Wednesday, November 03, 2010

2010 Election observations from a non-politician

I enjoy watching the results pour in on election night, and always imagine myself as one of the political commentators on CNN, seated between Paul Begala and David Gergen. The reporting teams at CNN and the other networks do a good job of setting the headlines ("Republican wave sweeps Congress"), but tend to lack deeper analysis, so here's my deeper observations on the 2010 elections.

1. The most important man in Congress is now.....Joe Lieberman. As of this writing, which party will control the Senate is unclear, but the outcome will certainly be close, meaning that a 1-Senator swing will be enough to deliver or sink important legislation. There are already rumors that Lieberman might caucus with the R's, and he has the credibility and gravitas to work across party lines even if he stays with the D's. Legislation coming from the D's will need to be within Lieberman's comfort zone ideologically in order to move forward, and likewise, bills coming from the R's will be seeking to pick off Lieberman's support. In short, Lieberman will likely be the deciding vote.

2. Republican candidate diversity augers well for the future. Completely underreported is how the R-party has introduced more attractive candidates who aren't white males. Think of the most prominent R-candidates nationally (not all will win, but they're the people you recognize): Angle, Fiorina, Haley, McMahon, O'Donnell, Rubio, Whitman - all diverse. What you might not know are the regionally recognizable diverse R-candidates who won or are in a tight race: Ayotte (NH sen), Allen West (FL-22), Tim Scott (SC-1), Susana Martinez (NM-gov), Jan Brewer (AZ-gov). Even before all results are in, the Republicans can boast the first Latina governor (Martinez), the first woman Indian-American governor (Haley), (joining Bobby Jindal as Republican Indian-American govs), and at least 2 new African-American representatives.

3. The most significant thing to happen tonight was Marco Rubio's senate win in Florida. Not only is Rubio the Tea Party ideology personified, Rubio represents a fresh face for Republicans, a future national candidate, a foundation for the R's in Florida for perhaps the next 36 years and a clear connection with the Hispanic voters. In short, Marco Rubio = Barack Obama, circa 2006, as this WSJ article suggests. Confirming this notion is the attention that Bill Clinton paid to the Florida senate race last week, trying to get the Democrat to drop out of the race to block Rubio. Say what you want about Clinton the President, but he is a tremendous politician, and he realizes the long term implications for his party with Rubio's success.

4. The trajectory of the Tea Party movement was boosted by the results. Critics say that the Tea Party is a novelty of this election cycle, and expect it to fade away, much like Ross Perot after 1992, but I believe that their accomplishments in only two years of existence suggests long term success. For all of the effort by mainstream politicians and media to marginalize the Tea Party (and let's be honest, O'Donnell and Angle beg to be marginalized), I'd say that the Tea Party has been wildly successful in their first try. I expect that the Tea Party will better vet their candidates in the next election cycle, and there will be less embarrassments (O'Donnell) and more candidates with broad appeal (Rubio, Rand Paul.) The only thing that can curb the rise of the Tea Party is if the D's or R's can deliver a balanced budget amendment or other legislation to institutionalize the Tea Party's core issue, fiscal restraint.

Plus, two predictions:

1. Neither the R's or D's will really "get" the implications of the 2010 elections. Despite their statements on election night, the R's will continue to believe that voters chose R's, rather than voting against D's. The R's in Congress will poll the Tea Party's platform points, co-opt the 3 or 4 that sound best, then hope the Tea Party goes away. Meanwhile the D's will believe in the delusional excuses that they're trotting out. Both parties are congenitally disposed to believe that the party elites are leading the nation, but in reality, they're following the unwashed masses.

2. Obama will not meaningfully move to the right and will face a challenge in the 2012 D primary from Hillary Clinton. These is nothing in Obama's political history to suggest that he seeks, learns from, and integrates feedback, and, if his first two years are indicative, he views legislative compromise as something to be avoided. Obama is a practitioner of hardball politics - play hard, and deal when necessary to get the votes. (Case in point: it was more expedient to offer Ben Nelson the "Cornhusker Kickback" (and similar offers to others) then to change the HC legislation to gain compromise.) Also, when under political stress, Obama's default mode is to demonize the opposition (think about how he has wailed on insurance companies, oil companies, banks, and special interests, when advantageous to the legislation at hand), rather than seek a mutually satisfactory outcome. This instinct -while common in politics - is unproductive in a split Congress.

I think Obama will seek non-economic left/progressive issues that have better than average appeal in the general populace, and use these issues as a wedge against R's. (For example, I think Obama will try to make immigration a prominent issue.) The R's will retreat to "Just say no mode," and the country will suffer. The combination of Obama's hard left policies, and not much political progress due to the stalemate in Congress will enable Hillary Clinton to run to the right of Obama (but still left of center).

1 comment:

J. said...

A good read... well considered and presented. Thanks!

My hope is that the GOP sees the O'Donnell debacle as a possible harbinger of a Palin presidential run and choose a more palatable candidate.

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