressman, Jim Gerlach (who defended his seat by 1000 and 3000 vote margins in the last two elections and is not polling well), layers in some froth about Obama and the IRS, and then, with no apparent connection, takes a swing at teachers.

Can I say no to this bait? Of course not. Here’s my response:

You really do have it out for teachers, don’t you? Right in the middle of a mish-mashed rant about Gerlach (which I actually can’t tell if you’re criticizing or defending him), the IRS and Obama, you wander off to take a swing at your teacher piñata before heading off in yet another direction. I don’t believe that I’ve ever agreed with you, Stan, but typically I can understand what your point is. The only thing I got out of this was “teachers aren’t accountable to anyone, therefore they are probably doing a bad job!”

I know I’ve given teachers a hard time in the past, but I really have no beef with a teacher who does an outstanding job.

But we all know there are teachers, just like there are people in every profession, journalism included, who simply don’t pull their weight.

My ears always perk up at this dog-whistle language. You attempt to come across as generous to teachers, but what you’re really doing is insinuating that since there’s no review process, it’s likely that most teachers are substandard. I’m sure you’ll raise a defense against that, but you’ve been nothing but critical of uppity teachers having the gall to demand 2% raises to offset the 4% increase in cost of living, the amount of money you personally have to pay in order to support them, and the teaching profession in general, so I’m in no way inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt here. You’re insinuating that since you don’t see a review process, the chances are good that any given teacher is probably “pulling their weight.”

I’m not going to argue that there is no review process after the first three years of a teacher’s career, and I fully support one, just like the NEA and AFT do. However, studies show that if you want better education, you don’t look at the teachers – you look at the average income of the people in the school district. The more wealth in the district, the better the test scores get.

So, Stan, if you want more to show for your tax bill, the solution is simple. Stop looking out for your own economic interest, and start looking out for the economic interests of your neighbors. The more money they make, the higher NASD students will score.

I know I haven’t updated here in a while, but not for lack of things to update about.  Things to write about assail me hourly, but I just haven’t had the time or the patience to write them down.  Chances are, this won’t change anytime soon, so YOU TAKE WHAT YOU CAN GET.

Anyway, Massachusetts.  This special election to put a warm body where Ted Kennedy used to sit (saying “fill his seat” is wrong – no one could do that) has been a clusterfuck of epic proportions for the “majority” party.  Someone call Mitch McConnell, he is apparently the majority leader now that the Republicans have that long-sought-after 41 seat edge in the Senate.

I keep hearing from political pundits both large and small, insane and level-headed, ridiculed and trusted that this was a national referendum on the Democratic leadership, President Obama, liberalism, and any number of other things.  While some of that might be partially true, they have all forgotten that All Politics Is Local.  The Democrats once again shat forth an unappealing candidate who ran hard to the center and lost the voters.  Of course, Martha Coakley was the mistress of unappealing.  I’m not going to get into reasons why people should or should not have voted for her, or what malfeasance her opponent was guilty of or why people should or should not have voted for him.  What is important here is that Coakley offended things people care about.  If you’re running for statewide office in Massachusetts and you don’t know that Curt Schilling is one of the Red Sox’ faithful cherished heroes, and you don’t know the difference between the Sox and the Yankees, don’t say anything about it (this is probably more important advice than don’t fuck hookers).  If you despise baseball fans and hate the cold, don’t mention that to the press during January right before baseball season starts.  If you are incapable of assembling a team that can spell the name of your state correctly, don’t run for office.

Now, both parties take their core constituencies for granted.  Democrats know that African Americans are going to vote for them.  Republicans know that Evangelicals are going to vote for them.  They pander to these crowds and do not a damn thing for them when elected.  The voters of Massachusetts were apparently fed up with being treated as one of these core constituencies.  Everyone knows that these people vote Democratic, but what no one in the Democratic party managed to realize was that these people actually vote Kennedy.  They vote for passionate, principled, flawed, human leaders who will take stands and look out for them.  Presented with a candidate who appeared to be none of that, they chose “guy in a truck who got naked in a magazine.”  Lesser of two evils?  They chose the lesser of two insults.

Now, there is this concept of national referendum.  Polls seem to suggest that every time Harry Reid opened his pie hole, Martha Coakley’s numbers dropped.  This probably has something to do with the perception among voters that Reid was going to be wearing Coakley on his hand like a sock puppet.  That’s not so much a rebuke of Reid as it is a rebuke of the candidate – they wanted someone who was going to look out for them, and they saw someone who was going to look out for everyone but them.  So, why not go with the guy who’s willing to show some skin?  At worst, they get to spend three years ogling him before they replace him with someone more appealing with Coakley.

That issue with Reid, however, is pretty appalling.  But I don’t drop the blame at his feet entirely.   There’s Hoyer, Pelosi and Obama to blame as well!  58 Democratic seats in the Senate and a majority in the house, and this is not enough?  Say what you will about George W. Bush, but he easily enacted a conservative agenda with only 48 Republicans in the Senate in his first year.  He started blowing the surplus like a drunken sailor within months of taking office.  Sure, he had some help turning the country into a war-besotted police state 9 months in, but he was already well underway.  What has Obama done?  Sure, there are some good pieces of legislation he signed (Lilly Ledbetter, Ryan White, etc…), but where are the big guns?  Where is healthcare?  He campaigned on this, and then ignored it.  “We need to get it done!  I want a bill to sign by August!  September!  October!  Christmas!  Next year!  Whenever you get around to it!”  Microsoft announced and released Windows 7 in less time, and when your legislative agenda is being compared to a Microsoft release schedule, you’re a moron.

Seriously, was this what we elected?  Did I expect Obama to fix the world in a year?  No.  Did I expect him to use the power that controlling both chambers provides?  YES YES YES.  Has he done that?  NOT EVEN CLOSE.  He hasn’t engaged in the healthcare debate.  He hasn’t thrown his weight around.  He had mountains of political capital and failed to realize that it doesn’t just sit there for eternity – spend it or lose it.  Bush knew what political capital meant.  He understood that he could literally steal an election, lose the popular vote, and still lead.  Egregious abuses of power could be spun for the good of the nation even if there was no threat.  Obama has failed to realize that, and in doing so, he’s condemned himself to being a half-assed president.  He will likely beat the piss out of whatever crap the Republicans send up in 2012, but it won’t be the flensing he handed McCain.   Chances are, his majorities in both chambers will be gone by then, and he’ll just sink into even more ineffective leadership.

We elected a guy who fired us up.  He has failed to keep the fire going, and when Team Blue dropped someone on Massachusetts who failed to fire the crowds up, they just wandered off.

All Politics Is Local.   But when everyone’s local looks bland, don’t expect bland from the top to help the situation.

Stan Huskey, editor of the Times Herald, is my perennial bugbear. He’s quoted me out of context, put words in my mouth, and generally acts as a confused party mouthpiece rather than a journalist. His paper decried the low turnout of the 2006 primaries the same day that it ran a full-page, front-page expose on Truthers (I promptly canceled my subscription). That’s right, they lent credence to the lunatic fringe, and in the same breath wondered aloud as to why no one showed up to vote. It might have had something to do with the fact that they provide almost no election coverage in the lead-up, I don’t know. I mean, what was the point of actually printing the names of the candidates if no one was going to show up, right?

So anyway, I’ve had this go-around with Stan for going on five years now. The other day, he posted his “prescription” for the Republican party’s return to glorious power. I wrapped it up and tossed it at his head:

That’s exactly what the Republican Party must do, get back to basics. We’ve been running scared since the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006. And just what have they accomplished? Nancy Pelosi was going to fix all our ills in her first 100 hours after being sworn in. Well, times been up for a long while and we’re still waiting.

Yawn. Are you still trumpeting that old lie? Pelosi said that the House was going to pass or enact eight specific bills or measures in their first 100 hours. Did they do that? Yes. The last time I checked, Nancy Pelosi is not authorized to either vote in the Senate or place a Presidential signature on a bill to enact it into law. Insisting that she didn’t follow through with her promise is not only disingenuous partisan hackery, it’s an outright lie.

Furthermore, of those eight: One was a measure that was enacted on the floor, four were also passed by the Senate, and three of those were signed by President Bush. So, of the plan for the first 100 hours, all points were met and 50% made it through two other bodies that had no such plan. What’s your success rate for reform?

We haven’t done much to help ourselves since then either, but things are about to change. Republicans have been ashamed of being Republicans for the past four years and we have to stop wallowing in our own self pity.

If by “wallowing in our own self pity” you mean “being every bit as obstructionist and bankrupt of real ideas as we accused the Democrats of being for the past fifteen years” then yes, please, it’s time to stop.

It would be wonderful to see an honest debate on healthcare or any of the hundreds of other issues that our nation currently faces. However, what we’re left with is three Republicans in the Senate negotiating in bad faith, and a shrieking horde of right-wing shills beating their chests any time anyone even so much as attempts to have a rational discourse.

Personally, I’m proud of the fact that I don’t like big government. When did that ever become unpopular?

Right around the second half of 2001 when the largest government increase in nearly half a century started (which, strangely, correspended with the largest of period of government ineptitude in nearly half a century).

Of course, the lesson here isn’t that big government = inept government, but rather that inept leadership leads to inept government. And yes, to answer your question, I am blaming the Bush administration here. Just like Reagan, he came into office with the “government is the problem” mantra and then spent the next six years enacting policies and appointing people that would make that mantra a reality.

It’s time for a grass roots, back to basics campaign that will sweep Republicans back into power before we all end up working for the government. Care to join me?

If by “back to basics,” you mean “go scream like a low-order primate at your elected officials because the person you voted for didn’t win,” then you’re not really talking about a grass-roots campaign – you’re talking about might-makes-right mob rule. That doesn’t sound very close to American democracy, so no, I think I’ll sit that one out. Maybe if your party had legitimate ideas and was willing to work in a civil manner to get their concerns aired, then I’d be more receptive to Republicans as a political party. I haven’t really heard any Republican ideas lately that don’t involve simply shouting down anything that Democrats propose.

To his credit, he actually approved that post. He’s pretty good about approving posts these days after I called him on silencing all dissent when he failed to approve a very moderate post of mine. His follow up to this post, however, was a veiled shot at my handle (it’s Gaelic, moron) and the vague insinuation that either a) he didn’t read my post or b) I didn’t read his. Considering I answered his post point-by-point, I’m assuming it was a tacit admission that he can’t be bothered to read criticism.

Joe Sestak officially announced that he’s challenging Arlen Specter. So, we have an admiral vs. a ship jumper.

I know that the primary is almost a year away, but this one’s important.  Arlen Specter’s not the worst Senator out there, but he’s on the wrong side of a number of issues and can’t even be bothered to sugar-coat the fact that he is concerned, first and foremost, with his own political career.

Joe Sestak is solid on all of my hot button issues:

He supports gender equality and women’s rights.
He supports LGBT equality and a repeal of DOMA.
He’s good on education, labor, healthcare and the environment.

In short, he’ll make a better advocate for Pennsylvania in the Senate, and while I’m always nervous in an election regardless of the odds, I’d say that anyone with a pulse has a good chance of beating the everloving snot out of Pat Toomey, who is just barely capable of purchasing Geico insurance.