Cross-Posted at AustinHess.com and UncommonSenseBlog.com
By Austin Hess…
I’ve taken a bit of a vacation from politics since the election (which I feel is well deserved), partly out of exhaustion and being burned out with politics, partly out of being disgusted with some of the results. It was a historic landslide victory, to be sure, but I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that this is the worst-feeling historic landslide victory ever. I haven’t been this depressed since 2008.
I’m usually a bit of a pessimist. I always say (optimistically?) that the beauty of being a pessimist is that you’re always either right or pleasantly surprised. I did get my hopes up and was optimistic about this election, but I seem to have proven the wisdom of my former pessimism. The results were good, but not as good as I’d hoped.
The House elections were the highlight of the election. There’s still some recounting going on, but by losing 65 seats, the Democrats have suffered the worst losses in the house since 1938. It was also the largest flip since 1948. It was on the low end of my prediction and there wasn’t a huge incursion into heavily Democratic strongholds, but I’m satisfied with it.
Overall, 2/3 of the House candidates outside of MA to whom I donated $17.73 won. Of the 3 who lost, I fully expected John Dennis to lose to Nancy Pelosi and Charles Djou to lose his seat in HI, so only one candidate (Tim Burns in PA-12) lost a competitive race. Charles Djou was the only Republican incumbent to whom I donated. All the rest were Republicans challenging Democratic incumbents or running for open seats being vacated by Democrats (like Stupak’s seat). Renee Ellmers is still in a recount with Bob “Who are YOU?!” Etheridge in NC-02, but she’s ahead and I think she’ll win.
Not a bad success rate. If I’d got them all, that would indicate that I wasn’t being aggressive enough and was wasting my money on non-competitive races that were already safe. If I’d lost them all, obviously I’d have been setting my sites too high and wasting my money on lost causes.
The highlight of the election is Nancy Pelosi losing her position as Speaker of the House. The icing on the cake is that she inexplicably wanted to be minority leader again (instead of gracefully retiring her leadership position, and preferably her seat), which means that we’ll be able to run against her again in 2012.
The Senate elections were a huge disappointment. The Democrats should have lost the Senate. As it is, now it will be 53 D and 47 R. A 6 seat loss is still a major loss for the Democrats in a normal year, but Republicans underperformed in several key races, and basically threw away some seats.
The only Senate candidate to whom I donated that won was Mark Kirk in IL (and it was nice to take Obama’s old seat). He was one of only 2 of the 4 close Senate races that I predicted Republicans would win (along with Toomey in PA). None of the 3 tossups that I didn’t predict one way or another went to Republicans.
Why did we lose so many of the key races? Establishment Republican types and insurgent Tea Party types are pointing their fingers at each other, but I’m going to try to have my cake and eat it to by saying both are to blame (and there are also some other factors). I’m not normally one to defend the loathsome Republican establishment that gave us Medicare part D, record deficits (until the Dems took over) and TARP, but they were right about the Tea Party throwing away the Senate seat in Delaware. That seat would have easily been won by RINO Mike Castle, but the Tea Party Express, several pundits, Palin and DeMint swooped in and threw it to Christine O’Donnell, who (though right on most of the issues) was a seriously flawed candidate that predictably lost. Mike Castle would not have been my favorite Senator, but at least he would have been a Senator (unlike O’Donnell) who could have taken control of the Senate from the Democrats. I’d rather have a someone that votes with me slightly more than half the time than someone who votes against me every time. I’d rather have had O’Donnell than Castle as well, but that wasn’t really the choice. People, in their excitement over the impending wave, seem to have forgotten Bill Buckley’s rule: vote for the most conservative candidate who can win. I know O’Donnell was unfairly savaged by the press (and even some establishment Republicans), but that is the world in which we live.
This “Christine O’Donnell effect” was seen to a lesser extent with Sharron Angle in NV, who was a similarly flawed candidate who was right on the issues but prone to gaffes. It was also seen to a small degree with Ken Buck in CO, who got off message by talking about his hard-line stances on social issues. It may have also hurt other candidates across the country who were tainted in the minds of voters by their association with O’Donnell’s wackiness, at least nominally with the R behind their names. It certainly decimated the down-ticket Republican candidates in Delaware.
The establishment is not without blame though.The establishment the ones that got us into this mess, and so disgusted the grassroots base that they were understandable ready to hold their noses and vote for candidates that most agree were not ready for prime time rather than holding their noses and towing the line for the establishment. The Tea Party is (at least almost) as much at war with the Republican establishment as it is with the Democrats. Also, the establishment sought to run these races from the top down, issuing diktats from on high (let’s not forget, they initially wanted Specter and Crist in the Senate), which was pretty tone-deaf in this environment. Their tendency to anoint and co-opt candidates may have contributed to the dearth of quality candidates who were willing to buck them. The Christine O’Donnells and Sharron Angles were the only ones left.
The race in Alaska was a perfect example of the Tea Party vs. the Establishment dynamic. The pork-queen RINO Lisa Murkowski lost the Republican primary to Joe Miller but mounted a write-in campaign. She just won the recount. I’m not sure how this happened, but I think it was a combination of Alaska’s pork addiction, the power of incumbency, strategic voting by Democrats, and Joe’s campaign itself. Joe also had a bit of the “Chrstine O’Donnell effect” working against him, as he sometimes fed into the unfair media attacks against him. Murkowski is the poster child for the establishment, even more so than Mike Castle, who at least accepted the results of the primary and did not try to pull the kind of crap that Murkowski did. She is clearly not motivated by principle or a desire to serve the public, but by her own lust for power and desire to hang onto it. The DC Republican establishment behaved shamefully in this race, trying to pay nice with both sides and essentially stay out of it to avoid pissing off the original winner. They didn’t even strip Murkowski of her seniority or committees. It’s ridiculous, but I digress…
At least Murkowski is nominally a Republican. If the Tea Party and Establishment had been able to agree on acceptable candidates in DE, NV and CO, they would have easily won those races, bringing the Republicans up to 49. Freeing up the resources from those races and perhaps Fiorina’s Quixotic race in CA (which turned out much worse than expected, but she was always an underdog) and re-allocating them might have pushed Rossi over the top in his close race in WA, bringing the total up to 50, an even split. I think WV would have benefited from more resources for an ad blitz to more effectively tie Manchin to Obama, which might have given us 51 votes in the Senate.
Finally, the Democrats’ ground game GOTV efforts cannot be underestimated, and are at least partially responsible for the losses in some key races. The difference between 1994 and 2010 was that the Democrats saw it coming this time and were successful in organizing to combat the wave by mobilizing their political machines. The unions and others that are dependent on the State for their livelihoods were able to swing the election. I believe that was especially true in Carson county, NV for Harry Reid.
There’s not a whole lot of functional difference between a 47 seat minority and a 51 seat majority for the Republicans, since with a solid filibuster and (presumably) some more control of committees, nothing will pass without their approval and bipartisan agreement. Gridlock is a good thing. Every law congress passes costs us money and freedom. I just wanted Republicans to take the majority in the Senate to rebuke Obama, and also to make Senate Democrats lose their committee chairmanships. It is very personal, for me.
The silver lining here, I guess, is that Obama won’t be able to blame everything on the intransigent Republican congress (just the House) in 2012. Also, with Harry Reid sticking around with Nancy Pelosi, they’ll be the face of the Democratic congress again in 2012, and I think the two of therm combined have a national approval rating worse than testicular cancer.
Also, in 2012 the Democrats will be defending 23 seats (the class of 2006) while the Republicans defend 10. There is a potential to flip the Senate in a big way in 2012, especially with Obama at the top of the ticket if his approval numbers do not significantly improve. There is one potential pickup I see for Democrats though: Scott Brown, based on what we saw here in MA…
The elections in MA were the most heartbreaking of the night for me. If any year was going to break the Democratic stranglehold on MA, it should have been this year. We were energized. We had good candidates on our side and bad candidates on the other side. We had the issues on our side. We even managed to successfully get an opponent on the ballot against Martha Coakley for AG after an impossible write-in campaign. I think most of us thought that with Scott Brown’s election MA was finally waking up.
Unfortunately, it looks like Scott’s election really was a fluke. We lost, and lost bad. Not a single statewide office was won by a Republican. Even Mary Z. Lost to Bump, despite Bump being so corrupt and Mary so professional that even the Boston Globe endorsed her (you have to be a really bad Democrat for the Globe to endorse a Republican).
All of the Republican congressional candidates lost. Seeing Barney Frank go back to Washington is painful (I only ever wanted to see that happen with him as an ex-Congressman called to testify in an investigation of Fannie, Freddy, etc.).
Question 3, to roll back the state sales tax to 3% from 6.25% failed.
I could have probably shrugged off all these defeats had it even been close, but most of the defeats were by insultingly large and demoralizing margins. I have more or less lost hope in MA politics for the foreseeable future. 2012 will be a presidential year with Obama (and MA may be the one state where that still helps) on the top of the ticket, so I expect it to be even more favorable to Democrats than this year. Scott Brown is also up for re-election in 2012, and based on this year’s election… I think he’s toast. I think his election really woke up the Democrats here, and their heavily unionized (and often illegal and fraudulent) GOTV machine really steamrolled us this year.
There were a few bright spots in MA, though. The Republicans essentially tripled their number of State Reps on Beacon Hill, but they are still a minuscule minority. Question 1 passed, which ended the infuriating double taxation recently enacted with the sales tax hike that applied it to booze (which already had its own system of taxes, effectively taxing you on your taxes).
I did enough this year in MA that I’m not kicking myself for not doing more, as I would be if we lost by a narrow margin (which we decidedly did not). It might have been a waste anyways, though I’m trying to assure myself that my money and efforts were not wasted. In reality, by taking the fight so hard to the Democrats in blue states this year, even when we didn’t win, we forced them to defend their home turf, and re-allocate resources from the rest of the country, helping swell the red wave nationally.
Last week I went to the Greater Boston Tea Party’s meetup at the Green Dragon feeling rather glum, but it did cheer me up a little. Michael Isenberg characterized the national wave as D-Day, while we were like the French resistance, working behind enemy lines to make it possible. I think that’s an apt analogy.
Still, I’m not sure how much longer I can stand living in a state this blue. Kat and I are seriously talking about moving to Texas. In the near term, I could probably commute to my current job from New Hampshire.
On another sad note, unlike Murkowski, I did not win my write in campaigns against unopposed Democrats for Congress (against Capuano, again), Representative in General Court (18th Suffolk District), District Attorney (Suffolk District), and Sheriff (Suffolk County). I would like to thank everyone who voted for me (probably just me) and my campaign volunteers (again, just me) for their support. Your tireless dedication, etc. something something… made a difference… hope for future, and so forth.
California was similarly disappointing as Massachusetts. Fiorina and Whitman were underdogs, but they were viable. I think it basically came down to turnout, and the Democratic machine is very entrenched in CA. It adds insult to injury though, that the “newly” elected Governor “Moonbeam” is a career politician that has never worked in the private sector and was governor previously, having taken over from RONALD REAGAN (after he took over from Brown’s father). Ridiculous.
Also, the failure of Prop. 19 to de-criminalize marijuana happening at the same time that Democrats did so well (statewide and even in the state legislature) just shows that they really are nanny-statists and that the “socially liberal” Democrat is a myth (at least, for the classical meaning of “liberal”). This, along with the current 4-Loko prohibition craze shows that, despite what they may say, Democrats really just want to control you.
CA has essentially doubled down on the policies and the party that has destroyed it financially (and is in danger of doing the same nation-wide). They had just better not expect the rest of us to bail them out once they go bankrupt (I’d just as soon cut it off and let it float away or sink… or maybe it’d “capsize”). That goes for MA too. And NY…
NY similarly resisted the wave, primarily because of bad candidates. Paladino turned out to be a nutjob. Again, candidate quality counts. The two Senate candidates running against Schumer and Gillibrand (in a special election, Kristin having just finished Hillary’s term), were non-entities (I couldn’t name them). I’m a bit irked by Pataki and Giuliani not jumping into these races. I think both have misguided Presidential ambitions and just didn’t want to risk losing a race. I think that Giuliani could have taken down Cuomo and Pataki could have taken down Gillibrand (or vice versa if Pataki wanted to run for Governor again). I wish they had. It would have been helpful.
The biggest takeaway lesson I learned (or I should say, that was reinforced) is that electability really matters. I hope that is the lesson that the Tea Party at large takes away from this. Remember Buckley’s admonition to vote for the most conservative candidate that can win. In MA, that may just be a squish like Scott Brown. As I see it, the hierarchy goes:
Socialist > True Blue Democrat > Blue Dog > Independent > RINO > “Moderate” Republican > Conservative > Tea Partier
You may be able to move a notch or two (or 3) to the right from the incumbent (or previous seat-filler being replaced) in a normal election. In a wave year, maybe more. You may rarely be able to go the whole way, but only with a flawless and electable candidate. And the degree to which you can move depends on how conservative the district/state. I’m all for purging RINOs in red states like UT and AK. DE not so much.
I hope that the Tea Party will keep electability in line in the Republican presidential primary. I also hope that both the Tea Party and the establishment can learn from the debacles in the Senate races that allowed the Democrats to retain control. The Tea Party has been (almost) as much at war with the Republican establishment as they have been with the Democrats, and for good reason. However, Tea Partiers should be pragmatic (as we usually are), and realize: “Hey, Scott Brown’s pretty good for MA,” and so forth.
The establishment should realize that they can’t go back to business as usual and shove candidates down our throats. 2010 is littered with the remains of establishment Republican candidates who were defeated in Republican primaries by Tea Partiers. Whether the general election went our way or not is irrelevant to the fact that the message to the GOP good ol’ boys should be clear. We’re taking over. We’re aiming for the senior position in this partnership, and we view them as potential allies, not friends. They should start acting like allies, and based on their quibbling about earmarks I have little faith that they’ve gotten the message. We have to hold their feet to the fire, and toss them out in primaries if they displease us…. provided that we can find a more conservative but still electable alternative.
In terms of my electioneering, I’m obviously on a bit of a break right now. As I’ve said, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for MA in 2012 based on 2010. I think my focus in MA in 2012 (to the extent that I focus on MA) will be on trying to help Scott Brown get re-elected and probably trying to torpedo Mitt Romney’s primary bid (again, as long as there is a viable more conservative option, which I hope there is). If he doesn’t do well in his home state, that looks bad. I’ll also likely try to do that in NH, which is an early primary where I could really help my favorite candidate and hurt my least favorite ones. Of course I’d vote for anyone over Obama. I’m trying to draft Calvin Coolidge’s corpse to run for re-election. In fact, I’ll probably be doing more in NH overall than MA in 2012, sadly. But hey, at least there I have a chance of winning. Who knows, by 2012 I may have voted with my feet and moved to NH as part of the Free State Project or somewhere else.
I’ll probably also focus on some Senate GOP primaries (though people I loathe like Graham aren’t up until 2014) and some of the few remaining Democratic congressman in the increasingly large number of increasingly red states (MA, CA, and NY excluded).
I think 2012 will see a consolidated and larger GOP majority in the House, a GOP majority in the Senate, and most importantly: the end of Obama’s presidency (and our national nightmare).
As for right now, I shaved off my mourning beard from the election this morning (literally), and though back from my figurative vacation from politics (except on twitter, which I cannot avoid) I am going on a literal vacation to Cancun with Kat and her family for Thanksgiving. So, I probably will not be writing much over the nest week.
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