Election Round Up

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!

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Predictions 2010!

The last round of polling this cycle has been pretty terrible today. Are Dems really trailing by 15 points on the generic ballot? Is Dino Rossi really going to win in Washington? Is the Senate actually in doubt? What will this mean for your weekend?

Basically, things look pretty grim for tomorrow. The only question seems to be “how bad will it actually be?” I’ve tended to be more positive than most this cycle, but Democrats haven’t done much to confirm my optimism. So how terrible is it going to be waking up Wednesday? Here’s my absolutely unfounded and idle speculation for tomorrow.

  1. Republicans’ biggest gains will come in the House. Nate Silver has it at 53 seats. That seems high to me, but not by much. Republicans need 40 seats to win control of the House, which they should grab pretty easily. I’d say they’ll reach about 47, giving them a razor thin majority with which to strangle themselves for two years.
  2. Democrats’ biggest losers will be Blue Dogs and conservadems from the South and Midwest. Depending on how you look at it, this is either surprising or a tautology. On one hand, obviously Democrats are most vulnerable in places where there aren’t a lot of Democrats voting. On the other hand, for all the talk about liberals and scary big government, shouldn’t it be surprising that the most conservative, pro-business Democrats are the ones poised to get hit hardest? Well, it isn’t surprising to me, since I’ve said all along that Democrats don’t win by being fake Republicans, but I bet it will be surprising inside the beltway. The pruning of the caucus might help wake up some members of the tent, in any case.
  3. Close Senate Races: Here’s my list of races to watch: KY, PA, WA, AK, WI, NV, WV, IL, and CO. Democrats will hold CA and CT, Republicans will take OH, FL, and disappointingly, NH. Of those 9 tossups, I’m leaning towards Republicans winning KY, PA, AK (in some form or another), and WV for 4. Democrats then take WA,NV, IL, WI and CO for 5, which would be an outstanding result. Of course, it would also mean I wasted all of my donations this year. I think I’m probably in the minority here, but I’m clinging to hope that the Reid machine in Nevada will carry him across the line, and I think Russ Feingold will shock everyone and pull it out in Wisconsin. The best possible outcome for Democrats is probably 55 seats. If Democrats have held the fort at 55 or even 54, I think you’re going to a pretty shocking results elsewhere.
  4. Deval Patrick will hold on in MA. I would be surprised if it were closer than 5 points.
  5. Bellweathers: For Democrats, winning the FL governor’s office and hanging on to the same seat in Ohio probably means it’s been a better-than-expected night. Holding West Virginia probably means the same thing. For Republicans, if Buck and Tancredo both win in CO, it’s probably the apocalypse and we should all start filling out our paperwork to move to Switzerland.
  6. The media will come to all the wrong conclusions no matter what happens. No explanation necessary.
  7. For Democrats, any scenario in which they hold one House of congress can be spun as a win, even if it’s only holding 51 seats in the Senate and losing 80 seats in the House. It’s not hard to spin having half of Congress and the Presidency to play with for 2 years as a win, even if it’s a bit facetious.
  8. For Republicans, failing to win either house would be a disaster not seen in politics for years. Even if they have 50 seats in the Senate and 217 seats in the House, the party will be ripped apart over the next two years. Republicans absolutely have to win the House, and by a pretty good margin at that, to have any chance of holding the party together.
  9. No matter what happens, the GOP Death Spiral will worsen over the next 2 years. The 2012 Republican Primary will be high entertainment, of course. But more than that, Republicans are going to face some serious problems in a divided government. They’ll probably face minor power struggles in the caucus as teabaggers try to oust establishment figures from power. They won’t be able to force through anything by way of campaign promises, especially since they’ve basically promised to bring American back to the 1830s. This will rile up the teabaggers even more, and they’ll be out for blood over the next primary season. Democrats will have their own problems, of course, but infighting for Democrats is like spinach. It rejuvenates them, revitalizes them, makes them tick. A Democratic party without infighting would be like the Tour de France without advanced doping techniques. Republicans, though, will not be able to deal with it. And how delicious would it be if the margin in the Senate was Scott McAdams sneaking into the Alaska Senate seat in a three way race? Fox News would explode.
  10. Prop. 19 will fail. I haven’t written much about Prop. 19, which is surprising since it combines two of my favorite things: Weed and Direct Democracy. All there really is to say though, is that it’s absolutely staggering that people picked this cycle of all cycles to put it up for a vote. The best case scenario would be a high-turnout election with a relatively liberal tilt, like, you know, the exact opposite of this year. I’d be shocked if “Yes” gets even 45%. That said, I have to figure the trend has been accelerated, and the legalization question has become more a “when” than an “if”. It might win if it makes it back on the ballot in 2012, but in any case I think it will be legalized somewhere in this country before the decade is over. If I were guessing, I’d say California, Colorado, Oregon, or Washington. If I were hoping, I’d say Massachusetts.
  11. Finally, on average, I think Democrats will do better than predicted. Hopelessly naive? Maybe, but I’m having a hard time accepting that likely voters haven’t changed at all since 1994. Maybe it’s only a 47 seat shellacking in the House and a 7 seat shellacking in the Senate. Not great, but hey, it could be worse.

So there you have it, on record for easy mocking later. I might pop in and out tomorrow night in a sort of live-blog, but I’ll definitely be back Wednesday for a postmortem detailing exactly how wrong I was. I hope you’ll join me!

The Obama Coalition, the Enthusiasm Gap, and the Upcoming Midterms

I’ve stopped reading Fivethirtyeight as much as I used to since they moved over to the New York Times. The analysis is still good, but something seems missing. Perhaps the stringent NYT policies have neutered Nate and the gang a little more than I was anticipating. He rarely editorializes any more, which I suppose is a good thing for fans of objectivity. But it’s hard to run a successful election blog if you never talk about the likely policies implemented by those who win them. Maybe I’m just biased, but I seem to remember Nate taking a more proactive stance when it came time to call a teabagger a teabagger before he got into bed with the Gray Lady.

As a result of this real or perceived change, his analysis has become a lot less interesting. Predicting Republican gains of 52 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate doesn’t mean anything in the abstract. I used to be addicted to the Fix, Chris Cilliza’s blog over at the Washington Post. Then, during the 2006 election season I was forced to endure post after post about campaign insider bullshit and “balance” from both sides. Even after it became pretty clear Democrats were headed for big gains, we still heard from one Republican strategist after another.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that the analysis for this election, and I’m beginning to think, all midterm elections, is destined to be rubbish. And if it’s all rubbish, then my rubbish will fit right in with the rest of it, even if it tends to be more bullish than bearish on the Democratic prospects. So get ready for some serious unfounded speculation.

Obama won in 2008 with a very solid coalition that included a lot of first time voters, minorities, young voters, etc. As you’ve no doubt heard, this very coalition is the kind that does not hold up in midterms. Only old white people vote in midterms, and those Sids and Berthas are ready to deliver the election to the GOP. Not only that, but the tea party has them so riled up that they can’t wait to roll out of the home, get on the free shuttle to the elementary school, and cast their vote for Barry Goldwater. Why, he’ll show those Russkies whatfor!* Polling has pretty consistently shown an enthusiasm gap that, coupled with the already more conservative electorate expected, will drive the GOP on to unprecedented heights. I’m not going to argue that, in years past, this would almost definitely have been the case.

*Getting sick of the old jokes yet?

That said,  in his analysis today, Nate Silver says that a 2% bias in polling would give Democrats a 50% chance of holding the House. Basically, if the national polling average shows is biased towards Republicans by only 2%, Democrats would be a coin flip to hold on to both Houses of Congress. Is it likely? No, but it’s not unheard of. As Silver points out, in 1998 the polling was off by 5%.

Basically, the best chance Democrats have right now comes from professional polling companies being relatively terrible at their jobs. It’s not very likely, is it? Well, no. But I have a few things that give me a little ray of hope:

  • The Cell Phone conundrum: I suppose if you follow polling with any degree of seriousness, you probably already have an opinion on this. Basically, it’s much harder to call cell phones for a poll than land lines. Since cell phone-only households tend to be younger and poorer than tradition phone homes, theoretically this would skew any sample towards the Republican candidate. Most pollsters compensate for this problem by simply weighting certain demographics more heavily than others. At some point, polling goes from scientific (getting a good sample, weighting questions properly, analyzing trends) to artistic (applying “likely voter” screens, weighting samples). So, if a pollster doesn’t feel like he’s reached enough 18-24 year olds, he’ll take the ones he did get and make their opinions count for more until he has what he believes to be a representative sample. You can probably already see where the problems might arise. So if pollsters across the board are underweighting the cell-phone only users, you could see bias arise. The other problem is actually reaching enough people from the correct demographic to get a representative sample to weight at all. Are these problems likely? Not especially, perhaps. But remember, it’s only 2%.
  • The Organizing for America machine is still in operation, albeit running at less than full capacity. Just because there’s an enthusiasm gap doesn’t mean people won’t be reached by GOTV operations and driven to their local polling place. It was a major advantage for Democrats in 2008. Will it be enough to overcome the enthusiasm gap? Probably not, but it’s only 2%. There’s a reason slimy Republican lawyers have crawled out of their homes in Gringott’s and on the planet Dagobah to try to drive down participation with voter “fraud” schemes.
  • Does anyone really know how moderates and independents are going to vote and in what numbers? Surveys have consistently shown that even when Republicans are winning, the party has very negative ratings. Presumably, the independents who show up will tend to be right-leaning. But what if there are left-leaning independents who are being left out of these polls who are really scared of the teahadist agenda? Democrats only need to get them to the polls.
  • Finally, and this is really cold-hard baseless speculation here, nobody really knows how the Obama coalition will actually hold up in a midterm. Don’t forgot, Obama won in places no Democrats could have been expected to win in just 4 years earlier. I always harp on about 2008 being a realigning election. If that’s the case, then Democrats are pulling from a very different, much larger base all over the country. Just because the old Democratic coalition was weak in midterms, it does not necessarily follow that the new one will be. Historically, yes, these groups tend to show up less frequently in midterms. But maybe the pollsters this year have made assumptions about this new coalition that are no longer accurate. Is it especially likely? No, of course not. But again, it’s only 2%.

I suppose we’ll know on election day how accurate the polling was.  But as I’ve said before, the Democrats have a very low bar to clear next week. And it’s not outlandish for them to clear it comfortably. The current projections are around 25% to hold the House, and that’s probably accurate. How unlikely is 25%, really? Well, pull out a deck of cards and pick one. If it’s a diamond, the Democrats hold the House. And if any of the assumptions pollsters have been making are off by only 2%, all you have to do is pick a red card from the deck. The only difference is everyone is predicting, nay, expecting, that you’ll pick a club, and if you don’t, everyone wins a dollar while the clubs and spades have a thoroughly entertaining civil war.

On another note, if you’d like to read a little historical perspective on the tea Party and the Know-Nothings from the mid 19th Century, why not check out this Op-Ed from the Boston Herald? Full disclosure, it was written by my father. Don’t worry though. You won’t find the same rambling nonsense from him that you do here.

Bottom of the Barrel Optimism

As always, apologies for not posting more. Work has blah blah blah blah. You know all the excuses. But it’s time for a little election update now that we’re only a few weeks out from the midterms. I guess you might say the real reason I haven’t been posting much here is the fact that despite all my prognosticating, Democrats are poised to take a walloping on November 2nd. So what reasons do Democrats have to be happy? And in the grand scheme of things, what will the upcoming election mean?

I think it’s ok to be optimistic if you’re a Democrat for a few reasons. Right now, the smart money is Republicans to take the House with about 228 seats, while Democrats will retain the Senate with around 52 seats. That’s a pretty big drubbing right there. On the other hand, this is literally the worst possible environment for Democrats. the media narrative since about January 2009 has been that Democrats are going to get smoked and bad. But look at those numbers again. 228 seats in the house is a 20 seat majority. That’s not exactly nothing, but 20 seats in the House isn’t exactly the Politburo. So if, after the worst cycle in 15 years, the Democrats come out of it with a 20 seat deficit in the House and a 2 seat advantage in the Senate, that’s not much of a permanent Republican majority, is it? I mean, with Obama back on the ticket in 2012, I’d fully expect Democrats to end up closer to where they are today than where they will be on November 3rd.

That’s another reason Democrats can be optimistic. Obama will win reelection in 2012. He’s pretty popular considering the narrative, and most pundits blame Democratic disillusionment for the upcoming trouncing. They’ll be back on board in 2012. Right now, people seem to think Mitt Romney is posed to become the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. I think that speaks for itself.

In a strange way, losing the House might be the best thing Democrats could hope for. Their narrative of intractable Republicans blocking things to the detriment of the country is a winner*, but it’s hard to make it stick when your highest profile spats have been within your own party. If Syracuse’s mascot John Boehner has his bloated orange face in front of the cameras as Speaker every day, that message becomes a lot more salient. When Darrel Issa starts investigating minorities for having the gall to be given loans, or when Michele Bachmann is calling for hearings into Obama’s birth certificate, America will really get a chance to see which party has the adults and which has the children. Republicans could win just enough seats to strangle themselves.

*It worked for Harry Truman in ’48, don’tcha know?

And let’s not forget, America is expecting the world of Republicans on November 2nd. Democrats are still, according to 538, 3:1 against to retain the house, and about 1:3 favorites to hold the Senate. But expectations are sky-high for Republicans right now. I get the impression that failing to win the Senate would be viewed as a wash, while failing to win the House would be a disaster. It may not be very likely, but if by some accident of chance, Democrats over-perform on Election Day, you’ll see some fireworks in the GOP you haven’t seen since Reconstruction. Establishment Republicans will blame the Teabaggers, Teabaggers will blame the Establishment. Jim DeMint will attack John Cornyn with a cane on the Senate floor. Sarah Palin will call for the assassination of Richard Nixon. It could get ugly.

The GOP as we know it is fading away. Don’t let any credulous media types tell you otherwise, no matter what happens on Election Day. This bump is the last gasp of a dying man. Either they win enough seats to tie up Washington for 2 years and drive the country into the ground, or they don’t and the party rips itself apart in spectacular fashion. There’s not really a middle ground here. So yes, I’ll be depressed on Election night. You probably will too, because it likely means a return to insanity. But on November 3rd, take a deep breath, look at the landscape, and realize that nothing has really changed.

Obama and the Professional Left

Robert Gibbs caused a bit of a kerfluffle last week when he went on TV to disparage the administrations left-leaning critics. Obama, as you probably know, has come under a lot of pressure from the left, who have felt he has not been sufficiently confrontational in the face of Republican obstructionism, or who feel every compromise has been one too many. And so Robert Gibbs took on the unhappy responsibility of telling them all off. Predictably, there was an internet uproar for a few days, then everyone went back to arguing about the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” It was pretty much scored an embarrassment for Obama and Gibbs.

Now that the dust has cleared, I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in. After all, there’s no question that I am one of the “Left,” and if I could, I would be thrilled to get paid for it. So I guess you could call me part of the “Amateur Left.” Basically, I should be pissed. After all, I haven’t been thrilled with a lot of the compromises and half-cooked schemes to grab the bipartisan mantle. No one has said Obama has made a mistake dealing with Republicans more than I have. And yet, when I read the comments, I thought it was pretty accurate. I wasn’t angry at all.

It’s actually kind of hard to explain. I understand how one could be upset. The left has offered a number of substantive criticisms of the administration, and provides the the financial and ideological base of the Democratic party. To be brushed off in such a dismissive manner seems like a slap in the face. So on one level, I understood the anger. But sometimes it’s important to take a step back and ask what the alternative is. Where would we be if someone else were in the White House? I don’t mean a Republican. I’m not going to set that strawman alight. Obama didn’t run on being simply better than the Republicans. An infected, scabby wound could have done that. No, Obama ran on a platform of change. He wanted us to believe that the world was going to be different. The myriad crises we were facing were not a hurdle, but an opportunity to reshape the world and make it a better place. He wasn’t running on stewardship.

Unfortunately, all he’s really been able to do is take control of a bad situation and make the most of it. He’s faced a disastrously inept congress and an almost comically unhelpful opposition. He’s had to deal with a zillion ridiculous issues arising from his race and background. And through it all, he’s been exactly the calm hand we’ve needed. There is literally no other politician I would rather have in power. And yet, he can’t buy a break from us on the left. We haven’t gotten everything we’ve wanted, so fuck him.

The shocking thing is we are not yet halfway through his first term. No, Obama didn’t quite enter the office with the same whirlwind of activity FDR did. But let’s be honest, we had a more functional democracy then. The minority party was willing to work with the majority party. Conspiracy theories riled up the masses, but the respectable newpapers, the opinion-drivers, didn’t pay them any heed. Obama has inherited perhaps the worst crisis of government in this country since Lincoln. And those who agree with him ideologically, those who share his goals and ideals, will not even give him half a term to prove himself.

To be honest, that’s not even the point. Obama has done a very good job so far, and he deserves better than he’s getting from the left. I was disappointed with the final health care bill, and the demise of the energy bill, and the ongoing overseas commitments, and a bunch of other things. We can all second guess the strategy and the messaging. But maybe for once we should let our guard down. When Obama was campaigning, he never said it would be easy. There’s a generation’s worth of corruption and faulty ideology to fight against. There’s the last gasp of the old political order to stamp out. Maybe we should step back and ask, “what, realistically, is the absolute best we could have hoped for from this administration?” And if I’m being honest – and if David Sirota and Maureen Dowd and Jane Hamsher are being honest – it’s not a heck of a lot better than we’ve gotten. Maybe it sounds nihilistic. Maybe it sounds like I’m just saying, hey, maybe this country is bleeped in the bleep. But I think it’s a lot more positive than that. The world is already changing. In 6 years, much less 60, I have a feeling the left will wonder what their ideological ancestors were thinking.

Obama’s Silent Majority

*Posting note: Summer vacation is over and I’ll resume regular posting this week. Of course, regular for me may not be regular for everyone else, but hey, I’m trying*

As I continue to stand athwart the nattering nabobs of Democratic negativity, I’ve begun to think of another era. Join me, if you will, on a magical mystery tour back to the halcyon days of 1968.

It’s a long time ago. 1968 was “The Year of the Pitcher,” as Denny McLain won 31 games and Bob Gibson posted a ludicrous 1.12 ERA. Baseball saw its most pitching-dominated season since the deadball era. Of course, 1968 is more famous for the political turmoil it brought. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. Rioting broke out at the Democratic convention in Chicago. And a criminal named Tricky Dick rode a wave of racism into the White House and proceeded to loot the country. All right, maybe it’s not that simple. But it was a chaotic time.

Nixon’s winning strategy is the now-infamous “Southern Strategy.” Basically, he and his advisers correctly guessed that southern Democrats were more conservative than the Democratic party, and could be won over with a message of “law and order” and “strong foreign policy” and “scary black men.” By peeling off the former Democratic strongholds, he was able to ride to victory in a realigning election, reverse the biggest loss the party had taken in years, and start the process of driving American politics and policy rightward for over 30 years.* It was 1968 that set the groundwork for 1980, 1994, and 2000.

*It also set the groundwork for its own collapse by sacrificing long term growth demographics for short term electoral success. The interesting thing about realigning elections is that they involve coalitions that will cease to get along as time passes. The FDR coalition of liberal well-educated northerners, conservative white southerners, and the urban working class eventually splintered. The conservative coalition of Nixon and Reagan is splintering now, but that’s a post for another time. The point is, the coalitions required to overthrow a regime are not necessarily in harmony, and eventually the bill comes due.

Nixon was famously undaunted by the passion of the American Left because he felt that good Americans were scared of the hairy pot smokers and didn’t want them anywhere near power. He claimed he had a “silent majority” of Americans ready to vote for the good, upstanding man who would bring order to the country and victory in Vietnam. He won, of course, then trounced a true liberal candidate in ’72 before being impeached. The silent majority had come through.

Why are we dawdling in 1968 when there’s so much excitement to be found here in good old 2010? Well, I have a theory. We have come full circle from 1968. We have political unrest brought about by a severe economic downturn, a foreign policy in shambles because of a reckless previous administration, and a “mass” “movement” sweeping the nation demanding radical reforms. How are the teabaggers any different from the yippies? They both stood for a radical program to remake America in their own image. They both used semi-violent rhetoric against the sitting administration. They both have no clear, actionable plan on what to do if they gain power. And they both, to an outsider, seem to be run by insane extremists.

The Southern Strategy grabbed voters who were socially conservative but economically moderate or liberal by preying on fear of change and a promise of order from chaos. Today, I see a vast reservoir of moderates who fear the same thing. They’re a different generation, but they have the same fears of turmoil. And when they look at Obama, all they see is a guy who’s out to do a job. He’s a guy who just wants to get things done. He’s smart, obviously, and he’s calm. They look at the rhetoric of the Tea Party and the “plans” they have for once they win and they get scared. Who really wants to slash social safety nets in the middle of a recession? Who really cares about the deficit when no one can find a job? Who really wants to close the borders or engage in racial profiling? When did these ideas become mainstream?

The answer of course, is that they’re not. But because the loudest minority is dominating the news cycle, it seems like the average person who just wants to get through this is outnumbered and alone. Americans are often thought of as politically ignorant or irrational, and they can be. But I really think there’s a silent majority out there of people who will gladly vote for whoever promises a return to normalcy. And today, that is Barack Obama.

The sensible American is not happy. The situation in which we find ourselves is precarious. The economy is still a disaster. The world situation is dangerous. There are demagogues and rabblerousers who would lead the United States to ruin. Crises like climate change and oil dependence are waiting just around the corner. I believe that most people know this. Not the people on the news with the misspelled signs and the American flag ties and the subtly racist fliers. The regular person in his or her kitchen, watching the news or reading the paper. Those people are quietly watching the chaos and looking for the sensible candidate who can steer the ship. The silent majority that will keep Obama and the Democrats in power.

Obviously, it’s not a perfect parallel. Nixon was running against the sitting vice-president who had lost his base. The Democrats were coming off historic highs and had no place to go but down. It was a presidential election, not a congressional one, when the party in power, no matter how sensible, can be expected to lose. And I don’t think the Democrats are going to win like Nixon did. They can really only hope to lose softly. So it’s not 1968 all over again. But I don’t know if you’ve checked the ERA leaders recently. Major League Baseball is having it’s best year for pitchers in a long time. Some commentators have even dubbed it a new “Year of the Pitcher.”

How Democrats Can Lose (Worse than Expected)

Obviously, you’ve all been following the World Cup and are much more interested in my terrific and cutting analysis of the matches so far. Well, you’ll be able to find that soon enough on Moonside. In the meantime, here’s something that’s been bothering me recently.

In 2000, Al Gore was sort of almost but not quite elected president. His almost not presidency is one of the great what-might-have-beens of our time.* But no matter what you think about that, the reality is that Al Gore and his soon-to-be has-been campaign staff did more to cost them that election than an entire truckload of George Bushes and Ralph Naders and Hanging Chads. The brainspurts and mentalists running the campaign listened to the media and decided to run away from Bill Clinton. Not even considering the imagery of someone running against their own boss of 8 years, think about Bill Clinton’s presidency. When he ran in 1992, his now-famous campaign mantra was “It’s the Economy, Stupid.” Al Gore could have ran the entire campaign around the same thing and won easily. It was like the 20s all over again. Only we wouldn’t have had our own Herbert Hoover. Pretending that schtupping an intern was more toxic than presiding over the greatest economic expansion since the Industrial Revolution was useful may have been the most idiotic analysis of all time.

*Most people fall into two camps on this. One camp thinks that Gore would have magically solved the ills of the world, leading to a fairy land of America, where everyone owns a boat and grows high-quality, legal weed in their backyard. The other camp thinks that the problems were intractable, and Gore would have been a one-termer after the shit hit the fan. I lie in the middle. I think the shit would have hit the fan, Gore wouldn’t have won in 2004 (depending on who he ran against), but we’d be in better shape now. Unless Mitt Romney somehow got involved.

So here we are, 10 years later, and the Democrats are poised to get something between socked and shellacked in the midterm elections. I’ve already argued that I don’t think the Democrats are going to do as badly as expected. Or, to rephrase that, I don’t think the Republicans are going to do as well as expected. But like in 2000, Democrats are uniquely positioned to knock in an own goal. And like how Al Gore and his advisers screwed up in 2000, Democrats seem hell bent on making it happen.

Basically, Democrats are panicked by the media. They think the teabagger uprising represents a real danger to them. It’s been pointed out hundreds of times by everyone from Nate Silver to me that these are not voters Democrats should be concerned about. In fact, they should be giddy at the prospect of facing off with them. Instead, they decided that there really is a grassroots populist uprising that just happens to be in favor of the opposite of everything the Democrats have been and should be doing.

Instead of gearing up to inject another round of stimulus into the still-flagging economy, Democrats in Congress have given a collective “fuck that noise” shrug to the Obama administration’s desire to do so. Here’s the thing: the stimulus has worked. But just like you can’t cure bronchitis with a delicious Luden’s Cough Drop, you can’t solve the biggest private sector collapse since 1932 with a year’s worth of what amounts to government petty cash. Stimulus funds are set to dry up in September, which is, in Political Science terms, right before the fucking election. So Democrats, so panicked that the 11 teabaggers who keep sending out those emails about how Obama secretly erased the 2nd Amendment from all the Constitutions in the land will condemn their freewheeling spending to stop the US Economy from years of ruin, will bravely ignore the necessity of increasing demand in the economy.

Look, like everything else, the stimulus is not universally popular. It may not even be popular with a majority of voters. But you know what will be really unpopular? Everyone and their cat not having a job in November. Massive layoffs. Schools firing teachers and not buying new materials. If Democrats don’t go all the way here, they’ll be about as popular as Robert Green round the pub on the corner of St. Swindon’s and Hamdenshire. How many times do they have to lose these elections before someone figures this out? You don’t win teabaggers by being Diet Lite Tea Drink. And you don’t win coffee drinkers by being a dog turd with a packet of Splenda mixed in. Democrats need to man up and be Democrats to win.

Because if they stop now and go into “we’re sorry about the mess” mode, two things will happen. First, they will get clobbered by voters who now not only blame them for the stimulus, but who also blame them because the economy is still sputtering anyways. Second, Republicans will again have the ability to do things besides posturing and pretending 41 Senators are a mandate. And that’s the biggest problem. Republicans can only make this situation worse.

Not to go back to the Great Depression again, but Roosevelt tightened the belt in 1937 and the economy famously went back into the tank. When the New Deal was in full swing, Democrats were called commies and pinkos every time they scratched their balls. And they kept winning. You can’t pander to the loudest. You have to pander to the most. Somehow, Democrats haven’t figured out that a gang of loud, obnoxious, talk show host wannabes aren’t the center of this country. Democrats hold the right positions. They have the right candidates. They have the right ideas (a bit). And somehow they don’t want to play their hand.

Sometimes, when you’re playing cards, you have to look at the guy across the table who’s been raising you with four hearts up and talking about how he can’t believe you’re re-raising him with only two pair and call his bluff. You can’t keep folding the better hand. The difference is that not only are the teabaggers/GOP not holding a flush, the Democrats are holding a full house anyway. The only way they lose is if they get scared and fold. And shocker of shockers, a lot of them want to do just that.