How much will the Democrats suffer?

2010-10-06

in Politics, The environment

As the mid-term elections approach in the United States, speculation about the outcome is increasing. The smart money seems to be on a pretty substantial defeat for the Democrats – probably losing their majority in the House of Representatives, but probably hanging on in the Senate (where only 1/3 of members face election this year).

To some extent, the probable Democratic defeat is the product of disappointment with the Obama administration. If so, it strikes me as deeply irrational. While you can certainly argue that the Obama administration should have been more ambitious in areas like climate change policy or financial regulation, it seems inconceivable that a Republican victory would aid progress on either front. Rather, it would serve primarily to further castrate a once-promising administration.

Hopefully, the infighting between Tea Party sorts and the rest of the Republican Party will somewhat diminish the strength of the resurgence of the right. Similarly, it is to be hoped that supporters of a progressive agenda will be willing to set aside their self-righteousness for long enough to pull a lever or two in a booth somewhere.

I say that not because I think the Democrats are an especially good party, but rather because it seems nearly certain that a Republican controlled Congress would produce even worse outcomes, both for those living within the United States and for those around the world who are affected by its politics.

Report a typo or inaccuracy

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Anon October 6, 2010 at 9:17 am

“Not that I am partisan but… the Republicans will DESTROY THE WORLD.”

R.K. October 6, 2010 at 9:53 am

This is one reason why a two-party system stinks – you can only punish the party you primarily support by aiding your own political enemies.

Proportional representation could be a lot better. If you feel like the most mainstream party with views similar to yours has sold out or failed, you can provide some meaningful support to a party a bit to the left or right of them (depending who you support and what you are upset about).

Byron Smith October 6, 2010 at 10:38 am

Yes, proportional representation, or even preferential voting, which means you can vote for a minor party first but still keep the greater of two evils out of power.

Otherwise, I agree with the post.

. October 6, 2010 at 10:59 am

“Conservatives are angry. They are angry about President Obama, about taxes, and about government spending. If it were legal, Tea Party conservatives would like to vaporize much of Blue America.

Liberals are not angry—they are disgusted. They are disgusted by the endless questions about President Obama’s birth, by the hysteria over “death panels,” over Republican candidates demanding an end to masturbation. If it were legal, liberals would move all of red America behind a large screen where its antics would be less embarrassing.

If the dominant tone of conservatives is shrill, the dominant tone of liberals is saracastic. The philosophical position of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, expressed in body language, would be a raised fist and a clenched jaw. The philosophical position of Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher would be a raised eyebrow and a wrinkled nose. Angry coverage on Fox News has become the standard bearer of the right. Irony and mockery on Comedy Central have become the standard bearer of the left.

Right-wing blogs reek of blood and guns, violence and revolution. The tree of liberty, they remind us, needs to be refreshed with the blood of patriots. Look at the weapons of the left—Colbert’s sly smile, Maher’s snigger, and the endless jokes about the stupidity of George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, and Christine O’Donnell. Even the bumper stickers of the right are grave in tone. They ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” Their opponents’ bumper stickers respond, “What Would Scooby Doo?”

The right is convinced that the left is evil. The left is convinced that the right is retarded.

Byron Smith October 6, 2010 at 11:47 am

Great Slate piece.

Tristan October 6, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Many concerns expressed by the Tea Party are genuine grievances, and the democrats ignore them at their peril. Obama largely won due to discontent with the system – and he’s done nothing to change that system. Just to take one example, look at campaign financing reform – initially he was for making it public, which really would have reduced the power of lobbyists. But then, he was hugely supported by Wall Street, and completely dropped that part of his platform. The tea-party can therefore rightly say that Obama is just another corporate tool – why should they vote for him?

And, to anyone who cares about foreign policy, the deeply insulting Cairo speech was enough to demonstrate that Obama has no interest at all in changing US imperialism from the way it worked under Bush or under Clinton. Or – his turnabout concerning Guantanamo, trying desperately to keep other secret prisons open, and trying to reverse the court decision on habeus corpus. Many of these decisions were made freely by the administration – they could have done otherwise, but they didn’t. That is different from the health care debacle, where public support has massively waned because the part of the health care package the public is in support of was eliminated due to pressure from the insurance industry.

Turns out, Obama is a joke – and to many Americans the serious reform movement appears to be on the right rather than the left. And there are good reasons for this – if you watch the Ron Paul “What If” speech, you’ll find it’s a far more radical condemnation of actual US policy than anything Obama’s ever said.

If the left in America wants the political support of its base, it cannot simply act as the slightly more humanitarian (and only humanitarian domestically – if anything the democrats are more hawkish!) wing of the business party.

Tristan October 6, 2010 at 12:13 pm

“I say that not because I think the Democrats are an especially good party, but rather because it seems nearly certain that a Republican controlled Congress would produce even worse outcomes, both for those living within the United States and for those around the world who are affected by its politics.”

Fair enough – but what if the decision is not between supporting the corrupt democrats and allowing the Tea party to come to power? What if the only way to avert the rise of the Tea Party is to support the creation of a new grassroots left wing party which could mobilize those who are now being mobilized by tea party organizers?

Milan October 7, 2010 at 4:23 pm

But then, he was hugely supported by Wall Street, and completely dropped that part of his platform.

And, to anyone who cares about foreign policy, the deeply insulting Cairo speech was enough to demonstrate that Obama has no interest at all in changing US imperialism from the way it worked under Bush or under Clinton. Or – his turnabout concerning Guantanamo, trying desperately to keep other secret prisons open, and trying to reverse the court decision on habeus corpus.

It seems like the average Tea Party supporter thinks Wall Street should be less regulated, not more, that Obama has conceded a dangerous amount in trying to maintain good relations with Muslims, that Guantanamo should be expanded with torture allowed, that terrorism suspects should not be treated as though they have any rights, etc.

It seems very strange to me that you seem to think they would agree more with your views than with Obama’s relative pragmatism.

What if the only way to avert the rise of the Tea Party is to support the creation of a new grassroots left wing party which could mobilize those who are now being mobilized by tea party organizers?

I think the emergence of a fringe group on the left would be rather harmful. It would further polarize an electorate that is already dangerously polarized. If anything, the mainstream segments of the Democratic and Republican parties need to become more effective in condemning the extremists who are their own natural allies. That way, perhaps some kind of intelligent debate can be re-established within American politics.

Tristan October 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm

“It seems very strange to me that you seem to think they would agree more with your views than with Obama’s relative pragmatism”

Ok – first thing: Obama has authorized assassinations of US nationals on suspicion of terrorist involvement. That’s murder. So, Obama is a murderer – and to you that’s “pragmatism”. Just to clarify how we use those words, what I call “crime”, you call “pragmatic”. Just so we can understand each other.

As for the Tea Party, many of them are followers of Ron Paul. He’s actually worth listening to, (or reading – you can do either here: http://www.chuckypita.com/ron-paul-what-if-speech-the-american-people-learn-the-truth/).

“If anything, the mainstream segments of the Democratic and Republican parties need to become more effective in condemning the extremists who are their own natural allies.”

The mainstream of both parties advocate policies which logically lead to the extermination of humanity. They also both advocate the maintenance of US imperial power around the world. I think both of those directions are disastrous, and will continue to be disastrous if they are not mitigated/dismantled.

I think the major thing missing from US politics is any coherent narrative coming from the Left which explains why everything is going so badly. It can’t come from the mainstream parties, because they are controlled by capital. It can come from the far right, except they are fundamentalists who religiously dream of a true free market, and explain every failure in terms of our failure to perfectly enact a free market. A coherent narrative could emerge from the left, and actually is emerging from organizations like TCMN (http://g20.torontomobilize.org/) – anti capitalist, alliances between socialist and anarchist. Bringing together dozens of different leftist organizations, trying to democratically come to a common voice.

The difficulty with leftist integration is quite different from the Tea Party. The Tea Party circulates a few ideas, and everyone gravitates towards them. They don’t let differences between their political views get in the way of building a social movements. That’s because they are essentially fascist – what they want is libidinal revolutionary change, based on empty slogans and hating people who look a bit different. They might want the US to leave the middle east – but only so brown people stop killing Americans, not so Americans will stop killing brown people. Leftist groups, on the other hand, are for the most part in it for the ideas, they care probably too much abou the ideas, and that makes it difficult get along.

Of course, TCMN is just Toronto – but there are similar movements happening in other major Canadian cities. And it’s not unimaginable that it could become a national political movement. Maybe someone will take Zizek’s advice of taking a lesson from the Right-Hegelians, and what is now fringe can become mainstream.

Milan October 7, 2010 at 5:03 pm

As for the Tea Party, many of them are followers of Ron Paul. He’s actually worth listening to

Ron Paul’s philosophy is ill suited to our world, because of the degree to which the actions of people on the other side of the world affect us and our descendents. If we lived in carbon neutral little kingdoms, it might make sense to eliminate most federal government agencies and regulations. In the world we really inhabit, such perspectives are nostalgic throwbacks.

Hobbes’ Leviathan is more necessary than ever.

Tristan October 7, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I was referring specifically to Ron Paul’s foreign policy. Are you actually going to argue that US imperialism is a better precursor to climate agreements than what is sometimes called “isolationalism” – but which merely means not to involve oneself in acts of agression, which he advocates?

Tristan October 7, 2010 at 5:14 pm

“Hobbes’ Leviation is more necessary than ever.”

So, how do we make it, who’s going to be in charge, how do we make sure they have as an interest the survival of the species and, if there is time left over, justice?

Milan October 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm

You can call it imperialism if you like, but I think the United States plays a stabilizing role in the world, overall.

I worry about what will happen when it is less powerful, relative to other states with even less regard for matters like international law and human rights.

How do we build a suitable Leviathan?

That is a critical question. To me, the most plausible path seems to be the establishment of domestic carbon prices alongside carbon tariffs on imports. That would drive domestic emitters in places like North America and Europe to start curbing their emissions. Also, because foreign exporters would prefer to pay a carbont tax to their own government than a carbon tariff to someone else’s, it could drive the emergence of carbon pricing schemes in places like India and China.

Tristan October 7, 2010 at 5:50 pm

It’s not a question of “calling” it imperialism – it’s a question of what it is. And, do you think imperialism by default is de-stabilizing? I don’t think so – I don’t think it’s clear the Roman empire was a de-stabilizing force. I don’t actually think it’s clear that the Nazi empire was “de-stabilizing” to Europe, as long as you didn’t happen to be among the people they excluded from moral consideration. I certainly don’t think the Russian Empire, which grew from a tiny region around Moscow to nearly an entire continent over a few hundred years, was “de-stabilizing” for Asia.

Is there any debate about whether American is an imperial power? What would that debate look like? Whether they have more or less regard for human rights is not relevant to the question of imperialism. Certainly the French Empire of Napoleon the first might have more respected for autonomy and the idea of the rights of man than any empire previous – but that doesn’t legitimate its violation of the sovereignty of other European states.

Tristan October 7, 2010 at 5:53 pm

“To me, the most plausible path seems to be the establishment of domestic carbon prices alongside carbon tariffs on imports. ”

If you think that for the sake of humanity we should support, rather than fight against, the strongest imperial forces – then you should figure out they can use some form of carbon protectionism to exert force over their sphere of influence, and ideally over the rest of the world as well. This is the only way it will be enacted on your model – if it aids US domination of the world. And that is certainly what the right-wing conspiracy theorists say the purpose of global warming is. (To be clear, there are at least two versions of this conspiracy theory – those who say global warming is made up and will be used to implement global carbon tax, and those who say it is real, and was known about a long time ago and purposely accelerated through the lack of regulations in order to justify a carbon-tax world government).

Milan October 7, 2010 at 7:04 pm

I think we should do what is necessary to address climate change. If it is necessary to reform (or even replace) capitalism, so be it. That said, we should definitely avoid replacing it if we can avoid it, because doing so would take a lot of effort and add to the risk of failure. The same is true of ‘imperialism’ as you define it. If it is fundamentally incompatible with avoiding catastrophic climate change then it has to go. If dismantling it is a less urgent task, however, then it isn’t where we should devote our energies.

Tristan October 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm

” The same is true of ‘imperialism’ as you define it.”

I haven’t defined imperialism. Imperialism is an old idea (imperium – latin meaning supreme power), although the OED seems to think the English “imperialism” is actually 19th century in origin. I don’t see it as being a new idea, or any problems with extending it to refer to all manners of empire (i.e. empires before the 19th century).

“Imperialism, state policy, practice, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. ”

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/283988/imperialism

On a side note: I don’t define words. It’s actually impossible to define words unless you are creating a neologism, and even then, it usually ends up meaning something you didn’t intend. “Define” suggests that on the author’s authority a meaning is specified – but that’s not how meaning works at all – the author has very little control of what his writing “means”. That’s why I think the best thing we can do is work on tracing the historical meaning of concepts – because quite often we become unaware of what a concept actually means, although we continue to use it – and its forgotten meaning continues to have an effect on us.

On another side note: it’s not clear at all that words have definitions. Definitions give us just enough to grasp the meaning of a word only because we already sort of knew it. Serious attempts to logically specify the meaning of a word, in my understanding always fail.

. October 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm

“Vast forests have already been sacrificed to the public debate about the Tea Party: what it is, what it means, where it’s going. But after lengthy study of the phenomenon, I’ve concluded that the whole miserable narrative boils down to one stark fact: They’re full of shit. All of them. At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry’s medals and Barack Obama’s Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them. In fact, their lack of embarrassment when it comes to collecting government largesse is key to understanding what this movement is all about — and nowhere do we see that dynamic as clearly as here in Kentucky, where Rand Paul is barreling toward the Senate with the aid of conservative icons like Palin.”

Byron Smith October 13, 2010 at 3:46 pm

“It would be inaccurate to say the Tea Partiers are racists. What they are, in truth, are narcissists.”
This rang true for me.

. October 20, 2010 at 10:19 am

“With the midterm election less than two weeks away, everyone is picking a number—the number of seats in the House and Senate they think Republicans will pick up. (The GOP needs to pick up 39 seats in the House to form a majority, and 10 in the Senate.) The boldest declaration so far has come from Dick Morris, who predicted that Republicans will pick up more than 74 seats, the current historic record, and said that number “could go as high as 100.” Bill Kristol and Mark Halperin both said in August that if current trends continued, Republicans could gain about 60 seats. (Halperin was careful to say that his statement was not a “prediction.”) At the low end of the spectrum, one group of political scientists has predicted Republican pickup as low as 22 House seats. The two most influential Washington prognosticators, the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report, put the Republican surge somewhere between 40 and 50 seats, while University of Virginia professor and longtime handicapper Larry Sabato bets the GOP picks up 47 seats in the House, and 8 or 9 in the Senate.

. October 26, 2010 at 11:18 am

We are a week away from the 2010 U.S. midterm elections. The outcome is already locked in. Whether the Republicans take the House or the Senate is close to immaterial. It is almost certain that the dynamics of American domestic politics will change. The Democrats will lose their ability to impose cloture in the Senate and thereby shut off debate. Whether they lose the House or not, the Democrats will lose the ability to pass legislation at the will of the House Democratic leadership. The large majority held by the Democrats will be gone, and party discipline will not be strong enough (it never is) to prevent some defections.

Should the Republicans win an overwhelming victory in both houses next week, they will still not have the votes to override presidential vetoes. Therefore they will not be able to legislate unilaterally, and if any legislation is to be passed it will have to be the result of negotiations between the president and the Republican Congressional leadership. Thus, whether the Democrats do better than expected or the Republicans win a massive victory, the practical result will be the same.

When we consider the difficulties President Barack Obama had passing his health care legislation, even with powerful majorities in both houses, it is clear that he will not be able to push through any significant legislation without Republican agreement. The result will either be gridlock or a very different legislative agenda than we have seen in the first two years.

Byron Smith October 26, 2010 at 11:40 am

the Democrats will lose the ability to pass legislation at the will of the House Democratic leadership
What? Where have they done this? Fear of the fillibuster convention has prevented them from even tabling votes on contentious issues, far less passing legislation at will. If they were passing things at will, why did the two biggest ticket items (healthcare reform and climate/energy) get mauled so badly such that healthcare was a shadow of the original idea and climate/energy never even made it to a Senate vote?

Byron Smith October 26, 2010 at 11:45 am

Thus, whether the Democrats do better than expected or the Republicans win a massive victory, the practical result will be the same.
This quote seems to assume that there are really only two scenarios: total control by one side or negotiation and that all variations within them are basically the same. But they are not. The present Republican refusal to even consider compromise in a take-no-prisoners scorched earth politics is poisoning US political discourse (more than it already was). There is a big difference between one side having a majority or the other having it. There is a big difference between seeking 3 people from the other side to work with you and seeking 30 to do so.

. October 26, 2010 at 2:35 pm

“I am arguing the following. First, Obama will be paralyzed on domestic policies by this election. He can craft a re-election campaign blaming the Republicans for gridlock. This has its advantages and disadvantages; the Republicans, charging that he refused to adjust to the electorate’s wishes, can blame him for the gridlock. It can go either way. The other option for Obama is to look for triumph in foreign policy where he has a weak hand. The only obvious way to achieve success that would have a positive effect on the U.S. strategic position is to attack Iran. Such an attack would have substantial advantages and very real dangers. It could change the dynamics of the Middle East and it could be a military failure.

I am not claiming that Obama will decide to do this based on politics, although no U.S. president has ever engaged in foreign involvement without political considerations, nor should he. I am saying that, at this moment in history, given the domestic gridlock that appears to be in the offing, a shift to a foreign policy emphasis makes sense, Obama needs to be seen as an effective commander in chief and Iran is the logical target.

This is not a prediction. Obama does not share his thoughts with me. It is merely speculation on the options Obama will have after the midterm elections, not what he will choose to do.”

R.K. October 26, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Attacking Iran because you can’t advance your domestic agenda seems like a crazy, criminal thing to do.

Byron Smith October 26, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Attacking Iran because you can’t advance your domestic agenda would actually be a crazy, criminal thing to do.

. October 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Democrats: ‘If We’re Gonna Lose, Let’s Go Down Running Away From Every Legislative Accomplishment We’ve Made’

October 27, 2010 | ISSUE 46•43

WASHINGTON—Conceding almost certain Republican gains in next month’s crucial midterm elections, Democratic lawmakers vowed Tuesday not to give up without making one final push to ensure their party runs away from every major legislative victory of the past two years.

Party leaders told reporters that regardless of the ultimate outcome, they would do everything in their power from now until the polls closed to distance themselves from their hard-won passage of a historic health care overhaul, the toughest financial regulations since the 1930s, and a stimulus package most economists now credit with preventing a second Great Depression.

“There’s a great deal on the line, and we know it isn’t going to be easy for us,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), speaking from the steps of the Capitol. “But if we suffer defeat, we will do so knowing we cowered away from absolutely anything we produced that was even remotely progressive or valuable in any way.”

“And we will keep cowering right up until Election Day,” Reid continued. “From Maine to Hawaii, in big cities and small towns, we will collapse into a fetal position and refuse to take credit for our successes anywhere voters could conceivably be swayed by learning what we have achieved on their behalf.”

. October 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm

It’s the ninth inning now, and Democrats are finally getting serious about hiding in the weeds at the slightest mention of last year’s credit-card legislation, which put an end to predatory lending schemes that are universally considered repugnant,” Carville said. “Now that’s smart politics, right there. The chips may be down, but they’re still finding a way to curl up like a bunch of pathetic little hedgehogs and piss all over themselves the moment any sort of challenge is mounted.”

When reached for comment, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters he wasn’t surprised his opponents were disowning policies he described as “disastrous for the economy, disastrous for families, and disastrous for America’s future.”

“And, what the heck, put down that it’s disastrous for our men and women in uniform,” McConnell said. “Might as well.”

. November 1, 2010 at 10:31 am

5 Reasons Republicans Could Do Even Better Than Expected
By NATE SILVER

Agreeing to Disagree: Size of Republican Wave Hard to Predict
By NATE SILVER

There’s a lot of consternation in my inbox and Twitter feed tonight about the generic congressional ballot.

Gallup’s generic ballot poll has Republicans up 15 point among likely voters, or at least their traditional model does; their higher-turnout model has Republicans up 10 instead.

Fox News, whose models haven’t had a Republican lean in the past but have something of one this year, has Republicans up 13. CNN has them up 10. Rasmussen, up 9. YouGov, plus 8.

oleh November 2, 2010 at 5:03 am

We find out tonight.

. November 8, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Voters did not like Bush’s economic policies, but neither did they believe Bush’s party would return to them. Fifty-eight percent of voters said they believed that the new breed of Republicans (like Tim Griffin, we assume) would not go back to Bush’s policies.

So voters punished Democrats even though, according to the midterm national exit poll, only 23 percent of them blamed Obama for “economic problems,” while 29 percent blamed Bush, and 35 blamed Wall Street.

One explanation for all this may be that Bush isn’t thought of as a failed president or a misunderstood Truman-esque success. He’s just not thought of, period. The defining events of his presidency—the war on terror and the economic crisis—don’t really belong to him, because Obama has presided over them, and the public doesn’t register much of a change in how they’re being handled. The scandals, meanwhile, intrigued the public up to the moment that they were turned into screenplays, at which point they stopped mattering.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: