Election night I was at the MN GOP HQ until 4 AM following the latest results pouring in, absorbing ever rumor and theory, and enjoying the heck out of myself so much that it was a shock when I looked at a clock. I\’ve always found Election Night fun. This year I had obvious reasons for that, with running a campaign and being much more plugged in in general. But also just the novelty of it, that huge numbers of seats can change possession and nobody has to so much as get punched in the head….or at least not out of malice. I know a certain Legislative Assistant whose exuberant celebration darn near caused bodily injury to innocent bystanders.
But I\’ve also said that politics is like a soap opera on a massive scale. There is the surface drama even the casual observer sees. Then there are the undercurrents and connecting strategy that political wonks see. And then there are the personality conflicts and caucuses within caucuses within caucuses that political insiders get to see. That last part it\’s a good thing that voters never see or else nobody would even vote again, for fear of encouraging politicians.
End result is you have a fascinating tapestry of events, intention actions, strokes of luck (good or bad) and sheer chance. Which always leaves me with a million threads of thought floating around in my head.
My US Senate Predictions
Yeah, I was a little off, although the final total will be damn close. Two of my leaners failed to…well lean. Nevada and Colorado. Colorado was darn close and Nevada was….well less close. Whether that was due to casino owners threatening their workers to get them to vote for Reid, it\’s hard to say but end result is the same. Either way, the end result is the same, Democrats hold the Senate but Republicans greatly increase their minority….which is basically what I\’ve been saying all along. And it\’s also what I\’ve said strategically we should hope for, which brings us to….
The Setup for 2012
The good part is that the bleeding will probably stop…or at least it better (more on that later). Any budgetary legislation has to originate in the House and Republicans now hold a very large majority in the House. And with a large minority in the Senate, cloture because a real obstacle for Democrats. Democrats either have to take a hard right turn to the center or else Congress comes to a standstill for 2 years. Of course that wouldn\’t necessarily be bad.
But it also means not much is likely to improve. We\’ll essentially be in the same place. Obama has made it clear he has no intention of deviating from the course that was overwhelmingly rejected by voters on Tuesday. And it\’s not hyperbole to say \”overwhelmingly\”. We just saw a reversal in electoral results that hasn\’t been in 70 years. Obama likes to claim everything he does is \”historic\”…well this truly was!
So while Republicans may stop the bleeding with their mere presence, as long as Obama plays hardball nothing much happens. Which means we\’re still in the same place in 2012. It also means Obama\’s popularity is not likely to crawl out of the basement. And with Democrats still controlling the Senate and the White House, the overall Democrat brand isn\’t likely to recover much either.
And thanks to their big electoral success in 2006, Democrats hold a large majority of the Senate seats up for grabs in 2012. All told there are 21 Democrats, 10 Republicans and 2 Independents up for election in the Senate. Of those 10 Republicans, only Scott Brown of Massachusetts can be said to be truly vulnerable. Meanwhile Democrats have at least half a dozen seats that are in red or purple states. Those seats alone would give Republicans a majority. Another Republican wave like we just had? You got a cloture-proof majority.
Sounds great right?? Well….
Don\’t Get Cocky GOP
This probably needs to be said again….Don\’t Get Cocky GOP.
And again….Don\’t Get Cocky GOP.
Actually let\’s make that a habit, because Republicans have been here before, and they\’ve screwed it up before. This election was not a vote FOR Republicans. Rather it was people voting AGAINST the Democrats, specifically their overspending and their focus on every issue other than what\’s most important to people right now….the economy.
Don\’t Get Cocky GOP.
Republicans campaigned against the excesses of the Obama and Democrat agenda and the public ate it up. So by all means follow through on that. Defund ObamaCare. Stop the government take over of private industry. Roll back spending. Reduce Taxes. Recover whatever stimulus funds can be found. By all means beat back the progressive horde.
Don\’t Get Cocky GOP.
But that\’s not enough. The public is also frustrated that when Democrats said they\’d help with the economy they focused on health care, Cash for Clunkers, Cap&Trade, immigration, gays in the military…..everything BUT jobs and the economy. So Republicans also need to find a way to address the economy and do it in a way that Obama and the Democrats are forced to go along with it out of fear of further voter backlash. Either that or Republicans need to do a damn good job of showing an effort because the public is tired of promises and talk.
Don\’t Get Cocky GOP.
Although there are signs that the GOP understand this…and oddly enough it was Michael Steele that framed it best by pointing out Republicans are \”on probation\”. Sure they overwhelmingly put you in power, but your approval ratings are just as low as the Democrats. The public is willing to tolerate your majority for an election cycle. If you screw up a again, you\’re even further in the doghouse.
Don\’t Get Cocky GOP.
Speaking of don\’t get cocky…..
Tea Party – Practice Had Better Make Perfect
>First of all calm down, this will only hurt for a minute and it\’s for your own good, besides your treat is next.
Tea Party, you need to learn a few lessons from this election. Let\’s call them Exhibits B.itch and C.hristine O\’Donnell. You need to do some better quality control on your candidates (like I said, your praise is coming later). Deleware is a perfect example. It\’s a hard left state, running a hard right candidate is just not going to fly. Trust me, I dislike RINOs just as much as anyone, and sometimes yeah, it\’s worth drawing a line in the sand and beyond this you will not cross.
But dammit, if you\’re going to pick a hill to die upon, may I suggest aiming more for Mt. Everest, or even Mt. Rainer instead of Joe\’s Ant Farm. Was Castle a squish, absolutely, nobody is denying that and nobody wasn\’t annoyed by it. But on the big issues, the ones that REALLY mattered he would have voted with Republicans. In a hard-left state, that\’s all you can ask for.
And in Nevada, make sure your candidates can better articulate their views and positions. Angle was very Obama-like in that while she did good on script, put her in front of a crowd or dealing with non-screened questions and it wasn\’t always pretty. Nevada was looking for someone to replace Reid, and you gave them nothing they could hang their hat on.
Electability matters. And no not at the expense of everything else, there are certain hills worth dying upon. Cap&Trade? Immigration? Taxes?? Spending?? Abortion?? Sure for some people those are hills they are willing to die for. Others not so much. But end result is you need to work on screening your candidates better.
Which isn\’t to say it was all bad…
Tea Party – Now Who\’s Laughing?
See I told you it would only hurt for a minute.
All that said, the Tea Party actually did a fairly good job overall picking candidates, a few rotten apples aside. Rand Paul in Kentucky, Marco Rubio in Florida, Mike Lee in Utah, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin and Scott Brown in Massachusetts. All solid candidates. I was a little concerned about Rand Paul, but while his views may have been more hard-right than his state, he also had the presence and maturity as a candidate to keep them largely in check.
What\’s more you\’ve proven that you\’re not the disorganized rabble of random angry racist hicks the Democrats tried to frame you as. You\’ve a genuine national movement, with a rationale agenda, and with the ability to organize, focus and accomplish a goal, all without a leadership structure of any sort. In fact, that last part is your best feature, rather than a big. It innoculates you against the Alinsky tactics of the left, \”pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it\”. Trying to do that to a diverse group without structure and without a leader, is like trying to kill a swarm of gnats with a rifle.
Now your next goal is to prove you can continue to pursue your agenda without being co-opted by the Republican Party. The Republicans are just as prone to excess and Spineless Syndrome as the Democrats so don\’t get caught up in the system. You\’ve accomplished a real political force here. Don\’t waste it.
Speaking of the system…
It\’s about to change….drastically. Not only did Republicans make huge progress in the US House and Senate, they also captured 680 seats in state legislatures. Which is darn near un-precedented. That\’s great right!? But why is it important? Well, as you know the 2010 Census is completed which means 2012 brings….redistricting. All those political districts have to be redrawn to account for population changes. And depending on how those lines are drawn determines how easy it is for a Republican or Democrat to win and hold a particular seat. So if you control the process of drawing those lines, you can make it very difficult for the opposition for the next ten years. It\’s called gerrymandering.
So again why is that important?? Well it\’s the state legislatures that do that. And Republicans took over 18 state legislative chambers on Tuesday and gained six governor seats. In fact, for 17 states Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature and the Governor\’s seat, which puts them in complete control of drawing the lines.
And those 17 states represent 196 of the House\’s 435 districts. In comparison, Democrats control all three legs of the government in up to 10 states, which control at most 88 seats, but possibly as few as 26.
Oh it gets better. Six states have nonpartisan redistricting commissions. If you take those 88 seats out, for 196 out of 347 districts, Republican\’s completely control the drawing of the lines.
In the other states, like Minnesota, a mixed legislature means the judicial system is likely to draw the lines.
Speaking of Minnesota…
DFL\’s Bed Not So Comfy
For the first time since the Minnesota Senate allowed partisan designations, Republicans control the Senate. And the Minnesota House is now also Republican controlled. In both cases, with seats to spare.
The Governor\’s seats is still up for grabs. If it\’s Emmer than Republicans control all three legs and they get run of the board. But even if it\’s Dayton, with Republicans in charge of both Houses, his agenda is a dead stick. But it gets worse for DFL and they have only themselves to blame.
Last session we had the opposite situation, a DFL legislature with a GOP Governor. When the DFL couldn\’t come up with a budget they simply passed an unreasonable one and adjourned and made it Pawlenty\’s problem. Pawlenty in turn used unallotment. Well the DFL collectively wet themselves and through the courts made sure that couldn\’t be done ever again. So now facing a $6 billion deficit, what are Dayton\’s options?? Either he agrees to the Republican\’s version of a budget, thereby pissing off his base and making the right happy. Or he shuts down the government and calls the legislature into a special session, thereby pissing off his base and mildly annoying the right. The Legislature in turn, if they really want to play hardball can just keep passing the same budget until Dayton relents. After all, what is Dayton\’s recourse??? Bitch to the media that the legislature won\’t raise taxes??? Yeah, that\’ll get sympathy from the public.
And so we begin this political drama all over again. I got my chair, I got my popcorn, start the show!