Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

November 3, 2010

I followed the US mid-term elections so that you didn’t have to

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 4:30 pm

The biggest losers in last night’s US midterm elections were anyone who saw fit to rely on the coverage in our esteem British press. On the Guardian’s website It took me longer than it should have to establish that Harry Reid had held on to his Nevada Senate seat against Sharron Angle, one of the the crucial, nail-biting races of the year. However, I was informed that no-hoper candidate Christine O’Donnell had lost, something I knew two weeks ago before a single vote had been cast. Also, percentages seem missing from the British analysis. Why is this? I distinctly remember them being around the last dozen or so elections I watched, but this time – nothing. Do I have to pay extra to see percentages, or have we just decided that they’re passé all of a sudden?

And what of the results? Well, the House went to the GOP (expected), the Democrats retained the Senate (expected) and Barack Obama is still President, despite a strong challenge from Sarah Palin because Presidents serve four terms, a fact that is almost universally ignored these days when analysing US politics on any level.

There’s already a lot of talk about the President being out of touch, elitist, etc. Ignore this. These are vestigal talking points from 2008 and do not obtain anymore despite what Nile Gardiner and his ilk want you to think. Nor did Obama “fail to connect” with America. Nor did he overreach in passing healthcare reform. Nor was there some sort of nebulous backlash to his failure to reacharound to American exceptionalism at every point. (Spoiler Alert: It’s the economy)

After the jump, my thoughts on the reasons for the Democratic defeat, and What It All Means:

1. Unemployment is nearly at 10% and the economy is still awful

It’s pretty simple. The fundamentals were such that anyone up for election was going to have a tough time. I can kind of sympathise with a voter who concludes that if the body to which you send your elected represenative hasn’t noticably improved things, you would vote to change its composition. If unemployment was half that it would be a completely different story.

Really, I could end this analysis here, and every pundit of any colour could, and ought to. But because they’ve laid out a crock of bullshit, I’m obliged to swim in it.

2. Congress has an approval rating only slightly above “getting punched in the face”

This is a no-brainer. Americans hate their congressmen. Hate them. It’s also very easy to identify locally with your representative, and punish them accordingly in a “kick the bums out” atmosphere.

3. Obama was not on the ticket

I don’t care about his job approval ratings. They’re not all that low for a President this long. They’re actually higher than might be reasonably expected. What this did mean was that the Obama base was not turning up to vote and going further down-ticket. For example, I feel quite confident that PA and IL would not be GOP right now if the President was on the ballot paper. Why? Because I fucking said so, that’s why.

4. A Country for Old Men

As Mark Kleiman puts it “The over-65s were a huge share of the turnout, and they broke heavily for the Republicans.” This is good short term news for the GOP, and bad long term news.

5. This result says virtually nothing about Obama’s prospects for 2012

Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to churn out copy and commentary for the sake of it, or because their drunk editor is screaming at them “SHOW ME THE NARRATIVE”. This sentence roughly sums up the shittiness of the British press coverage:

LOSER: President Barack Obama. His name was not on any ballot paper but the US president was the biggest loser of the night. After nearly two years in office he has delivered the Democrats a historic defeat that will stymie what few plans he had for legislative achievement in his remaining two years. He will take the blame for the losses. Deservedly so. Many Democrats – let alone Republicans – ran against his record.

Wow. So hang on, the Democrats, who got pounded, ran against Obama’s record, and he’s to blame for their losses? What should he have done – not pursued the legislative agenda outlined the platform on which he won the Presidency? This really is trying to frame US politics into the prism of UK politics. Memo to the Guardian editorial staff: there’s no parliamentary system in the US. Actually, it’s just the caption for the photo. Maybe the photographer wrote it. Actually, if you read the rest of those captions, I think the photographer’s 10 year old child wrote them.

6. Any sensible conservative will note that the Tea Party (c/o Sarah Palin) pretty much cost the GOP the Senate

Harry Reid kept his seat, and Christine O’Donnell essentially handed a Delaware senate spot to Chris Coons, originally thought to have no chance in hell. West Virginia too. Sure, this wouldn’t take them over 50, but Ben Nelson and Joe Liebermann won’t hold quite as much sway in the caucus if the Democrats reach 53 seats. Though inevitably beating the filubster seems like it will be a forlorn hope.

There is an argument to make that the tea party energised the GOP voters, but I think they would have been just as sore about the outcome of 2008 that they would have overcome the inevitable lacklustre energy within the Democratic ranks.

7. It’s doubtful we’ll see much legislative activity at all

Per Yglesias, who’s been on the ball I think:

If the GOP had pulled off a very small majority, the White House could hope to attempt to govern via negotiations with a small block of relatively moderate representatives. With a big majority, legislative negotiations need to run through John Boehner. And any Obama-Boehner deal that could pass a Senate with 53 Democrats could also pass a Senate with 51 Democrats or even 48 Democrats. For a bill to become a law under this configuration you’d need a really substantial level of cross-party agreement that’s a bit hard to imagine at the moment. But that means that the days of the 111th Congress when things would come down to intense negotiations with individual Senators are probably over. Deals will be big picture or else more likely the deals won’t be done.

For a country desperately in need of more jobs, this is a Bad Thing

Stray Observations:

  • The level of opprobrius misogny thrown in the direction of Nancy Pelosi was astounding.
  • Rand Paul is so full of shit. He can’t even competently quote Thomas Jefferson.
  • If I hear one more Republican say they need to reduce the deficit by cutting taxes, I’m going to take four shits and die
  • Michele Bachmann is insane.
  • The Telegraph blogs are just demented today. Really, their entire shtick is that they despise Obama for reasons that, when articulated, are barely acquainted with reality. Their veneration of the Tea Party makes it clear that there is nary a single serious analyst writing for that paper. Their version of America is so close to fiction it’s not even funny.
  • Charlie Crist should have defected to the Democrats; Kendrick Meek should have dropped out of the race. Both these were roughly obvious before last night, but it bears repeating.
  • There will be no renewed push for filibuster reform
  • Per Matt Yglesias, Obama should move to the White House at let Harry Reid do the legislating

Final thoughts are summed up nicely by Tom Scocca:

But the Republicans did not bump off Harry Reid, or throw out Barney Frank, or make Carl Paladino the governor of New York, as the Narrative hoped they might. They did not send Christine O’Donnell to the Senate or seize California. The Republican Party controls the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court; the Democratic Party controls the presidency and the Senate. The election is over. Now the politics starts.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

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