Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The backlash will begin tonight

Interestingly enough, I am not only a fan of divided government but I suspect that Barack Obama is as well. Barack Obama in 2008-2010 was to some extent a victim of his own success. He had this enormous progressive mandate and huge majorities of Democratic congressmen to back him up, but I don't think he is a very liberal guy. Thus he was stuck between his tendencies to be a pragmatic centrist and the pull of the outer fringes of his party. Republicans really had no choice but to oppose anything and everything that happened in congress, because otherwise they would have gotten steamrolled by a Democratic agenda...and to some extent, they did anyway.

But the Republicans just retook the house, although I am not sure about the Senate. And unless the economy just absolutely refuses to improve, I think there will be a backlash in the country from the left. There is a palpable feeling in the left half of the country that they have been cheated. Democrats won fair and square in 2006 / 2008, and Republicans abused rules and procedures to gum up the works of government in every way possible. A lot of people aren't happy with it. Obama did not get to accomplish what he wanted, and millions of his supporters know he was more than accommodating and made efforts to be bipartisan. These people aren't happy about it, and there will be a backlash.

It is one thing to go out in a midterm to support the sort of weak Democratic congressmen that have been half of the problem anyway. So the "enthusiasm gap" in this election is not at all surprising. Now, the Tea Party has its way - Republicans are back in power, but they have promised the impossible. They have also only spoke of confrontation, of refusal to compromise. They would do well that above all, this election was not an affirmation of the Tea Party and it was not an affirmation of Republicans, who remain less popular than Democrats still. It was a rejection of incumbents, none of whom are getting along while the economy remains a smoldering mess. If Republicans think this is a mandate to act on these ridiculous fantasies they've been having, they will be sorely mistaken.

My hope is that this election opens the door for some genuine bipartisanship. Now that the GOP has some say, it has something to lose. I think Obama will be ready to listen, if the Republicans want to talk. But if the GOP thinks a winning strategy is to come out and try to repeal Obamacare, consider impeachment, or continue to be obstructionist, they will only make the backlash worse. 230,000 people just showed up for a rally with Jon Stewart, which was really nothing more than a rally to support Obama that was described as otherwise for obvious reasons. Republicans would do well to ask themselves why. They say pride comes before the fall. I've never seen a group of more arrogant, prideful men than some of these Republican candidates who have won tonight. I hope to be pleasantly surprised, but I suspect I won't be.

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