Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yesterday's Elections

The blogosphere is abuzz with Monday-morning quarterbacking of the very few elections held in this odd-numbered year. We political junkies have to have something to do, I guess. A few thoghts on the matter:

I was pleased to see Christie win in NJ and McDonnell win in Virginia. They are the ones I would have voted for. But if anybody had to lose, I hate that it was Conservative Party upstart Hoffman in the New York congessional special election. Not because of any national implications or broad ideological point, but because he was (is) a regular guy, a pretty nerdy accountant, who sought to become a citizen-legislator. He almost pulled it off, too. If I could get just one constitutional amendment passed, it would likely be term limits. Nobody, from either party, needs to be a professional politician for life.

Along those same lines, the big spin, especially from the White House, is that yesterday's big wins by Republicans were emphatically NOT a referendum on Obama or his policies, but rather a symptom of broad anti-incumbent feelings. OK, I'll buy that, to a point (although if Corzine had won, I'm sure the White House would want some credit). But here's a news flash: most of the incumbents these days ARE Democrats. It's almost always easier to be the party promising "change" than the one doing the governing. Reality is a stubborn thing.

Also, what about the conventional wisdom that the election of Obama signaled the end of the Republican party, the death knell of the Reagan Revolution, etc.? How quickly we forget. I recall back when George W. Bush became the only president since FDR to have his party gain congressional seats in an off-year election (2002) and then beat Kerry in 2004 that we gave the same sort of premature eulogies for the Democrats, and folks like Karl Rove were trumpeting the soon-to-be permanent GOP majority. People really ought to read some history (or just take my class).

Now there will be lots of ink (pixels) spilled over what yesterday means for the future of Health Care Reform--particularly over whether supporting the 1993 version is what cost Democrats control of the House in 1994, or whether getting that one passed would have saved them. But at the end of the day, what will make the difference is not what the pundits (whether professionals or amateurs like me) think, or what's good for the country, or even what's good for the parties. It will come down to what the 535 senators and congressmen each individually think is in their own best interest when it comes to keeping their cushy, powerful, prestigious jobs in DC (and in the case of those whose jobs are safe, what will enlarge their own influence). And that stinks. Bah! Term limits! Impeach everybody! A pox on all their houses!


bekster said...

Oh, good, you posted. :)

I don't know much about the specifics of these elections or what is going on with the parties these days, but it does amaze me how people neglect to remember the cyclical nature of the world. A lot of "freaking out" happens, only for the people to freak out over the opposite extreme a generation or so later. (Take global warming/cooling for example.) Even political parties change their relevance based on what else is going on in the country. Democrats of today are certainly not the Democrats of the 60's or earlier (OK, you know more about the actual time frame than I do, but you get the point). But, it wasn't so much that their core values changed, the needs of the country changed. Anyway, we shouldn't be shocked when things change, or when they change back. That's just how it goes.

Greg and Kim said...

Not having a lot (or any) faith in human nature, I definitely "amen" that last sentiment. Continuing a line of thought I started awhile back on your blog, I think that's why the democratic system is genius. I know this is obvious, but since they're self-interest (job security, in this case) is directly linked to their constituents' approval of them, there is some built in accountability there. (Yes, I'm full of these illuminating insights.)

Greg made an interesting point, though, regarding congressional approval ratings. NO ONE seems to like Congress as a whole; that much is very clear. But what about people's approval of their individual representatives? He and I are willing to bet that that is considerably higher. A lot of people like "their guys." It's the guys in the "crazy states" (which vary depending on one's own location) that infuriate them. With such a deeply divided country, it's no wonder that we have a deeply divided Congress and thus, so many impasses and stalemates. And then the lack of productivity makes everyone upset with the whole group.

That's just a "big picture" theory. Since I'm pretty sure I can't even name my own reps, I definitely don't have a lot of specific support.