I avoided political news yesterday, but this morning I bit the bullet and took a look at a few postmortems. I think Charles Pierce comes closest:
I think it was contemplating the fact that both Sam Brownback and Paul LePage both may have survived as governors that was the last straw for me tonight. Brownback has wrecked his state. Even Kansas Republicans believe that. LePage is a local embarrassment who became a national embarrassment in the final days before the election. Even Maine Republicans believe that. But Brownback will go back to wrecking his state, and LePage will go back to embarrassing his because of an attitude that Republicans, and the conservative movement that has powered the party, have cultivated carefully over the last three decades. They have engaged, quite deliberately and quite successfully, in a concerted effort to convince the country that self-government is a game for suckers. Nobody does what they say they’re going to do, so ignore the fact that our candidates have drifted so far to the right that they’ll be falling into the Thames any minute now because they’re not going to act on their fringe beliefs, and just go out there and vote your Id. Once you’ve divorced the act of voting from the conviction that voting will have any connection to what the government actually does, voters do not vote their desires, they vote their anger and their fear. And Sam Brownback goes back to wrecking his state and Paul LePage goes back to embarrassing his own.
Seriously, if we’d all taken a drink every time some election night bobblehead declared voters were tired of “politics as usual” or “fed up with Washington” we’d still be passed out. The bare-assed facts of the results would suggest that voters want more of the same. They want more wreckage, more gridlock, more drama, more stagnation. Except, they probably really don’t. They’re probably mostly really disgusted. So they vote for the candidate who personifies their disgust. As Pierce says, they are voting their Id. That’s the only explanation that makes sense.
Let us dispense with some conventional wisdom before it petrifies. First of all, the president’s basic unpopularity was unquestionably a factor, but not anywhere near as much of a factor as was the reluctance of the Democratic party — from the president on down — to embrace the actual successes that the administration has achieved. The economy is, in fact, improving. It is the responsibility of the president and his party that we have the paradoxical polling that indicates that the elements of the Affordable Care Act are popular, while “Obamacare” is not. (Mitch McConnell told a transparent lie that Kentucky could get rid of the ACA and still keep its very popular state exchange. He didn’t suffer at all for that.) The senatorial candidates who lost were senators who ran away from the administration.
I think President Obama’s single biggest mistake as President is that he has allowed himself to become too remote. It seems to me we don’t see as much of him as we have seen past POTUSes while in office. He’s a likeable guy, and while I don’t always agree with him he’s turned the economy around quite a bit and considerably lowered the deficit. How many Americans actually know President Obama has reduced the deficit? I’d be willing to bet real money that if you stopped people randomly in the street and asked them whether the deficit has gone up or down under Obama, 99 out of 100 would say “up.”
And, of course, a lot of the reason for this is that news media don’t inform the public of anything the public needs to know about their government. All we ever hear is the spin. News for the Id.
Second, I think it’s generally true that Democratic politicians campaigning for higher offices now probably started their political careers in the 80s or 90s or early 00. They learned that the way to succeed is to not stick their necks out for progressivism. So their don’t offer a real contrast to the Republican candidates except for seeming, well blander. No Id appeal. Combine that with apparently successful voter suppression efforts, and there’s nothing to stop the Republicans from swamping the ship of state.
Last, and I hate to break this to Tom Brokaw, and to Kasie Hunt, who talked about how the Republicans know they have to “govern,” but this election couldn’t have been less of a repudiation of the Tea Party.
That’s the other howler we heard over and over election night — the GOP establishment prevailed; the Tea Party has been leashed. Seems kind of the other way around to me.
Now the bobbleheads are putting on their best suits and telling us in their polished and resonate baritones that the Republicans will have to govern. No, they don’t, and they have no intention of doing so. In fact, The Editors of National Review have declared governing to be a trap. The reasons, boiled down, are these:
- Governing may require compromise which may require giving Democrats something they want.
- If we attempt to pass legislation Democrats will just obstruct us, doing to us what we did to them. The nerve.
- If we actually do something it might piss off the Tea Party.
- If government actually started working while a Democrat is in the White House, voters might elect another Democrat in 2016.
- Because of the four reasons above, instead of trying to pass legislation that would require compromises with Democrat and which might not be vetoed by a Democratic President, we should focus on what we will be able to accomplish after 2016 when we are in complete control.
Seriously, look for yourself. That’s what they’re saying.