With the elections barely five weeks away, its clearly time for
prognosticating, at least in general terms. Theres no good reason to
wait. Better to be wrong now and hope youll have forgotten it all by
Democrats are going to do poorly nationally, a reality that will be
mirrored here in Michigan. Republicans are very likely to regain
majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate. Republican
gubernatorial candidates will do extremely well, replacing Democrats
in many states.
There are a combination of factors conspiring to create the perfect
election storm for the Democrats.
The party in power traditionally loses seats in the first mid-term
elections in a new presidency. Plus, several Democratic first-termers
were swept into office on the Obama wave and faced dautning reelection
prospects under the best of circumstances. Those two facts alone
would have cost the Dems seats in the House regardless of any other
But, of course, there are other factors. Despite the various bailouts
and stimulus efforts, the economy is still a mess. We are still
engaged in two wars in the Middle East. Unemployment continues to eat
away at the innate optimism of many Americans. The cartoonish annual
deficits would be downright hilarious if not for the fact they
actually have to be paid back.
The public is stunned by the confluence of so many bad things
happening at the same time. There is palpable fear and anger and
plenty of politicians anxious to exploit both.
The Republicans have done a remarkably good job of denigrating
everything the Obama Administration and the Democrats have done and
the Democrats, including President Obama, have done a pathetically
weak job of defending themselves and their policies. The result has
been a one-sided debate that has helped convince some Americans were
in the midst of a catastrophically failed persidency and must make
radical changes to fix it. (And, by the way, he was born in Kenya and
is a Muslim and a Marxist.)
That drumbeat of negativity helped give birth to the tea party
movement. This national phenomenon, ably bankrolled by the Koch
brothers, Rupert Murdoch, Club for Growth and Dick Armeys minions,
has successfully put its considerable weight behind an interesting
line-up of candidates who could not have succeeded at any other time
or in any other circumstance. But succeed they have.
Senate candidates Joe Miller in Alaska, Sharron Angle in Nevada and
Christine ODonnell in Delaware and gubernatorial candidate Nikki
Haley in South Carolina are just the poster children for a list of tea
party candidates at several levels of government. The have already
performed a sort of miniature ideological cleansing within the
Republic Party, sweeping aside long-term incumbents or party favorites
who had demonstrated an inadequate level of fealty to the new
definitions of conservative, both economic and social. Democrat
protestations to the contrary nothwithstanding, many of these
candidates are going to win and bring some hardcore ideology along
with them to Washington and state capitals.
The tea party movement isnt just a groundswell of regular folks
coalescing around political principles at the grassroots level. The
powers behind the movement are extremely well organized and the
movement, such as it is, is extremely well-financed. In Alaska and
Deleware, for example, hundreds of housands of dollars came pouring
into aid the Miller and ODonnell campaigns not in the form of a few
bucks here and there from mom and pop but in the form of huge
third-party independent efforts.
Once elected, theyll have almost no chance to govern, however.
Despite all the publicity attendant to their campaigns and victories,
they will comprise a small minority within the Republican majority.
They will introduce a flood of legislation nearly all of which will be
politically and practically impossible. They will discover, as the
left has the last two years, the fire-breathing rhetoric that stirs up
crowds and generates votes does not necessarily translate into
legislation or policy. The new Republican majority in Washington will
be neither veto-proof nor filibuster-proof. Absolutism, pure though
it may be, does not work in Congress nor is it supposed to.
As soon as the mainstream legislators discover the rookies dont
really have either a blueprint for governing or an idea of how to
actually cut taxes and reduce the size of the government, they will be
ignored and legislative business as usual will commence. Given there
are 40,000 registered lobbyists in D.C., there is every likelihood the
tea party purists will be co-opted by the special interest groups
exactly like any other newcomers. There may be a new hierarchy among
the special interests but the influence peddling will continue
It is quite likely well see a return to gridlock. Democrats will
become the party of no and perform their obstructionist procedural
tricks and threats exactly as the Republicans have done for the last
two years. Since compromise has become a dirty word on both sides
of the aisle, there is little chance common ground will be located any
time before the 2012 presidential elections.
What were seeing here is not a change-election but a
punishment-election. Republicans have been the victims of this
blood-letting thus far but Democrats are now in the voters sights and
will likely pay a stiff penalty come November. Voters will feel
better about themselves for a few months until they realize this new
crop of winners is less capable than was the old crop they plowed
Oh, and my one firm prediction? Barack Obama will be reelected in 2012.