Poli Sci 401 (11/3/10)

Here is where I shall vent my spleen on whatever political topic might cross my mind on a given day. Comments or responses may be posted to whatever forum might be appropriate to that particular topic.

Poli Sci 401 (11/3/10)

Postby Ferguson Foont » Wed Nov 03, 2010 12:34 pm

Yesterday's election results, although slightly mixed, clearly demonstrated that Jon Stewart has failed in his effort to "restore sanity." A Republican House, while it may provide considerable fodder for comments here and elsewhere, is not a sane choice for our country at this time. But here we are.

It was especially frustrating for me and my family. Everything we voted for on our ballot, every candidate, every constitutional amendment, every bond issue, won. We ran the table, which might normally be a cause for celebration, but believe me when I tell you I am NOT celebrating this morning. Here at Bareknuckles World Headquarters deep inside the Washington Beltway, a Republican House majority is NOT good news. Our entire economy around here, from the wealthiest business owners to the lowliest menial who toils away his days in complete obscurity flipping burgers or mopping floors, is based on Federal employment and contracting, things that Republicans have attacked and will continue attack in their vicious ignorance and in their zeal to faithfully serve their corporate and foreign overlords.

In light of that, one of the most interesting, and most frightening, of all the races nationwide occurred in the House district adjacent to that in which BKWH is located, Virginia's 11th congressional district, where first term Democrat Gerald Connolly faced off against a TEA Partier, Keith Fimian. This was the district held for many years by a moderate Republican, Tom Davis, who was at the time of his retirement two years ago the head of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. It covers some of the city of Falls Church, most of Fairfax County, and part of Prince William County, a very wealthy and well-educated area whose residents are normally highly politically astute, relatively speaking.

(Here at BKWH in Virginia's 10th district, our Congressman, long-time Democrat James Moran, won in a walk. An interesting aside is that my daughter, who did not vote in last year's Virginia gubernatorial fiasco, has NEVER, not even once in her life, cast a losing vote!)

Evidently we won this one. It appears that the Democratic incumbent Connolly has just barely eked out a victory by 813 votes (the last precinct just reported about 20 minutes ago), and I really do not fear that the canvassing procedure or any recount will alter this result by no more than one or two votes (unlike Florida, we actually count ballots reliably here). Of course, Fimian will not concede, at least not for a month or more, but even moderate Republicans are always very sore losers, and Fimian is NOT moderate.

But the closeness of this election is a frightening testament to the impact that the infusion of big, anonymous, corporate money brought into our politics by the incredibly wrongheaded "Citizens United" case will have on future elections if this ridiculous state of affairs is not corrected. Even in Northern Virginia, where a Republican Congress can do TREMENDOUS damage to the economy due to the heavy reliance on Federal employment and contracts that Republicans intend to cut or eliminate, the ridiculous ads run by those anonymous groups, saturating the Washington area airwaves for the past month and attacking Connolly with the most absurd falsehoods, have had a major impact even on our relatively well-informed electorate here.

For example, the ads, very slickly produced jobs that were scary and ominous, accused Connolly of PERSONALLY adding (get ready for it...) $12 TRILLION dollars to the deficit. They claimed that his vote for health care, the passage of which will actually SAVE several billion dollars over the next few years, has ALREADY cost our economy $8 TRILLION. They ran these ads at even greater than saturation levels on all channels, cable and broadcast, often multiple times during single ad breaks. Now remember, Connolly was only elected for the first time to Congress in 2008 and did not begin his term until 2009, three months after the 2009 Federal budget had already been enacted (the Federal fiscal year runs from October 1 of the previous year through September 30 of the year that gives it its name). He was not even a member of Congress when TARP and the first stimulus packages were enacted UNDER BUSH and a REPUBLICAN-CONTROLLED Congress, but when have facts ever mattered when an election is at stake?

This is really scary. If false and anonymous corporate advertising can have so great an impact on this election that a TEA Partier can draw very nearly even with one of the most responsible, intelligent, and well-respected members of Congress, here in one of the most well-educated and most Federal expenditure-intensive areas of the entire nation, where might it be that their impact will NOT be felt?

I do not wish to live out the remainder of my life as a serf in a corporate feudal state, but that appears to be where we are headed. If they can so nearly win here, they can win anywhere.

Much of the press (and gleefully so) is painting this election as a referendum on Obama. And I agree.

Had Barack Obama and congressional Democrats chosen to roll the Republicans and give us Medicare for All instead of this health care "reform" that was little more than a small tweaking of insurance industry regulation; had Barack Obama and congressional Democrats broken up the "too big to fail" banks and investment houses into manageable segments; had Barack Obama and congressional Democrats acted to end these stupid, tragic wars; had Barack Obama and congressional Democrats been more competent in reining in the credit card industry; had Barack Obama not appeared to be such a lackey of the oil industry during the BP disaster; had Barack Obama and congressional Democrats given us the changes we thought we had voted for in 2008 instead of bending over so far backward to appease the intractable (dis)loyal opposition and please the "independent voters" (a term I use with utter disdain, as I regard it as a label that is applied to the most ignorant, even as they are also the most arrogant, voters), well, we'd be looking at a Democratic House majority of 100 seats or more, and perhaps 70 to 72 Democratic Senators.

In Poli Sci 101, the course taken by college freshmen in their first semesters, students are taught the importance of "seizing the political center." It is not until you get into the 300- and 400-series courses, those only reached by political science majors, that you learn that this is only a reliable strategy when turnout approaches universal. In elections like ours, where even the presidential races seldom surpass 60% turnout and off-year elections only occasionally achieve 50%, it becomes far more important to motivate your base than it is to attract the centrists, who in any event are the least likely voting bloc to go to the polls in any given election anyhow.

Republicans understand this. Democrats do not and even refuse to do so when it becomes so clearly demonstrated to us as it was in 2008, when we had a HIGHLY motivated base, when contrasted with what we saw yesterday. Now that Obama has striven so hard to compromise with his implacable political foes, and in doing so has, well, not necessarily offended but certainly discouraged his base, the enthusiasm of his base has waned significantly to the point at which we blew our best chance and experienced what happened to us yesterday. I know that I had to drag myself to the polls with an effort of will, and every step of the way I was fighting against a disheartening atmosphere of depression that was as thick as molasses. A lot of people less partisan than I am (maybe 99.99999% of voters) might be less likely than I was to go outside in the cold to vote under against such thick winds of discouragement.

The two things that saddened me most yesterday were the defeats of Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, both targeted by vaster quantities of anonymous corporate cash than could be overcome. Grayson's strident voice will be particularly missed; he represented the district where I lived for the past decade in Orlando, and he was one of the few who, to paraphrase Harry S Truman, "told the truth about Republicans and they THOUGHT it was hell."

I do pity Florida, where everything went wrong. Elsewhere, the election of Rand Paul speaks volumes about the declining state of education in Kentucky, particularly when compared with neighboring West Virginia where, in an outcome that pollsters had rendered an upset, the excellent Democrat Joe Manchin handily beat his robber baron carpetbagging opponent John Maese (another loss for Florida, as the Republican Maese was actually a Floridian with only the most tangential ties to West Virginia).

California may be the biggest winner among our states, where Jerry Brown was returned to the governor's mansion and Barbara Boxer will return to the Senate. Regarding Meg Whitman, well, y'know, $140 million just doesn't buy as much as it used to. Oh well...
Republicans whine and Republicans bitch: "Our rich are too poor, and our poor are too rich."
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