Thursday, November 04, 2010

Midterm results

Well the midterm election was every bit as bad as I had feared.
There were only a few bright spots to cheer me up such as the losses by Tea Party stalwarts Christine O’Donnell, Ken Buck, Joe Miller and Sharron Angle.
There were the heart-wrenchingly close losses by Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania and Alexi Ginniaoulis in Illinois; Alex Sink in Florida and Ted Strickland in Ohio.
And there were those who just squeaked by such as Michael Bennett in Colorado, Patty Murray in Washington and Joe Manchin in West Virginia.
Harry Reid held on in Nevada while Russ Feingold was toppled in Wisconsin.
Some Democrats weathered the storm with little problem. Richard Blumenthal easily held on to Chris Dodd’s seat in Connecticut. He had been the state’s attorney general when I lived there in the early ‘90s and was being touted even then for higher office. Glad he finally made it.
Chuck Shumer and Kristin Gillibrand had little trouble keeping their New York Senate seats and Andrew Cuomo steamrolled over the obnoxious extremist Carl Paladino. Vermont elected a Democratic governor for the first time since Howard Dean. And Connecticut elected a Democratic governor for the first time since I don’t know when. Since I lived there the state house has either been held by an Independent or a Republican.
Jerry Brown easily reclaimed the governors office in California that he held 20 years ago despite a mountain of money spent by his Republican opponent Meg Whitman. And Barbara Boxer withstood a multi-million dollar campaign by former HP CEO Carly Firorina.
But elsewhere the tidalwave of corporate cash was too much for Democrats to withstand. The U.S. Chamber of Republicans spent millions of dollars to defeat Democrats all across the country dipping into a big pool of corporate cash that was supplemented by donations from foreign entities. And it was all carefully orchestrated by Rupert Murdoch’s Faux News and the rightwing radio jocks who instructed their brainwashed minions that voting for Democrats was unpatriotic and unAmerican.
Republicans picked up more than 60 seats in the House giving them control again after just four years out of power. During that time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accomplished a tremendous amount - only to have the bulk of her legislative achievements watered down or buried in the Senate where Republicans took obstructionism to new heights by misusing and abusing that institution’s archaic filibuster and hold rules. But even with all the obstructionism, Democrats somehow still managed to pass major pieces of legislation such as health care reform and banking/finance reform.
But ultimately by abusing Senate rules the way they did, Republicans have set the new standard that Democrats will follow meaning that no partisan legislation will pass without a 60-vote supermajority. Even relatively benign, non-partisan legislation will have to meet the 60-vote threshhold each time because in essense every piece of legislation and, indeed, every action the Senate takes is now dictated by an unspoken filibuster rule.
So what that means is that the Republican takeover of the House will result in near total gridlock. The Republicans have swelled their ranks with radical Tea Party extremists who have some seriously flawed and absurd views of the government and who will insist on stopping even the most basic functions of government on the grounds that it doesn’t pass muster with their fundamentalist reading of the Constitution. As such, there will be little room for compromise as Republicans continue to adopt the “My way or the highway” attitude. They will insist that Democrats kowtow to their demands and be submissive in light of the fact that “the people have spoken!” Nevermind the fact that Republicans themselves did nothing of the sort during their time in the minority, which, by the way, was an even tinier minority than Democrats have now.
And will Obama now be a “lame duck” president and cast aside his agenda in deference to the newly empowered House Republicans? Was Ronald Reagan a lame duck in 1982 after his party shrank down to just 166 seats in the House? Of course not. As everyone well knows, Reagan went on to win a landslide re-election two years later and reshaped the political landscape for the forseeable future. So people who want to count Obama out at this point need a serious history lesson.
I think the thing that was the most disheartening about the election was the Republican onslaught in local races. I really hated losing my local congressman Ciro Rodriguez. After spending most of my adult life being represented by Republicans like Joe Barton, Lamar Smith, Larry Combest and Henry Bonilla, I was thrilled four years ago to finally get someone to represent me who I could relate to. But now I will be stuck once again with someone who will automatically vote against everything I deem to be important. It is very depressing.
But, alas, the tide will turn again at some point and in the meantime I will just have more things that I can gripe about on my blog. So if there is any silver lining in this election it is the endless fodder of blog material that it will bring for the next two years.

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