Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Politics as unusual?

There's been a lot of commentary in the media over this off-year election cycle, referring to the results as a "Referendum on Obama." Republican candidates captured the governor's office in purple Virginia and solidly-blue New Jersey, and GOP commentators are spinning this as the nation turning its wholesale back on Obama and the Democrats.

Or not. It's possible, just possible, the Republican gubernatorial candidates were the better candidates in these elections. In Virginia, the popular McDonnell led Deeds pretty much wire-to-wire and was expected to win, whereas in New Jersey, incumbent Corzine had become a symbol of Wall Street excess and stayed in the race even after Obama and other party officials tried to talk him out of it. So, in essence, we have two Republican victories that have been pretty much anticipated for months.

I find it curious, however, that GOP spinners aren't mentioning results from New York's 23rd Congressional District. What? You haven't heard of it? That's the district where national GOP blowhards like Sarah Palin, Fred Thompson and Rush Limbaugh attacked the official GOP nominee Dierdre Scozzafava for not being right wing enough, eventually driving her out of the race (!) in favor of third-party wingnut Doug Hoffman. This falls in line with the talking points coming out of last fall's Democratic landslide, in which unrepentant right-wingers insisted the reason Democratic moderate and liberal candidates won was because Republican candidates weren't right-wing enough. In the following year, we've seen the Republicans tack a hard right, purging their ranks of moderates, most notably seen in the defection of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter to the Democrats.

So the national GOP talking heads drove the moderate Scozzafava from the race, paving the way for "ideologically pure" Hoffman to roll to victory in a Republican stronghold has elected a Republican congressman in every election for the past 100-plus years.

Except that Democratic candidate Bill Owens, a retired Air Force captain, won NY 23 despite Republicans outnumbering registered Democrats in the district by a 45,000 vote margin. And overlooked in all the hoopla surrounding the GOP victories in Virginia and New Jersey, this congressional victory actually increases the Democratic Party's margin in the House of Representatives. Ouch. How's the Pyrrhic victory feeling now, Hoffman?

The long and short of it is, I don't think any national trend can be determined by these off-year elections. The country's uncertain, but the universal groundswell the Tea Party crowd would like us to believe is sweeping over the country simply isn't there. If unemployment is hovering around 10 percent this time next year, then yeah, the Democrats and Obama are going to be in trouble. But with signs of economic recovery coming with more regularity (Ford made a profit?) I would expect jobless rates to show at least moderate improvement by mid-2010. And if health care legislation is passed--in whatever form--charges of the Democrats presiding over a do-nothing congress will be blunted. I still expect Democrats to lose seats in the House and Senate come 2010, simply because that's what happens in mid-term elections with a new president, but I anticipate that it'll be more in line with historical norms as opposed to the Gingrich revolution 15 years ago.

Guess we'll find out how much of a guru I am 12 months from now...

Now Playing: Blue Öyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes


  1. Not to mention that an openly gay woman received the most votes in the Houston mayoral election. I never dreamed that would happen in this century.

  2. As opposed to former mayor Kathy Whitmire being a closeted gay woman?