Free Markets, Free People

The National Political Scene

That scene is incredibly muddled and getting more muddled every day. In some ways, such as the Democrat retirements, it reminds me of the political atmosphere of 1994.  Charlie Cook, who knows Democrats and their electoral chances, pretty much writes the Democratic Senatorial majority off as a dead loss after 2010:

Come November, Senate Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority is toast. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how Democrats could lose the Senate this year. But they have a 50-50 chance of ending up with fewer than 55 seats in the next Congress.

When the Republican in the race for Teddy Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts is competitive, you know the electoral landscape has changed and just about anything is possible.

Of course, in terms of divided government, that’s very good news. The fact that it is Republicans, who for the most part, still don’t seem to have a clue, not so much. Of course that obviously depends on who the Republicans end up running, or winning, those seats. Florida’s race between Crist and Rubio is a good example. Crist is the moderate establishment (business as usual, McCain type Republican) while Rubio is more of the Tea Party conservative.

And it is there that the establishment Republican party seems to be missing the boat – again. After a sweeping victory by Barack Obama and the Democrats, the Republicans quite naturally tried to do a little soul searching and, for whatever reason, came to believe that their problem was they didn’t appeal to enough moderates. Yet in the year that has passed since the Obama administration has been in office and the Congress with prohibitive Democratic majorities has been wreaking its havoc, independents, who establishment Republicans choose to characterize as “moderates”, have been abandoning the Democrats in staggering numbers. And they’re looking for a place to go.

Why are they abandoning the Democrats? Because they bought into a myth a compliant and noncritical media aided and abetted concerning the new administration and now they’re seeing the radical truth. And they don’t like it.

However, what they don’t want is a merely less radical replacement. Democrat lite. What independents are in the middle of doing is rejecting, in toto, the Democratic agenda. Rasmussen and others have been providing these clues for months. In the latest Rasmussen poll:

With Democrats in majority control of both the House and Senate, it’s not surprising to find that 79% of Republicans are not confident that their congressional representatives are actually presenting their best interests, but 74% of voters not affiliated with either party agree. Democratic voters are evenly divided on the question.

74% of voters “not affiliated with either party agree” that their Congressional Rep (obviously that includes some Republicans) is not actually representing their best interests. Now that could be for any number of reasons, but on thing for certain, if 74% aren’t happy with their Rep, I’d guess they’re not happy with what the establishment Republicans are selling either.

Enter the Tea Partiers. First written off as brownshirts, angry whites, red-necks, un-American, ‘teabaggers’ and any other pejorative the left-wing thought it could get away with, the movement has grown into a political force. But make no mistake about it – it’s a populist movement. Regardless it has, to a large degree, managed to tap into this unhappiness with what is going on in Washington and give it some structure.

And what continues to astound me is the establishment Republicans seem to think that they “own” the movement – that when push comes to shove, this group will fall in line and vote for them.

Hello! Crist/Rubio!

There is going to be a war between the Teapartiers and the establishment Republican party. The Teapartiers don’t necessarily support or even like many of the establishment Republicans. As a result that war is going to be waged in primaries. And much like it was on the left (Lamont/Lieberman) it is a war for the soul of that party. Establishment Republicans really don’t seem to understand that – yet. So we see stories like this one where the establishment party is said to have “soured” on Sarah Palin. Love her or hate her, she represents as well as anyone, the populist nature of the movement that the Republicans don’t seem to yet understand. Add the stupidity of the leadership and the visible infighting within the establishment wing of the party, and you hold little hope that they will wake up in time to smell the roses and figure out the formula for electoral success.

What part of this don't Republicans get?

Where’s this all headed? To more polarized politics, if that is possible, with the sides much more differentiated – if the Teapartiers get their way. Republicans are going to be moved in a much more conservative direction, come hell or high water, if they want Tea Party support. And the Tea Party movement is going to attract (has attracted?) enough of the independent voters to make the electoral difference.

Conventional wisdom says the electorally successful win by appealing to their base, picking off enough independents to make the difference and then governing from the center. I don’t think that CW is valid anymore. It appears that the public has finally had the scales removed from their eyes with the present administration. The premise that a centrist government is what America wants has been overcome by events. Those events, products of that centrism, have given us the state of affairs with which we’re now afflicted – a welfare state with huge deficits, a debased currency and a behemoth government that is out-of-control. Listen closely to those who spoke up at the summer town halls. It wasn’t just about Democrats and Republicans, folks – it was about the direction of the country and the realization that both parties had participated in creating the horrendous mess we now enjoy.

All of that to say that CW is ready to be turned on its head and, in fact, people (to include independents) are demanding action to roll back government and reduce spending. That should be right in the Republican’s wheel house. Yet instead of really talking their supposed principles and actions to accomplish them, establishment Republicans still insist that it is more important to ensure they have a “big tent”. That is a complete sell out of their principles. The “tent” is established by those principles. What Republicans have to do is fashion a message that makes that tent attractive and brings people to them. That’s what will make it “big”. Compromising their principles to fill the tent is a sure way to lose – and that’s precisely what they’ve proven over the last few elections.

Politically, 2010 is going to be a very interesting year to watch. For libertarians, the best hope is divided government and a Republican party that rediscovers its primary principles and decides to live up to them. I think we’ll get the divided government. However, my concern is the midterms will see enough Republicans elected, despite themselves and their lack of a principled stand, that the important message about principles will continue to be lost on them – again. That will result in a Senate not much different than we have now, where compromise and collegiality are more important than principle and the people. That means big government, more spending and more deficit. And that means Republicans will remain the minority party and out of the White House in 2012.



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13 Responses to The National Political Scene

  • McQConventional wisdom says the electorally successful win by appealing to their base, picking off enough independents to make the difference and then governing from the center. I don’t think that CW is valid anymore.

    I don’t agree.  While there are obviously Americans who are extremists on both sides, I think that most Americans are “moderate” in that they don’t want a lot of change too quickly.  So, let’s assume that the “tea party” takes over the GOP and pulls it strongly to the right.  What should such a GOP champion?  Massive reduction in government spending through elimination of various government programs and departments?  People accustomed to the “safety net” won’t be too thrilled with that, and the dems just LOVE to cast evil Republicans as wanting to starve poor / old / unemployed people.

    All that being said, there is a line between “moderate” governance and “democrat-lite” governance, and the GOP has stepped over it.

    McQHowever, my concern is the midterms will see enough Republicans elected, despite themselves and their lack of a principled stand, that the important message about principles will continue to be lost on them – again.

    I agree.  There’s a rift in the GOP, with the conservatives / “Tea Party” people on one side and the moderates (mostly career politicos) on the other.  In effect, the GOP has to choose between being a party of Sarah Palin or of John McCain.  The problem is that the rift is also between the party leadership – which tends to be “moderate” / collegial / RINO – and the party rank-and-file that tends to be much more conservative.

  • The American electorate as a whole should STFU about how unhappy they are with their representation, because they never seem to “throw the bums out”

    I 100% that nobody wants centrism anymore. As a point of practicality, we can’t even think about it anymore. Pelosi is the safest seat in America, and she’s a massive extremist at the wheel. It will take counter-extremism to stop her.

    As for the tea party, good for them. If it takes the GOP getting bloody noses for a string of electoral cycles to get the message, so be it

  • By November it will be too late. That’s clearly part of the Democrat’s plan for “fundamental transformation.”

    My idea for “fundamental transformation” would involve a lot of lumber and a lot of rope.

  • I am truly enjoying watching Demmies like Chris Van Hollen and Steny Hoyer say that while things look “tough” for them, they not only expect to keep the House in Demmie hands but that they can keep losses to 10 or less.

    Perhaps someone should tell them that in the first hour if they keep the losses at 10 or less it will be okay. As hour after hour goes on Election night, the losses will pile up. Remember 1994? The media could not believe that the Demmies were just swept out of power. It came as a complete surprise to them. Now, however, only the dimmest of Demmie bulbs concede that this November is bound to be truly bad for their party. Doug Shoen, Demmie pollster, keeps saying on Fox News that his polling shows that Demmies in the 40-50 seat loss column – and that is now, in January, 10+ months before the election. With the economy limping along at best, the “war” on terror becoming a joke, death care being shoved down people’s throats, and The Snorkeler™ becoming as popular as the Spanish flu in 1918, watch as the smarter Demmies (like Jimmy Carter pollster Pat Caddell) realize that the 40 seats the GOP needs to take control in the House could come in the first two hours on election night.

    As for the Senate, watch the following:

    Going down: Arlen Spector, Harry Reid, Blanche Lambert Lincoln. Byron Dorgan’s seat flips to GOP control.

    That’s four seats switching, folks. If it is truly a bad night to be a Demmie, you may even see Barbara “Call me Senator” Boxer go down to defeat by Fiorina in California. If that happens, it could go 54-46 or even 53-47 in one fell swoop.

    • As long as we get at least 43, that basically destroys the supermajority and keeps the filibuster option open for everything (always assuming a cushion for the squeamish RINOs we all detest)

      45+ signals the end Obama’s agenda, though the damage be done.

  • I really think you missed an opportunity with your first sentence.
    “That scene is incredibly muddled and getting more muddled every day.” You should have used “muddlier”.
    As was said in The Green Berets, It sings!

  • David Brooks,  Kathleen Parker, et. al., would rather see the GOP falter if it means they retain their open invitation to the coastal elite cocktail circuit, also known as the MSM.  And as such, they are working overtime trying to marginalize those pesky ‘teabaggers.’
    How dare the unwashed threaten their modern day speakeasy serving outlawed foie gras and Cuban cigars.  It is not like their liberties are being threatened…*  Yet.
    *Many of those acquiescing to the resurgence of fascism  seem to adhere to the moral of an old joke.  Two campers see a bear charging from afar – one runs for the trees, the other sits to put on his running shoes.  The runner shouts back, “dont be silly, shoes wont help out run the bear!  The other shouts back, I dont have to out run the bear… only you.
    But as with the Robin Hood fable, the real moral is lost on popular society.  Robin Hood did not rob the rich, he took money back from an autocratic government…
    And the Bear will eventually be hungry again.

  • As a Republican, I pray for divided government.
    I prefer a Democratic president who has the soaring oratory that says “we care” but with a Republican Congress that adds “but not enough to spend any money on it.”

    • “I prefer a Democratic president who has the soaring oratory that says…”

      Words have power. Soaring oratory from a political leader makes me nervous. I have bad memories of the results of JFK’s “Bear any burden, pay any price” crap. 

  • I guess it depends on what the term conservative means to each.
    From my perspective I could care very little about abortion or gay marriage.   I care very much how and why the government takes our money and how they spend it.  All government, but especially the Fed.  And of course about national security.
    To me conservative means fiscal conservative.  So I guess I agree.  We can’t win without the middle and those contentious social issues are better off decided at the state and local level and left off the national platform altogether.