Sunday, January 10, 2010
Dem Dead Dems
That crazy rollercoaster ride known as the "24-hour news cycle" has the Democratic Party headed for a disastrous election...11 months away.
The announcements that sparked this most recent go-round of political calculation were those of Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), who are exiting political life -- stage left.
Cable guys and gals have so much air-time to fill, while watching the glacial U.S. Senate parse the nation's future, that soon enough Republicans will again be doomed for extinction, only to see their fortunes bolstered anew by some Democrat's prostate surgery, which will then plunge that party into oblivion, only to be revived by another utterance from GOP National Chairman Michael Steele, who will then be fired, spiking the stock of Tea Partiers...
Journalists view politics as played on a game board atop a table where the pieces are moved, knocked out, and returned to action with a roll of the dice.
But governing and vote-getting are tied as much to organization, controlling the levers of power, and the crafting of a saleable national message, as they are to the ebb and flow of "news" such as it is packaged these days.
As someone who spent 20 years of his life battling the Reagan and two Bush administrations, highwayscribery can attest to the fact you must be something other than "against" the gang in power to assume it yourself.
And to date, with its well-cemented obstruction to everything Obama, the Republican Party has little to recommend itself.
But don't ask highwayscribery. Query, let's say, the "Wall Street Journal," which recently opined that, while the Dems have their problems, "most polls don't show a significant turn in support toward the GOP."
Feet firmly on the ground, in spite of its ideological preferences, "The Journal" also noted that, "the [Republican] Party hasn't done well in special congressional elections to fill seats that have opened up in the past year."
Which means in the REAL WORLD where campaigns are run and votes are tabulated, the GOP hasn't left the woods it was lost in circa November 2008. Which makes perfect sense. National, governing coalitions take time and grooming to develop.
Steele recently got himself into trouble by admitting that, not only did the GOP have little chance of retaking the House of Representatives, but that it wasn't ready for the responsibility.
He got hammered very quickly because, in the Republican universe, the message is the medium, rather than the other way around.
The "Wall Street Journal" (which said a lot of things in a short article) also noted that, "In addition, though the intensity is up among grassroots conservative activists, much of the energy has poured into the 'tea party' movement, rather than the Republican Party."
The point is that all those loonies on the lawns with racist placards are somewhat different than the Republican Party itself. Probably a good thing, in the long run.
And we stress the "long-run" aspect of that last sentence.
highwayscribery has never been sure just what the significance of the Tea Party movement is. These were not Democrats to begin with, and the notion that because they're even angrier than usual (which is pretty angry), doesn't necessarily transform the political landscape.
A vote's value doesn't double with the emotional lunacy of the person that casts it.
It reminds the scribe of Solidarity Day in 1981, when a still-potent American labor movement paraded through the streets of Washington D.C. It was a massive affair peopled largely with Democratic Party loyalists. The Reagan Administration spokesman of that time (Larry Speaks?) responded to the phenomenon by noting, "If they're trying to tell us there are people out there who don't like Ronald Reagan, we already knew that."
Ditto President Obama.
"Salon's" Joe Conosan agrees. He doesn't let the Dems off the hook. They've got to fight for their votes and always have. But he turns to numbers in a Rasmussen poll, which tends to view the world through red (state)-colored glasses, and highlights these facts:
The Illinois Senate race is drifting toward the Democrats. Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich's seat is also competitive and could be a pick-up. That would erase the Dorgan loss. The Missouri Republican Senate seat being vacated by Republican Kit Bond's departure is also looking pretty good for Democrat Robin Carnahan.
Conason credits Republicans with effective control of the narrative, which is the only job they have given the fact Democrats are busy trying to solve the country's problems.
"What those Rasmussen numbers suggest," Conason wrote, "is a more nuanced reality. Republican advantages could quickly evaporate amid a volatile electorate -- and as with yesterday's retirements, the recent trends are not as dire as right-wing propaganda and mainstream prognostication claim."
His counterpart at "Salon," Mike Madden, noted that Dodd was a sitting duck in any case and that his successor enters the race with a 30-point lead in a solidly blue state.
As one of the public option's hangmen, highwayscribery thought Dorgan a pain in the ass in any case. In other words, 60 votes is nice when the 60 votes gets you something in line with your party's principles, rather than just any old thing you can call a "victory."
Since the unwritten 60-vote rule dominates national politics now, Madden's math here is worth considering, too.
"...[E]ven after the retirement announcements, there are more Republicans who won't run for their seats this year than Democrats. Already, 14 House Republicans have declared they won't see another term, compared to only ten Democrats. Six Senate Republicans, compared to only four Democrats are stepping down," and so on into the state races.
That said, there is something to be said, or admitted, about the essentially conservative nature of the American electorate.
highwayscribery always thought that was something of a media-elite chestnut, a conspiratorial canard with which we progressives were intended to be burdened.
Faced with a corrupt and spent Republican Party - its perennial mainstay - and presented with an elegant and eloquent option, the nation chose the Democrats and Barack Obama to keep them out of a second Great Depression.
Spending like drunken sailors, the Dems got the job done, and now everybody seems horrified at how much it cost to keep their over-leveraged asses afloat.
the scribe has been only moderately pleased with Obama's performance, wishing the secrecy policies of the Cheney administration, and that crappy war in Afghanistan were off the nation's to-do list.
But the rest of the country, outside of New York and the California coastal cities, has seen enough and are running back to their fiscally cautious bivouacs.
To wit: The "Los Angeles Times," just covered a poll which had the vast majority of the electorate proclaiming themselves "conservative."
So it's true. What we lefties view as moderate progress, most Americans view as beyond the pale and all of the above may be a lot of wishful thinking.
Obama should have let the floor drop on everybody. Deficit spending would have seemed a lot more palatable.
But he thinks more about the country than power itself.