2010 Midterms: The Empire Strikes Back

The conservative establishment in Washington D.C. and large corporations have struck a blow against progressive change and reform during the midterm elections with substantial gains.  Exploiting anger over the economy and using a flood of corporate money in the most expensive midterm election of all time, the Empire has struck back.

The conservative narrative that has been eagerly adopted by the main stream media dictates the following message: “America has rejected the far left policies of Barack Hussein Obama in a decisive election route.” There are 3 main problems with this statement.

1. This was a midterm election where turnout was only ~40% of the registered voters, which translates into less than 35 million total Republican votes in a nation of over 300 million people. 1 in 9 people do not speak for everyone in America.

In election years that do not have a Presidential candidate to vote for, turnout is typically lower, and the most energized partisan is more often than not victorious.  Due to the lack of substantial progress, particularly in the economy due to an unprecedented campaign of obstruction by the conservatives, coupled with an unrestricted flood of money from corporations, this time, that was the Republicans.

2. Despite the 2008 campaign rhetoric, President Obama has never actively sought left wing policies. By the standards of any other Western nation, he would be considered center-right.

Look at health care reform, the best solution to our failed health care system would undoubtedly be a single payer system that would generate 30% saving and have universal cradle to the grave coverage like in Scandinavian countries. The Obama administration never even put it on the table, instead opting for various regulatory reforms and a public health insurance option. In the end, even this was not fought for, and not included in the final bill, and still nearly every single Republican voted against it.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Stimulus bill) is another example. Inserting nearly $300 billion in tax cuts for 95% of Americans seemed like the pragmatic thing to do despite the fact that direct spending is the best way to actually stimulate economic growth and generate jobs in troubled times. Nearly every Republican voted against the bill anyways, and angry voters don’t remember regardless.

The same pattern was witnessed over Wall St. reform, campaign finance laws, gay civil rights, and immigration reform.

3. This was hardly a route. Republicans gained seats, as the opposition party always in the first midterm election (provided there isn’t a national disaster like 911), but it is only comparable to the election of 1994 where the GOP gained 54 seats in the House and 8 in the Senate to take control of both chambers of Congress. This time, the Republicans gained more seats in the House and less in the Senate, and were only able to take control of the former.

Further, more of the Tea Party favorites on the far right lost their elections than won, including Sharron Angle  in Nevada, Christine O’Donnel in Delaware, and Ken Buck in Colorado. Democrats also made surprisingly strong runs for the US Senate in Pennsylvania and many House races despite falling at the last minute.

In the aftermath of the midterms a little perspective is needed. The Republicans now control the House of Representatives and the highest courts in the land, in particular the Supreme Court which is the most ultra-conservative and activist court in the last century. The Democrats control the Senate and the Presidency. Our government is split down the middle.

In earlier eras of American history, times like these would require both sides to reach out and compromise, to give many things up to meet in the middle for the good of the country. The conservatives have not reached out in a genuinely pragmatic way over the last two years on a single thing, and they have promised that compromise is off the table for the next two years as well. What they want is nothing short of full, unconditional surrender, despite only holding half the government.  Attempts to compromise from those who want to fix the problems created by domestic, foreign, and fiscal conservative policy will ultimately be nothing more than futile appeasement.

The conservatives are going to attack President Obama no matter what he does, just like they did to President Clinton. It is better for Democrats to recognize this assault and fight back than try to reach out and compromise over and over only to get stabbed in the heart. Politics is not a nice game, it is brutal and ugly and cold, and the Republicans know this only too well, which is why they are able to snag a disproportionately large election share every single time compared to their registered members. This is how the Bush/Cheney regime was able to somehow retain the White House in 2004.

The Republicans used virtually an identical playbook for the 2010 midterm elections as they did in 1994.
Step 1: Avoid responsibility for previous GOP failures (this time by hiding behind the Tea Party)
Step 2: Increase negativity to epic levels and engage in a campaign of total obstruction
Step 3: Use this negativity to attack Congress, suddenly call for term limits
Step 4: Make some nebulous contract or pledge that lacks specifics
Step 5: Retake Congress, hamstring potential reforms

To make matters worse, the movement for change and reform that was instrumental in electing Obama in 2008 was far less enthusiastic this election cycle, because they didn’t see the Democrats fighting hard enough for real change and reform. With their enthusiasm dampened, the most energized voters in the midterms were the far right, and these ultra-conservative Tea Partiers did far more to ensure their politicians would be elected.

With an uncompromising adversary, the Democrats are left with 2 options: fight back or surrender. Doubling down on the Bush policies that put our nation on the brink of an abyss are not an option. Things like putting Social Security in the stock market, adding $700 billion to the national debt by not letting the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire on time, and allowing endless overseas wars to continue with bloated military budgets. We have to accept that with an uncompromising opponent on the warpath, there has to be 2 years of inactivity in Congress.  A do-nothing Congress is going to be an understatement.

The lesson to be learned from the midterm election results are not to be more timid and weak in the face of a rabid adversary, but to fight back with more tenacity.  As the old proverb goes, fortune favors the bold, and the 2012 election cycle begins right now.


4 Responses to 2010 Midterms: The Empire Strikes Back

  1. +4 Vote -1 Vote +1Stephen Dufrechou
    November 4, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Great report, Olson. I have passed it on to several interested parties.

    • Ole Ole Olson
      +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Ole Ole Olson
      November 4, 2010 at 11:01 pm

      Thanks Mr. Dufrechou, it came from the heart.

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1rj
    November 5, 2010 at 6:43 am

    Ole, good piece, just a couple comments.
    Amazing how quickly dems went from we just want pubs to ride along in the back of the bus and keep their mouth shut to we need to reach out and compromise once they lost their filibuster proof majority and control of alll three branches.
    They could have done anything they wanted but due to the desire to be kept in power did not accomplish everything they wanted.
    Amazing how quickly it went from “its Bushes fault” to blaming the tea party movement.
    Dems had absolute 3 way power for two years, held control of house and senate for the last 4 yrs with a lame duck president then(remember two term limit) and yea I hate that GWB caved to the dems on the TARP bill but there were resons, like funding of other important things tied to tarp by the dems.
    Amazing that during the last two years the dems could and did tell pubs to STFU and let us do what we want cause you cant stop us. And they did healthcare, second stimulas…
    As far as comparing BHO’s policies to other countries and telling us he is center right thats the problem, we are not other countries and have no need or desire to be part of a uniworld socialistic state. He initally wanted the one payer system but backed off that so dems would take their political careers in their hands and pass obama care. He thought he could sell it and still keep his majority and convinced a lot of old head dems they could.
    Dems also know once something is in effect and built into the b’cracy it is harder to get rid of, so they settled and knew going in that it was gonna cost them seats, they just did not know how many seats.
    Remember Clintons attempt at unihealthcare and the turnaround at his mid term, the difference is that he did not have a filibuster proof control, he then moved to moderate.
    Gee and now the dems are saying we are probably going to extend the tax cuts…the very same cut extension they held out on before the election, the possible benefit of those extension will give the economy a boost if it’s not too late. If they would have passed extensions or made em perminate and cut federal spending two yrs ago things would be better than they have been. But they refused because remember they want to appear to stick it to the “rich” so they can keep their base happy.
    Yea there is gonna be grid lock for a while, but stock markets like grid lock.
    Dont misunderstand nothing is going to change overnight, but pubs and dems better understand the TPM is not going away, it is a movement that insist on accountability from those sent to fix old old problems that go on as you describe, dem control swing left, pub control swing right, both tax, borrow and spend.
    Hard decisions have to be made, leaders make those hard decisions not blamers. A leader will rise or the turn over in politicians will continue.
    I remember when BHO said he was gonna fundamentally change the country, I’m not sure he meant in the way it is gonna turn out.
    I’m seeing more interest in national, state and local politics than ever in my lifetime, I think the TPM is that awakening, it is made up of conservative pubs, dems, independants not the loony fringe the power elete would have every one believe, it is scaring the living crap out of professional politicians, have you ever seen so many retirements both forced and voluntary? I have not in my lifetime, and any pub who does not toe the line will be the next.
    Yea some of the TPM favorites were not elected, but over all some major changes took place. A hugh reason a couple of the TP favorites were not elected was because of the enormous amounts of money sent in and the old school political machines. In the time of newspapers and magazines those things worked, but the machines are failing and people are awake.
    It is the time now or never, get it together in DC and make some hard decisions and corrections or else.
    What scares me more is the recent fed announcement, monitizing debt is not the answer or solution unless someone out there wants inflation and or stagflation…thats truely scary.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1me
    November 9, 2010 at 10:07 am

    rj has a lot of time on his hands. blah blah blah.