If you're a veteran reader you've heard this before, but special elections always get blown far out of proportion. Elections are ratings events for the political media and it takes very little prodding to get them to cover whatever is at hand like it's some combination of the Super Bowl and presidential election. That said, what happened in Massachusetts yesterday was bad, bad news for the Democratic Party. If they had enough sense to learn anything from what happened, it probably wouldn't have happened in the first place.

The Democrats lost Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

The good news? There is no good news, unless you're a Republican.

The Democrats in Massachusetts nominated a horrendous candidate who proceeded to run a somnolent campaign (or non-campaign) that presumed victory and excited exactly no one. The Republicans were highly motivated even though Scott Brown is far from great shakes himself. So we're back to the pre-2008 electoral dynamics: Republicans vote, Democrats don't. And why would they? What kind of rallying cry could Coakley have used? "Get out to vote! Protect that watered-down embarrassment of a health care 'reform' bill! You know, the one we let the insurance companies write!" Something tells me that would not have worked. It is plainly obvious that Democratic candidates can't expect success without the voters who showed up in 2008, and they're not going to show up unless they're highly motivated by distaste for the GOP (which they aren't at the moment, given the results from 2006-08) or enthusiasm for the Congressional agenda. What we're seeing is not a schizophrenic electorate giving the GOP eight years to screw things up and expecting the Democrats to fix it all in nine months.

We're seeing that nine months is more than enough time for the modern Democratic Party to disgust most of its base.

Is it accurate to say that this is a referendum on Obama? No, although you will hear plenty of that anyway. Is it a referendum on the Congressional leadership? Absolutely. I've never seen a group of elected officials so talented at getting voters to simply not give a fuck who wins or loses. Can you listen to Harry Reid for five minutes without completely losing interest in anything political? It is problematic to make the following claim – that the Democrats inevitably lose their grip on power because they fail to be liberal enough – because we often mock the GOP for making the same excuse in the wake of defeat.

In the case of the GOP, however, the argument is patently silly. Their leadership is very conservative and not at all shy about ramming their agenda through Congress. When the Democrats are in power, only Glenn Beck and hysterical teabaggers would describe their agenda as "liberal." America gets a heaping serving of Republican Lite, tons of pointless commitments to pursue "bipartisanship" and therefore get nothing accomplished, and the powerful leadership skills of Steny Hoyer and Harry Reid.


Midterm elections are rarely good for incumbent presidents and 2010 will be no different. That said, the GOP is likely to get carried away with hyperbolic predictions of picking up 15 Senate and 100 House seats in November. The slow trickle of faint but positive economic signs will cushion the downside for the majority party, especially if the employment numbers pick up (which is no sure thing). In the end, however, Obama will get exactly what he deserves. He took office with all the enthusiasm in the world behind him and he proceeded to govern like an Eisenhower Republican.

Like Clinton, Obama will probably survive re-election in 2012 because of his personal appeal and the pitiful field of challengers. But his brief window of opportunity to seize the initiative and take control of the Congressional agenda has passed. The partisan balance in the general public favors the Democrats, but the same can't be said among people who can be counted upon to vote regularly. The Democrats have only themselves to blame for the disparity between the two.

19 thoughts on “THE GOOD NEWS”

  • Crazy for Urban Planning says:

    Your absolutely right Ed. Republicans do whatever they want to in government and Democrats don't even ask for anything progressive. As a masochist I listened to Sean Hannity's silly radio program for 10 minutes this afternoon – he was seemingly having a verbal wet dream. Fox Noise are going to blame this on Obama's "liberalism," CNN will say that conservatives think its because of liberalism but democrats don't think at all, and MSNBC will behave like a building is burning but they would rather not call the fire department. We have seen it all before. Its just so rotten because when people asked questions like these the polls indicate a majority of people give progressive answers: do you believe we should protect the environment? should all people have access to medical care?

    The question really is why won't democrats just propose something liberal? Any ideas?

  • Gubernatorial primaries are coming up pretty soon in Illinois, and I am struggling hard to find the motivation to get the day off work to take the bus down to the polling place where I'm registered to vote. In Illinois you pretty much know you're getting a Democrat and they're going to repackage the same old turd with a minimum of hemming and hawing.

    I just had the following AIM conversation with my fiance.
    It may or may not be amusing as an example of how real live "quarterlife" kids feel about regional politics, let alone national. What the hell, though. You can always kick me off the internet for threadjacking.

    HeDacted: hey, let's play illinois governor primary debate. i'll be dan hynes and pat quinn, you be a panelist. go ahead and ask me any question.
    MeDacted: uh, ok. are you now, or have you ever been, a lesbian?
    HeDacted: pat quinn: "the burr oak cemetery scandal was dan hynes' fault!" dan hynes: "pat quinn let prisoners out early!"
    HeDacted: (repeat as needed for any other questions)
    MeDacted: heehee
    MeDacted: i was unaware of either of those things
    MeDacted: which prisoners? why? and was the cemetery paved under for a cheap housing development, like happened a decade or so ago?
    HeDacted: the cemetery was unregulated, so people were dug up and their graves were re-sold. and thanks to some error nobody owns up to, a couple dozen violent criminals were released along with a few hundred nonviolent criminals, and two of them did something violent.
    MeDacted: ooh, those things are pretty bad
    MeDacted: another point for cremation. XP
    HeDacted: but the relevance to either campaign is debatable.
    MeDacted: indeed. i now know slightly less than nothing about those two candidates.

  • Why can't the Democrats just be assholes for once and stick whatever legislation they want up the GOP's assholes? Do any of these drooling pannywaists have a vindictive bone in their bodies? What a flaccid run this had been so far.

  • I sometimes wonder why Obama has stayed so far back from the Senate and House, but things like this show why that's such a good strategy. What the House needs isn't much, since it manages quite nicely. But what the Senate needs is new leadership, maybe someone who doesn't have huge television aspirations and a desire to do more than say what is and do it. I don't hate to say it even though it will lead to the usual Republican mischaracterization, but the next Senate Majority Leader should be Al Franken. Or, since Franken wants that as much as the average Republican Senator from Louisiana wants to publicly discuss the actual details of his libidinous urges, anyone else who wants the job and isn't named Harry Reid.

  • isn't the upside that lieberman will be kicked out of the caucus? weren't they just keeping him around because he was The 60th? now, they should strip him of everything including his parking spot.

  • I think the downsides of getting rid of Lieberman are still bigger than the upside, and his clout has been diminished enough so that all the Senators can just enjoy mob rule.

    I somewhat hope 41 Democratic Senators make a bloc and start acting like obstructionist fucks, too. But we suffer now for our willingness to try to get things done, and being complete assholes just isn't our nature. Should it be? Maybe to get healthcare done, 41 Democratic Senators should demand that a funding bill for Medicare require that anyone at any age be able to join? It's worth a try, and the House would certainly go along with it.

  • The more I see of politics, the more I see that Jim Hightower has been right all along. "We don't need a third party, what we need is a second party". And, "The only things in the middle of the road are a yellow stripe and dead armadillos". Being from Texas he used armadillos as an example, I would say dead skunks.

  • Jon says: "..things like this show why that's such a good strategy."

    Bullhockey! Do you honestly think that if he had gone in there with both feet right after the election we wouldn't have a very different situation? LBJ didn't get his stuff through Congress because of his genteel, hands-off approach. He kicked Senators right in the gonads (on live TV!) (well, maybe pay-per-view). I honestly don't know what Obama was thinking – I knew going in that he was far more conservative than the GOP PR successfully painted him as, but it now looks like they were pretty accurate in describing him as inexperienced and weak. I mean, it's far better to have him as President than Loony John McCain, but by being so cautious he's done terrible harm to the country by validating the modern Republican ideology (if "better dead than different" and "Every man for himself!" amount to an ideology).

  • Ed –

    Mostly I agree with your analysis. But I definitely see this as a referendum on Obama. In normal times, that seat would have gone to a Democrat by a large margin, even one who is sleep-walking. Brown ran on obstructing Obama any way he can. I try not to make too much of isolated data points. But look at the break down in NY Times article this morning.

    This is devastating. And in the national context, public opinion on health care reform has changed radically since summer. The number who think it's a good idea had declined from a majority to 1 in 3, and the number who think it's a bad idea has doubled.

    The seat held by one of the few real progressives in U.S. Govt. has gone to someone who is not just another know-nothing right-wing obstructionist ideolog, but a fucking birther.

    There are few things more dangerous than right wing populism, and the idiots of America are falling for it. This is a huge victory for Glen Pecker, Rush Limpdick and Fucks News.

    We are so fucking fucked.

  • I am happy to give the tea baggers all the power they want. Let them run this shit into the ground so that we can finally be done with them much like Europe no longer tolerates fascists after the fiasco called WW II.

  • As tempting as it is to agree with Da Moose, I cannot. Too many single working mothers and too many elderly poor would experience even greater hardship than they do now.

    Molly Ivins (may she sit at the right hand of God) often reminded her readers that in times like these an incremental improvement makes a big difference in the quality of the lives of the dispossessed. It's tempting and entirely accurate to blame the right wing for fiascos like the Great Depression and WW II, but too many don't survive to point the finger.

    I whole heartedly agree with Da Moose's implied assumption that the American right is fascist.

  • I still think this election was overblown. If the Democratic leadership had half a brain (and, in her defense, Pelosi is pushing this), instead of whining like babies, they would say "Congrats, Senator Special Election Nude Model on your campaign. Now, I would like to remind all the pundits that the Democrats in addition to having a nine seat Senate majority, 79 seat House majority, the presidency, and won the previous six special elections. Now, shut the fuck up."

    Okay, they can leave off the last part.

    Holy fuck we are such whiny babies. Is this good? Hell to the no. Is this bad? Hell to the yes. Is this a referendum on anything other than the teabaggers ability to vote for a nude male model (fitting)? No.

    Certainly, the Republicans (and teabaggers) are motivated. And they are not to be taken lightly, as Coakley did. I'm not saying that.

    I agree Obama and the leadership need to bone up and at least take tough rhetorical stands and speeches, even if they do have to make the shitty compromises to pass certain bills (and if they didn't, there would be NO reform, so don't act like an actual liberal agenda would pass, because it wouldn't.).

    But most of all, we need to stop acting like this is the end of the world.

    For fuck's sake, what would we have done if Franken lost? Jesus, a caucus of 60??? That was an impossible wet dream four years ago. Shit, even 59 was! The most optimistic realistic projections put us at 56.

    For fuck's sake, grow some balls and stop whining!

    And to the fucker above who said he doesn't want to vote in Illinois, FUCK YOU. FUCK YOU, YOUR MOM, YOUR DAUGHTER, YOUR DOG, AND YOUR STUCK UP WAH WAH I'M NOT MOTIVATED SO I WON'T VOTE ATTITUDE. FUCK YOU! It's THAT type of attitude that causes motherfuckers like Cheney to get power. So, fuck you! Your candidate choices suck? Welcome to fucking politics! Spend some time volunteering and putting some money in a primary candidate you DO like, even if it's a long shot. Not voting and letting teabaggers set the agenda? Not an option! I don't care how shitty your liberal candidate is.

  • Thanks for pointing out what I've been saying: Coakley was terrible on all levels. To vote for her would mean going into the booth and holding your nose to do it. The incompetent Dems still don't understand the anger out here.

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