Legends of the Mid-Terms

November 10, 2010

Long before election day, the Legends that would be told about the 2010 mid-terms had been written.  Undoubtedly crafted by those they would best serve, the legends were accepted by a gullible public and an infantile media, as a shiny object tossed on the ground might entrance a simpleton.  They repeated the Legends until they had the force of truth:  Republicans are running record numbers of women! —  We will throw the all bums out! — Politics has been transformed by the rise of a new party, the Tea Party!

To find truth, the great mathematician, Karl Friedrich Gauss, urged “whenever possible, one should count.”  That is the difference between Data and Lore, between an enlightened world and a primitive one.  And, when one actually counts the results of the 2010 elections, the Legends fall and the Truth is revealed.


This Was No “Year of the Woman”

Legend tells us that the GOP, spearheaded by the TP, was running vast numbers of women, while Democrats had abandoned female candidates.  This wave of new Republican women in office would rival the gains of 1992’s “Year of the Woman.”  Based at least in part on this belief, significant numbers of women voters shifted their traditional support from the Dems to the GOP.  They were deluded.

Despite a handful of prominent TP female candidates, and a spike in Republican women running for office, women are still woefully underrepresented in the GOP.  As in prior years, 2010 saw women Democrats outnumber their red sisters two-to-one.

2010 Female Candidates

party   S    H    G    tot F     GT     pct of GT

Dem   9    91    5      105    484     22%

GOP   5    47    5        57    504     11%

(Senate, House, Governor; total female, grand total all candidates, female percentage of grand total.  Differences in grand totals reflect unopposed seats.)

As academician, author and former congressional candidate Jennifer Lawless observes, since 77% of the women in Congress were among the vulnerable Democrats, it would have required a vast upswing in female GOP candidates to improve gender balance. Despite the hype, that didn’t happen.  In fact, the RNC “ran women in only three of the 30 races that presented the best opportunities to gain seats.” For the first time in thirty years, the number of women in Congress will actually decrease. Adding insult to injury, “early reports of the new Republican leadership include no women’s names.”

A sub-legend has it that the GOP also ran many more minorities.  This, too, is myth.  Beyond a couple of prominent minority TPers, the face of the Republican Party remained overwhelmingly male WASP.  Only 3 of 37 GOP Senate candidates could be described as minority. One telling stat:  for Congress the GOP ran three times as many white men named “Smith” (6) as it did black women (2).


The “Bums” Are Still Here

During the 2010 campaign a meme, Rovian in its evil genius, took hold: ‘throw all the bums out!’ Given that most of the incumbents up for reelection were Dems, the spread of this mantra could only help the GOP.  Unsurprisingly, 53 Dems but only 2 Republicans were unseated in the House.  Many of these were freshmen in traditionally red districts, blown in by the storm of 2008, vulnerable to the slightest change in wind.

In the Senate, incumbents ran in 23 of the 37 races; 2 lost.  In the House, 378 of the 435 races — 87% — saw incumbents defend their seats.  Twenty-six of them (4 Dem, 22 GOP) ran unopposed.  The rest did extremely well:

House Incumbents, 2010 Mid-Terms

party     Tot       W      L       win pct

Dems    231     179     52     77%

GOP     147      145       2     99%

Both    378      324     54    86%

The numbers don’t lie:  in a year when the voters swore to ‘throw out the all bums’, they instead brought back nine incumbents in ten.  A full three-quarters of the new House will be comprised of these old “bums”.


There is No Tea Party

Legend has it, in 2010 the Tea Party fielded a long slate of newcomers who were swept into office and instantly transformed not only the GOP but the entire political landscape.  Counting tells another story.

The three major TP factions (Palin, Freedomworks, Tea Party Express) issuing endorsements mostly disagreed on who rated as a “genuine” TP candidate.  But looking at the largest slate, that of the Tea Party Express (TPX), it’s hard to detect the revolutionary wave spoken of in the sagas.

In the Senate, TPX endorsements went 10 for 15.  Four of those winners, though, were long-time incumbents, including John Thune, who ran unopposed.  Newbies went 6 for 11, including two of the six pickups.  Of 67 total GOP pick-ups in the House, only 28 were endorsed by TPX.  Forty-nine incumbents, five running unopposed, were on the TPX slate.  Only about 4 in 10 of the ousted Dem incumbents (22 of 51) lost to a TPX-endorsed opponent, whereas 28 of 37 of the rookie TPX winners were found in those vulnerable Dem districts.  Did the Tea Party make those seats vulnerable, or did it merely prey on the already weak?

Newly-minted TP members will comprise but 8.5% of the next House and 6% of the next Senate.  In the final analysis, it seems that the Tea Party is less a new party or faction, than a new name for the old right wing of the Republican Party.


Falling for the Legends

Political extremists have long known the power of the Big Lie.  The Legends of the 2010 Mid-Terms are whoppers.  When an incredulous public, egged on by the mindless parrots of the media, accept these lies, they exert an influence the truth would otherwise deny them.   Don’t fall for the Legends.  Count before you believe.

(c) 2010 by ‘tamerlane.’  All rights reserved.

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Cry Babies

October 14, 2010

That nebulous cloud of disaffected Democrat & liberal independent voters, commonly labeled “pumas,” deserves a new monicker: “cry babies.”

After a relentless, two-year campaign of whining to each other on blogs, accompanied by not a single act of political activism, our eternal outrage now compels pumas to protest, punish, or dispense penance in the 2010 midterm elections.

Protest:  At a seminal crossroads for the continued viability of our Nation, the likes of which has not been witnessed since 1860, many pumas feel that a protest vote — voting for a green candidate, say, or simply abstaining — will somehow compel the Dem leadership to prick up its ears and heed our puma roar.  Or at least it will assuage our aversion to voting for any but the ideal candidate;

Punish:  Other pumas, for dark reasons known only to them, liken their prior affiliation to the Dem party to a romantic relationship.  When their partner/party betrayed their fidelity by shacking up with obama, these furies vowed revenge.  This November, they intend on taking a Louisville Slugger to both headlights, so the Democratic Party will think next time before he cheats.  Not a few of these punishing pumas have undergone a total inversion, abandoning principles and ideals to become fanatic Republicans.  Which makes one wonder what this was all about for them.

Penance:  There’s a lot of pop psychology going about saying the Democratic Party needs to “hit rock bottom” before it can recover — to “learn its lesson” so to speak — so let’s expedite the process by helping them lose the midterms.

This thought process is flawed on at least two counts.  First, it accepts the meme that ‘hitting rock bottom’ is the sole and certain path to ‘recovery.’   In reality, many people with addictions, antisocial behavior, etc. straighten themselves out before hitting bottom, while many others hit bottom and just stay there, never ‘learning their lesson.’   Second, this theory envisions the entire Democratic party as a single person.  Which it is not.  The Democratic Party is an (especially loose) agglomerate of individuals.  Those capable of learning their lesson have already learned it; facilitating a GOP landslide will not scare straight any others.

A flawed anthropomorphizing of party dynamics, this tenuous strategy also ignores the reality that the TP juggernaut cares not one iota for the aims of liberals.  A minority that includes Blanche Lincoln but lacks Russ Feingold fixes what, exactly?  In short, there is no path to ‘recovery’, however you define that, which leads through a right-wing landslide in this election.

Puma Piss

On the whole, pumas are a pissy lot.  We whine, we foment, we take umbrage at every slight.  On each of our shoulders sits a chip wearing an orange pant suit.  This November, pumas seem eager to stage a massive pissing-into-the-wind protest.  That’ll show ’em!

Yet, in this year of the Tea Party, where were all the Puma rallies?  Who were the Puma candidates in the primaries?  Given, unlike the TP, no billionaire benefactor jump-started our movement, but it didn’t help that there was no real movement to jump-start in the first place.

Every two years, all on her lonesome, Cindy Sheehan gets herself on the ballot to run against Nancy Pelosi.  Not a single “big name” puma could be aroused from their torpor and pathetic self-pity to do likewise.

There’s no avoiding that we pumas pissed away the past two years.  Oh, some of us did try to do something constructive way back.  Known by the ill-chosen name “Just Say No Deal,” and despite assembling an impressive array of experience and talent, for various reasons — an incompetent narcissist as its organizer, for one — this nascent “Puma Party” never got off the ground.  Thereafter followed The Denver Group, a savvy, well-crafted, but ultimately quixotic, protest of the DNC convention, and then … nothing.

Could a Puma Party have arisen then, as did the Tea party a year later?  Sure, but it didn’t.  It still could, and should, happen, in future.  And, in an upcoming post I will be announcing the formation of a new party/movement/PAC.  But back to today.

“First, Do No Harm”

Is the Democratic Party a total write-off?  Absolutely not.  To those who never got as close to politics as did I, it may come as a shock to discover that all politicians have an oily sheen about them.  But let’s not ignore that on 5/31/08, 12 of 27 RBC powerlords voted in favor of Hillary Clinton; that most democratic primary voters chose Clinton over obama; that the obamalonians were so worried by a straw poll of delegates, which indicated Clinton might win a floor vote, that they rigged the formal nomination.  Roughly, then, at least half of the Democratic rank & file membership is salvageable, as is nearly all of the Party platform.

Leave yesterday be; we’ll deal with that tomorrow.  Today, we must be pragmatic about what we can and cannot accomplish at this juncture.  Yes, ideally things would be better with true liberals in the Senate rather than the likes of Reid and Boxer.  But we blew our chance to improve those particular seats during this Spring’s primaries.  Our next opportunity to improve on Reid & Boxer, et al., comes around in 2016.  In 2010, we can only prevent those seats from getting FAR WORSE.  As political surgeons, we must all abide by the Hippocratic Oath.

It’s A Dirty Job

It’s 2010, and there’s no Puma Party around to throw our weight behind.  As disaffected dems and liberal independents, we’re stuck with making the best of a bad situation with what’s on hand.  What’s on hand are the existing Democrats and the TP-laden GOP.  The situation is too dire, the threats to our institutions, liberties and democracy too grave, for protests or statements.   For all intents and purposes, we have a Republican president in obama — handing him a GOP Congress would be disastrous.  This will be no small nudge to the right:  there will be an all-out assault on the institutions, principles, the very foundation of our American Liberty.

Our task today is simple, and it is narrow:  pick the lesser of two evils.  And the greater is very evil, indeed.  In 2008, this true liberal was prepared to vote for McCain, had the race in California proved close, simply to avert the pending obamalonian disaster.  I do not like John McCain, and share but few of his ideals.  So when a fellow puma tells me they cannot, in principle, vote for Barbara Boxer, who despite her many flaws, closely matches their political views, I have no sympathy.  It’s a dirty job, but we’ve got to hold our noses and cast a vote that matters.  No more crying: do your duty.  The welfare of our Nation demands it.


(c) 2010 by ‘tamerlane.’  All rights reserved.