Thursday, November 5, 2009

Election 2009

A day shy of a year from the Great Disaster of 2008, America went to the polls again. For Republicans and conservatives, accustomed to an almost uninterrupted diet of political disaster since November 2004; the election of 2009 was the first good news in a long, long time. El Jefe has some very general observations.

1). A very good night for Republicans, better, actually, than if they had won the much-watched race in New York Congressional District 23. Had Mr. Hoffman prevailed there, extreme conservatives would have taken this as a hunting license with which to harass Republican Party moderates. Ideological purity is well and good, for purposes of arguments, but elections are about assembling coalitions (difficult even under the best of conditions). It is helpful to be reminded of the need to make converts, not to simply preach to the choir.

2). New Jersey was a good win, but despite Obama’s appearances there, and his apparent investment in the campaign, much of the reason for the Democratic loss here was Jon Corzine and his baggage. Not to detract from Governor-elect Christie’s victory, but New Jersey was mostly a nice surprise, a one-off, produced by a confluence of very favorable circumstances, and a very well-run Republican campaign.

3). Virginia is the real bad news for Democrats (in particular, as Karl Rove points out, the suburban vote-swing). Obama carried Virginia in 2008 with 53 percent of the vote. The Democratic candidate for governor could manage only 41 percent of the vote this last Tuesday. Democratic Senators and Representatives elected from Red States (many of the so-called “Blue Dogs”) will have to think very carefully about the likely consequences of supporting Obama’s health care and environmental schemes.

3a). While thinking on the election results, the Blue Dogs would do well to reflect on the posture of their own Congressional leadership, which is dominated by the Democratic Party left. The party leadership would certainly like their votes for Obamacare and for cap and tax, but would probably not be displeased to see many of them lose in 2010 – thus eliminating more conservative voices from Democratic Party councils. At any rate, there might well be rich seams of divergent interests available to be mined between Blue Dogs and Lefties; Senate and House; White House and Congress and any other combination Republicans can think up. Hey Republicans, how's it going with Lieberman these days?

4). Thinking of the Democratic Party leadership, positively the most stupid reaction to Tuesday’s results was Comrade Pelosi’s declaration yesterday that “we won last night.” No report yet saying that the Speaker of the House has been arrested for smoking crack.

5). The Republicans have gotten off the deck, and found a bit of a voice, but they have work to do. We know what Republicans are against: the expansion of government by Obama and the Democrats; the administration’s reckless spending and feckless foreign policy. But what do Republicans support?

6). While developing a more affirmative program, the Republicans must keep fighting. Dick Morris should be correct in asserting that Tuesday’s returns constitute Obamacare’s death certificate. There is a chance not only to block the public option, but to stop the legislation entirely, and probably the cap and tax environmental scheme as well. The key will be finding ways to fracture Democratic Party discipline – and given the problems Tuesday shows the Blue Dogs might have in 2010, this is now within reach. A bill is going to come out of the House soon but Senate Majority Leader Reid is now saying that there may be no bill on his side till 2010. If this is so, time is very short: if matters are spun-out much past March, we will be too deep into the 2010 election cycle for the production of meaningful legislation.

7). There is now the interesting question of what Obama will do? Barring a foreign policy crisis (which will change all calculations) he has, essentially, two choices:
(a) Doubling Down – mobilizing all the liberal lobbies and interest to arm-twist the Blue Dogs to secure the legislation he wants by Valentines Day. Don’t know enough about the liberal set-up to know if this can work. I think he needs the complete support of the unions to do it, and unless card check’s coming, that might be tough.
(b) The Bill Clinton Three-Step – essentially, this involves pulling back some – giving up the public option on health care, ensuring environmental legislation is harmless to small business interests; and focusing instead on jobs and employment. This would perhaps cause the Chamber of Commerce and the business lobby to demobilize somewhat, and would probably produce a modest recovery in independent support – thus, better poll numbers. If Obama triangulated a la Bill Clinton, the Left would be furious, but Lefties have nowhere to go. The Right would be flat-footed by losing its most potent rhetorical talking points.
8). As a narrowly political matter, the smart move for the Democrats (in the short term), and probably the best move for the country (period) would be Plan B. Set against this though, the Democrats have to consider that whatever 2010 looks like, the historical probabilities indicate that the Republicans, as the completely out of power party, have no place to go but up; and that in all likelihood, Republicans will gain congressional seats. Put another way, the Democrats will never be as strong as today, and now might be the time to use their votes, before they lose them.

No comments: