Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hallow's Eve

All of us Democrats are bracing for an election day massacre. One can grasp at straws -- I was speaking to a friend whose working for a Congressman I had personally left for dead, and she was shockingly confident (especially given that a few months ago she was essentially passing out resumes). She told me that GOTV will be their salvation. It's a thin reed, but not a non-existent one, given the well-documented split between registered and likely voter screens. A campaign that successfully gets out some "unlikely voters" may shock some folks. But I wouldn't get one's hopes up.

The other weird thing is everyone's (I include myself) focus on absolute gains versus the relative balance of power. The consensus outcome for this election seems to be a narrow Democratic majority in the Senate, and a narrow Republican majority in the House. Since this will replace a status quo of massive Democratic majorities in both, that will require an impressive absolute number of GOP wins. But at the end of the day, what does it signify? A nation that is roughly evenly divided. Give the GOP some credit for overcoming incumbent inertia, subtract some for having economic winds at its back (and how much inertia does one need to overcome to knock off a Democratic Congressman in Idaho anyway?). A roughly 50/50 Senate and a roughly 50/50 House signify a roughly 50/50 nation. It only looks like a GOP wave because we started from such a slanted baseline.

Nonetheless, it is difficult to not look out at the coming change and mourn for lost opportunities. Yes, there were some great accomplishments in the past couple years -- the stimulus package, Ledbetter, the health care act (a fight which, more than any other, demonstrated Democratic allergy to actually winning things). But one feels like given the historic majorities we were blessed with, we could have done more. Oh well. The tide goes in, and washes out again.

In any event, with a Republican-controlled House, we can look forward to the Select Committee on Birth Certificates and, of course, impeachment proceedings. And I for one can't wait for Senator Sharron Angle to formally grace our political establishment.


joe said...

1) Every candidate worthy of being called such will do anything possible to bolster morale in the ranks (especially among staff and employees) in the final days. So there's always a GOTV push or trump card of an ad that will make the difference. And of course, until the moment of truth we can't prove the negative, but I don't see the predictive power.

2) The fear among many is that even division, or even a slight advantage, is just not enough if we conclude that the status quo is not working. For environmental groups, for example, delay on global warming legislation is defeat. Same for civil rights, justice delayed is an ongoing injustice. (But if nothing else, the judicial overturn of DADT underscores the importance of liberals actually getting off their backsides and voting for candidates who will appoint and confirm good judges.) And down the line it goes for spending priorities, economic poliicy, etc.

David Schraub said...

Well, that's what I said to her, and she said that, having worked on midterm elections before, she "knows what a losing campaign feels like" (this apparently wasn't it).

N. Friedman said...

I leave it to greater lights than I to prognosticate. That said, I think the problem for a committed ideologue is that the public mood appears to be anti-ideological. Or, at least that is what Scott Rasmussen claims in today's Wall Street Journal, writing that we are not dealing with a victory of one part over the other - except in the technical sense - but in the failure of both parties to address issues about which the public care. He claims that this has been the issue of the last several party turn-overs.

My gut reaction is that the president did himself and his party in on forecasting that his policies would, by now, have reduced unemployment to 8.5% or better and then by, rather than focusing on achieving that goal by working it repeatedly, changing the subject to healtcare insurance, an important issue but of the second order, except to committed ideologues. Which is to say, I think the reason the Democrats are in trouble are substantive and that they are being blamed for the President's seemingly poor judgment. Rasmussen notes my point as well but sees a broader issue at work, as I already noted.

I rather suspect that if the GOP decides to focus on its hatred of all things Democrat, the GOP will do itself in. That would be, to follow Rasmussen's logic further, an even greater misreading of the situation than was made by the President.