Well, that sucked…
What, you were expecting some hard hitting analysis? Oh, all right. Here are my takeaways from last night.
- I was wrong about Republicans winning just enough seats to strangle themselves with. They won more than enough seats to strangle themselves with. They’ve won a large enough majority to actually be expected to do something to appease their base. But they’ve also won a large enough majority so that they’ll actually need to do something for government to function. Rather than having a razor thin majority they could use to avoid doing any work for two years, they’ve won a larger majority filled up with assorted wackaloons and wingnuts all angling to be the next Michele Bachmann or Steve King. John Boehner is going to have to walk a tight line here. Should he appease the radicals who want a repeat of 1995, with government shutdowns and needless “investigations,” thus risking proving to the country that Republicans are who we thought they were? Or does he try to govern moderately sensibly, working across the aisle and with Obama to find solutions to very real and dangerous problems facing American, thus alienating his base and half (or more?) of his caucus. Republicans have actually been given a chance to reinvent themselves, a rarity in our society, and I guess I should be thankful they’ll fail to capitalize on it.
- My predictions: They weren’t that bad, I guess. I whiffed on the overall House count, but I missed pretty much the same way as everyone else did. With specific Senate races I was pretty off too, but I got the balance about right. The lesson is, as always, never back people like me when we’re against people like Nate Silver. I did call Deval’s win in MA though. Good old Massachusetts. Always bucking those trends.
- Prop. 19 got killed, but I still think this is a temporary setback. Legalization is going to gain steam over the next decade. This loss changes nothing on that front, but I wish it had been a little closer. Now, I’m going to go on a little rant here. I was never once asked to donate money to Prop. 19. Is that surprising? Probably not completely, as I’m not a California voter, but it shows the campaign was probably not exploring all its avenues. I gave money to defeat Prop. 8, I’ve given money to liberal Democrats all over the country, and I’ve subscribed to liberal magazines and blogs. I have a blog where I’ve openly declared my opinion on the legalization debate, and another where you can see the effects of Marijuana consumption firsthand. I know a ballot initiative isn’t going to have a national structure like a Presidential campaign, but in today’s electoral landscape, you have to find people like me and get our money. I should be on every liberal mailing list in the damn country by now. County Commissioners in Bumfuck, IN should be emailing me with their proposals for new swimming pools. It’s easier than ever before to engage supporters across the country. How do you miss these opportunities?
- I’m not gutted. I was a little upset by the margin in the House, and the Sestak loss was galling, but I was nowhere near as upset as I was in 2004. I think it’s easier to see the writing on the wall these days then it was then. Back then it seemed like 1/2 the country was completely insane. Now it only seems like 1/3. Progress is never easy in this country.
- The Blue Dog Caucus lost over half its members last night, as was widely predicted. A pretty amazing stat, courtesy of DailyKos: The Blue Dogs went from holding 21% of the Democratic Caucus to 13% in a much smaller group. The Progressive caucus now holds a plurality of votes for Democrats in the House. And another crazy stat, courtesy of TPM: only 12 of the 39 House Dems who voted against Health Care will be returning. Some will look at this and see a victory for the extremists on both sides. But I think that’s lazy. I think the more likely explanation is this: Democrats need to be Democrats, then they need to explain why that’s good. Voters are not interested in wishy-washy compromises and triangulation and camaraderie. Times are tough and people want their government to do something to make life better. Democrats need to sell their ideas, not try to be baby Republicans. People who know what Democrats have done like Democrats. So increase the number of those people and you win. It’s not hard.
- Harry Reid actually kind of coasted to victory considering where the polls had him. And his victory shows that Democrats can win a base election too. Unions and Hispanics drove the Reid win. He didn’t shy away from health care or Obama or from being a Democrat. The Democratic machines gathered some dust this year. Hopefully Democrats realize the machines are still very much functioning.
- This was not a victory for Republicans as much as a loss for Democrats, which is another reason I don’t feel as bad as I did in 2004. Republicans are still pretty much hated. The only question is whether a leaner Democratic party can take advantage of that. I’m not worried about a Republican resurgence happening any time soon, since I stand by everything I’ve ever written about the GOP death spiral. But I also realize that Democrats are perfectly capable of letting them hang around for the occasional election night like this if they don’t start fighting today’s fights.
- The post-victory glow is masking the internal divisions in the GOP. Right now, the teabaggers and the establishment are shaking hands and grinning like they just got a reacharound. But mark my words: at the first hint of obstruction from the leadership, the claws will come out. Maybe the Republicans can hold it together long enough to avoid any ugly leadership coups. But there’s a simmering cauldron of bile ready to explode underneath all the shiteating grins.
- Lawrence O’Donnell is a blowhard, but MSNBC was pretty funny to watch last night. When Obama won, Fox News looked like they were all on suicide watch. But the crew at MSNBC seemed more exasperated than anything else. I guess they’re smart enough to realize that this situation doesn’t mean the same thing as 2008 did.
- Rand Paul is even dumber than I thought he was. I’m less scared of him than I thought I would be. After watching his victory speech (rant? incoherent babbling? verbal diarrhea?) last night, I realized he’s too dumb to accomplish anything in the Senate. If you’re reading, Mr. Paul, yes I would say this to your face, and I dare to you try to prove me wrong. Pass that Bald Eagle skin shoes and coats deregulation bill.
I suppose my little analysis reeks of optimism. I would imagine a lot of Democrats are pretty broken up over these results, although I’ve been pretty impressed by how rational everyone in the netroots has been so far. I’m actually surprised myself. Yes, Football Manager 2011 is coming out on Friday, and I’m sure that has something to do with my general feeling of happiness. But really, I think if you’re rational, it’s hard not to be optimistic. I’ve given a million reasons over the last few years of why I think Democrats and the US Left in general are in for a good run. But really, it’s because I’m a Democrat, and at its heart, being a Democrat is really all about optimism. To be a Democrat, you really have to believe the world can be made better. You have to see things for how they were, how they are, and how they can be. You really have to believe that people can be better, government can be better, and society can be better. To be a Democrat, you have to know that people working together can make the world a better place. You gotta have hope.
So maybe it’s not entirely rational. Maybe there’s a little bit of “Just wait ’til next year” in me too. But I really believe, both rationally and irrationally, that Republicans have just had their (warning! nerdy Civil War references ahead!) Battle of Chickamauga. They’ve already lost the Battle of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, but they haven’t realized they’re losing the war. A significant victory, perhaps. An impressive victory, surely. But in the grand scheme of things, a historical hiccup, a speed bump on the road to realignment.
To balance the schmaltziness of that last bit, here’s a little fun from the BBC coverage of last night’s elections. They have some weird conventions over there. Enjoy!