So the 2010 elections are pretty much in the books, pending a few likely recounts, and what did it all mean? What did we learn, and what lies ahead of us now?
Well, the most obvious takeaway is that the Democrats got their hats and asses handed to them on a paper plate. Nationally, the Republicans pretty much wiped the floor with the Democrats on every level, from U.S. House and Senate races, to governor races, and certainly in state legislative races. I wouldn't be surprised if electoral earthquakes were felt at the county dog catcher level.
The Democrats lost the narrative, and they very clearly lost the outside expenditure battle by a factor of about 37452 to 1. More notably, they failed to accurately portray the obstructionist nature of the minority party in the 111th United States Congress. The filibuster tactic was employed in the U.S. Senate more times since January 2008 than in any other Congress ever. Ever. The Republicans managed to filibuster more judicial appointments (and continue to do so) than at any time in previous history, and have acted in a manner completely contrary to their own position five years ago that holding up presidential judicial appointments is unconstitutional.
However, Harry Reid has also been an abject failure as Majority Leader, in my opinion. Faced with such a record number of threatened filibusters, he failed to actually require the Republicans to go through with their threatened filibusters by actually filibustering a bill. You know, by actually having to get up on their feet and prattle on for 96 hours straight about nothing in particular until you either give up or convince the majority to withdraw the bill. This candy ass tactic of pulling bills back without actually making the minority filibuster the old fashioned way allowed and further encouraged McDonnell in his obstructionist game.
If the Democrats learn anything from yesterday's elections, I hope it's that Harry Reid has no business continuing to serve as majority leader, because he sucks at it. His and Pelosi's lack of congressional leadership have at least as much to do with yesterday's failure as the Obama administration's failure to highlight the things they actually accomplished, that a majority of Americans would consider as good things (and yes, those accomplishments actually do exist).
I would have rooted for Reid's electoral defeat entirely, had Nevada Republicans not nominated such a batshit crazy basket case to represent them. Which brings me to my next subject: What of Sarah Palin, and what was the real value of her endorsement?
Patient Zero Mama Grizzly handed out endorsements to a few dozen candidates nationwide, in U.S. and statewide races. And how did things turn out? Well, approximately half of her endorsees won their electoral battles. This doesn't sound too shabby, right? But think again. This was an election Sarah Barracuda called an "earthquake". A greater number of House seats changed hands than at any time in the last 62 years. The Democrats were running scared and dropping like flies on the side of the road. This was the most encouraging environment for Republican candidates in decades, and yet Sarah's preferred candidates won only about half their races.
More notably, some of her highest profile endorsees (Christine O'Donnell, Tom Tancredo, Sharron Angle, Carly Fiorina) all went down hard. And it appears Joe Miller's candidacy is crashing, as well, though results won't be official there for a while. What does this all mean, other than the fact that she can't even get a candidate elected in her own home state?
It's instructive to take a look at her actual endorsees, some of whom ran effective campaigns and stayed away from some of the most outrageous sentiments expounded by those who lost. Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, Marco Rubio...in each case, these individuals managed to present themselves as thoughtful, bright candidates without a history of hypocrisy, and they campaigned on platforms of conservative-friendly policies, but without the most extreme rhetoric, without the most extreme positions, and without Palinesque levels of vitriol and vindictiveness.
In other words, people such as Haley, Martinez, and Rubio were just plain old-fashioned good candidates and most likely candidates who, in the current electoral climate, were perfectly capable of winning their races with or without Palin's endorsement and did not even need it. And those candidates who probably "benefited" the most from Palin's endorsements (O'Donnell, Miller, Angle) still lost either in spite of, or because of, those endorsements. Why? Because they were bad candidates. Either their own actions betrayed their candidacies, or they simply proved their own lack of qualifications. Ultimately, Sarah Palin will likely pay a higher price for those misplaced endorsements, as she as seen as even less unqualified as a presidential candidate than she was viewed in 2008.
That said, my contention all along is that she actually has little to no interest in (or stomach for) the two year presidential election process. Rather, the entire "will she or won't she" narrative is about keeping her in the public eye while the speaking engagement checks continue to roll in. It's all about the filthy lucre for Clan Palin. But hey, that's the New American way...prove your lack of job qualifications, but get yourself on TV and quoted often enough, and there's a seven-figure commentating gig for you on FNC. The ink's probably already being laid to O'Donnell's new daytime talker as I write this. The 2008 presidential campaign was the most financially successful reality show starring role. Lauren Conrad probably wishes she'd thought of it first.
So....okay. Given the jobless nature of this nascent, teetering economic recovery, and given the nature of midterm elections, the Democrats were likely going to lose a lot of seats. And they deserved to.
The next two years are going to require actual Republican contributions to any and all legislation that passes. They no longer get to be the Party of No. After all, they'll have the majority in the House, and no legislation can pass the Senate without the support of at least, at a minimum, no less than four members of the party not driving the bill, and that's just to get to 51 votes. It will take at least nine Republicans to get to a filibuster-proof majority on Dem-sponsered bills, and thirteen Democrats to get to a filibuster-proof majority on McDonnell-approved legislation.
This means Obama will not be dictating any sort of congressional agenda for the next two years (and given the watered-down nature of both the health care law and the Wall Street regulatory law, it's arguable how much he ultimately dictated those bills). It also means the Republicans have to actually be productive members of Congress and no mere procedural obstructionist roadblocks.
You wanted a chance to come off the bench and swing the bat? Now's your chance. Batter up. Prove you can actually legislate and not just bloviate. We're waiting. But beware, there's some pretty big traps out there, the biggest and baddest of which I'll address in my next post....