Wednesday, November 04, 2009

My thoughts on yesterdays political events.

Much will be said today about the elections yesterday, what they mean and what they portend for the future.

Republicans are celebrating big wins in the gubernatorial races in Virginia and solidly Democratic New Jersey. These are major victories. They illustrate the change in the political winds quite well I think. Obama's victory in Virgina last year was seen a as a major breakthrough for Democrats. It was the first time they had won a presidential contest there since 1964. Now a year later they loose by 18 points. That's a big change. In New Jersey, one of the most solidly blue states you had an incumbent governor outspend his opponent at least 2-1 (Dick Morris says 5-1 but take things he says with a grain of salt). Obama made numerous trips to the state to campaign for his guy. He lost anyway. Frankly, he lost badly.

Liberals will find some comfort in blaming the weakness of the candidates in those states. The rejection of those specific candidates doesn't necessarily mean a rejection of Obama or his agenda they will argue. In fact I actually heard a caller on a talk show as I was driving in this morning argue that the lesson Obama should take from yesterday's results is that he should stop being so centrist. America, the caller argued was far too ideological for Obama's utilitarian approach. I've got to say I'm mystified by this argument. I disagree both with the caller's description of fact (compared to say Europe I think the U.S. is noticeably non-ideological and as to Obama being non-ideological...well let's just say I disagree) and his advice going forward. If the Democrats believe that they can make gains by purging the blue-dogs and lurching leftward, they are delusional.

At the same time Democrats have been pushing the meme that there is a war for the soul of the GOP between folks who are indistinguishable from Democrats (the forces of good) and conservatives (the minions of Satan...not that they believe in Satan or anything). These folks will no doubt take comfort in the results of the congressional election in NY-23. It's a strange race though. The Republican candidate was picked by 11 people and was arguably to the left of the Democrat(she was briefly endorsed by Kos before he realized that his endorsement was actually hurting her). It's hard to argue that she really had a mandate from Republicans in her district.

The Democrat seemed to be a personable, conventional liberal. This stood in sharp contrast to the weirdly awkward Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman. Never the less, in 30 days Hoffman went from being a total unknown with no money to being a cause celeb for the American right. Add the fact that the Republican dropped out and then endorsed the Democrat and his coming within a few thousand votes of winning is simply astonishing. The truth is that the result in NY-23 is a (moral) victory for conservatism, a bitter defeat for insiders who try to foist candidates on unwilling voters and at best an endorsement of the Democrat as being the least weird of an odd bunch.

It seems to me though that the biggest story yesterday was not an election result but rather the acknowledgment by senior Democrats that there will not be a health care bill this year. This is devastating for the chances of health care legislation.

It's not as though this congress is exactly circumspect about passing things and figuring out how they will work later. This can only mean that the Democrats have done the math and they simply don't have the votes. They are putting a brave face on it saying they'll pursue it next year but frankly that's laughable. If they can't get nervous democrats to vote for it now, what makes them think that it'll be easier in an election year? Also keep in mind that that Democrats were saying these things before losing the governorships in New Jersey and Virgina. And if as expected, the Republicans make big gains in the 2010 congressional elections? Well let's just say their chances are somewhere in the neighborhood of zero.

All of this also bodes ill for Cap and Trade. This was always going to be a hard sell in the Senate. It seems clear that Democrats were holding it back, hoping that momentum from the passage of Obamacare would allow it to squeak through. Now that seems a forlorn hope.

The consequences of mismanaged TARP and stimulus funds have come home to roost. The American people simply don't trust the democrats on basic competence issues. They are no longer willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I think they're in for a bumpy ride.


ashok said...

Just wanted to say this is a great blog you've got generally, and I'm thrilled to be a part of your blogroll.

There is something slightly contradictory in the way you've depicted NY-23 above - you say that Democrats were pushing a certain meme, then accept a version of that meme (those insiders were Republicans too) to say that conservatism won a victory. Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics looks at NY-23 as the exception, not the rule - he looks at the "insiders" and says that they can't even be said to represent Republican moderates in this case, because Scozzafava was that bad a candidate:

I'm not sure what the correct explanation of NY-23 is myself. Still thinking about what it might mean.

Mike Stajduhar said...

I take your point. I guess what I should have said is:

While there is a ongoing struggle between conservatives and moderates...particularly on social issues, the GOP is a long way from tearing itself apart over this sort of thing no matter how much liberals might wish it so. In fact it seems clear that what made Scozzafava unacceptable to the vast majority of Republicans was not her stance on issues like abortion or even gun control, but rather her positions on Economic issues. Her support for card check, TARP, the stimulus, and various put her well to the left of the moderate Republicans. At that point supporting her candidacy was only defensible on literally partisan grounds (see Newt). Given that we had an alternative, her collapse was understandable.