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“If the goal of the majority is to govern, what is the purpose of the minority?”
November 4, 2010 1:27 PM   Subscribe

How They Did It - A Republican Strategy Session 11 days before Obama's inauguration. 'How they did it is the story of one of the most remarkable Congressional campaigns in more than a half-century, characterized by careful plotting by Republicans, miscalculations by Democrats and a new political dynamic with forces out of both parties’ control.' 'At that Republican retreat in January 2009, gathering inside a historic inn in Annapolis, Md., the group — led by Representatives John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, and Eric Cantor of Virginia, the whip — did not tolerate the hand-wringing that consumed so many Republicans that dark winter. Instead, they walked through a by-the-numbers picture of Democratic vulnerability that had been lost in the excitement over Mr. Obama’s election.'

'They began an aggressive recruiting effort for top-flight candidates in districts that seemed to be virtually owned by some of the longest-serving Democrats in the House.'
'They also tried to push Democrats into retirement, using what was described in the presentation as “guerilla tactics” like chasing Democratic members down with video cameras and pressing them to explain votes or positions. (One target, Representative Bob Etheridge of North Carolina, had to apologize for manhandling one of his inquisitors in a clip memorialized on YouTube. Only this week did Republican strategists acknowledge they were behind the episode.)

Improbably, Mr. Boehner’s team turned the notion that Republicans could not afford to be the “Party of No” — or, in his words, the party of “Hell no” — on its ear, successfully portraying it as a virtue in the face of Mr. Obama’s legislative priorities. But even that team never predicted the sort of victory they experienced Tuesday night.

“I remember people laughing at me back when they thought Republicans were a lot like dinosaurs,” Representative Pete Sessions, the Texan who leads the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an interview. “Our mission statement was to retire Nancy Pelosi. That was the whole mission statement.”'
posted by VikingSword (143 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Here's how I think they did it. I think they did it because America is a naturally, almost instinctively right-wing nation and they knew damned well that two years of tough times under a Democrat government would be more than enough to do the job.
posted by Decani at 1:29 PM on November 4, 2010 [26 favorites]




I don't think anyone's wondering how the Republicans did it. The government swung left because voters thought the Democrats were going to bring the abuses of the Bush era to an end. When that failed to happen, and the economy continued taking on water, voters looked for an alternative.
posted by Nahum Tate at 1:35 PM on November 4, 2010 [7 favorites]




tl;dr version: money.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:38 PM on November 4, 2010 [14 favorites]


Jesus Christ. We have eleven percent unemployment. The reason the incumbents lost fits on a fucking napkin.

Now if you want to argue back and forth over whose fault that was, as I've sighed numerous times already it doesn't really matter. What mattered was who got their message out effectively. And again, I think there's little to argue on that either. I've spent half of today seeing friend re-tweet that "whathasObamafuckingdone.com" link or whatever. Dear internet: when a website is working harder to explain what the president's doing that the president is, it sort of explains why 60 Congresspeople couldn't get re-elected.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:38 PM on November 4, 2010 [35 favorites]


How they did it?

1. demonize liberals at every chance you can get;
2. Lie lie lie about their agenda;
3. Create an enemy in every race -- Obama in the White House, Pelosi in the House, etc;
4. Work as a bloc to oppose any legislation that might be claimed as a victory by the opposition;
5. Lie lie lie about that legislation;
6. Scapegoat;
7. Pump money into an energized fringe;
8. Throw mud;
9. Present your approach as being a revolutionary fix to a problem, even when you're describing the exact approach you've used for decades;
10. Present yourself as a Washington outsider, even when you have worked there for decades;
11. Fan paranoia, especially anti-government paranoia, and present yourself as defending America from government, even when you actually work in government and have for year.

The list can be longer, but I'll stop here. I doubt that the planning for this began 11 days before Obama was inaugurated. That's just when they modified these techniques to address him specifically.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:40 PM on November 4, 2010 [113 favorites]


I don't think anyone's wondering how the Republicans did it. The government swung left because voters thought the Democrats were going to bring the abuses of the Bush era to an end. When that failed to happen, and the economy continued taking on water, voters looked for an alternative.

That's... one way of looking at it.

Are you saying the Tea Party are frustrated at the failure of Obama to be left wing enough?
posted by Sebmojo at 1:40 PM on November 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh please. The Rs are not geniuses. They kept their usual party discipline, catered to the Tea Party, and got a negative economic environment, due in part to their constant nay saying, and a dream US Supreme Court ruling, due to their recent appointees willingness to engage in extreme judicial activism. It is no surprise that the out of office party usually wins the midterms.

I do agree that the Democrats were not well prepared for the mid terms, though. That needs to get fixed. And they really, really need to find a backbone.
posted by bearwife at 1:40 PM on November 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well now their whole stated mission statement is to retire Barack Obama, and that's all, and they'd clearly sell their own mothers if they thought that would do it.

It's kind of an odd state we're in though; the way this usually goes is, Republicans come in, screw everything up, get themselves rich. Then they get tossed out and it's up to the Democrats to make the government actually viable again - so once everyone gets comfortable and soft, they go back to voting Republican cuz I don't want my tax dollars goin' to no poor people.

But in this case things haven't been fixed yet. And they only got one house this time. So why should they change strategy? They're only half way through the game plan.
posted by fungible at 1:42 PM on November 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


What XYUZYPHYR said. The craziness of August, 2009 was just a prelude to all of this.

That stunt where Obama took on the House GOP and got in their face. Weekly doses of that, from every Democrat. It's war and the only thing that needs to be drowned in a bathtub is the current GOP, because they're putting party before country and doing it hardcore.
posted by nomadicink at 1:45 PM on November 4, 2010 [28 favorites]


They're only half way through the game plan.

Lot of Democratic Senate seats up for election in 2012.

21 vs 10 for Republicans PLUS the 2 independents. Fun times.
posted by nomadicink at 1:46 PM on November 4, 2010




Here's how I think they did it. They lobbied those who had the power to put a bug in the ears of Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas. Justice Kennedy then wrote a majority opinion in Citizens United that stated in part, "If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech." The opinion further stated that the campaign finance laws contemplated "no ceiling on campaign activities" and that "transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages." That opinion and the concurring opinions became the law of the land. Democrats failed to pass laws blunting the decision's impact. The US Chamber of Commerce raised $75 million+ without having to disclose any of its donors by re-organizing as a 501(c)(6). Other trade associations and interest groups did the same. The TV airwaves were flooded with vitriolic campaign ads banked by this funny money that linked all Democrats running in contested districts to Pelosi and Obama.

Profit.
posted by blucevalo at 1:50 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


'They began an aggressive recruiting effort for top-flight candidates in districts that seemed to be virtually owned by some of the longest-serving Democrats in the House.'

Strategy? The Republicans had a strategy?

It seems to me that the Republicans have been searching for a strategy for two years and while they were looking for one, the Democrats did them the huge favor of being Democrats.

Obama deserves the slap on his wrists for his poor leadership over what HIS party has been doing in the Congress. He deserves the C- the voters just gave him and Ms. Pelosi deserves to be fired.

But any talk about this being a Republican strategy - and a clever one at that? C'mon.

I hope the NY Times will take note that I am starting an aggressive recruiting effort for the sun to come up tomorrow...
posted by three blind mice at 1:50 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


It seems we are still suffering the machinations of Karl Rove
posted by Cranberry at 1:51 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


a). It's much easier to keep members of a small tent party in line.
b). When was the last time a party ran away from it's accomplishments?
c). It's the economy stupid.

This next two years is going to be public game of hot potato. They sure set the tone early:

"While our new majority will serve as your voice in the people's House, we must remember it's the president who sets the agenda for our government."

-- House Minority Leader John Boehner


They can try to play the sleeping bear that could turn things around if only we had more power!, but just as I think the Republicans have it in their core to toe the party line, I also think it's in their core to overreach.
posted by dig_duggler at 1:52 PM on November 4, 2010


As usual, Astro Zombie nails it.
posted by JHarris at 1:52 PM on November 4, 2010




So you're saying that it wasn't because of a genuine grassroot upswell of first time voters and real authentic patriots who are sick of the corruption and waste in Washington finally getting involved in the political process to take back the country that the grew up in and loved and save it from disasterous ruin at the hands of Kenyan insurgent communist socialist gay fascists?

Huh. Who knew?
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:54 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


When the White House returned again and again to the GOP to ask permission and lower its sights to gain the magic 60, I think the country took note and decided to also consult the same group. Their credibility was bolstered entirely by the White House. The GOP did play their one card very well.

I'm one of those who hopes this is all part of Obama's grand chess strategy to use the Other Guys as a foil and get things done by fiat when Congress will show itself to be incapable. But this is so I do not arrive at the conclusion that we really live in a one party system, and it is all a rather cruel joke - too much bipartisan activity gives us something that looks a LOT like one party.

And, also, the ECONOMY, natch. But I'm seeing that well repped here already!
posted by drowsy at 1:54 PM on November 4, 2010


One of the mistakes the Dems made was not stressing who caused the recession, and the cost of the oil adventure in Iraq. That a vote for Republicans was a vote to return to Bush's destructive policies. Plus letting the media get away with saying that Afghanistan was now Obama's war.
NO attempt could be made to reason with the Tea Party because they are a mob whipped up by demagoguery and not reasonable.
posted by Cranberry at 1:55 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish the story in my home state of Maine was getting more attention. For the first time since 1962 the House, the Senate, and the Governorship are all held by Republicans. The winning Gubernatorial candidate, a guy named Paul Lepage, won with 38% of the vote (in a five way race). In May, the Republican's adpoted this Tea Party Written Platform that includes such gems as abolishing the Fed, abolishing the Dept. of Education, and "investigate collusion between government and industry in the global warming myth" (whatever that means).

All this is getting lost behind the national news (especially since we returned our two Democratic Reps - Pingree and Michaud - to the Federal House of Reps), but its a 180 degree change from where we were. Two years ago our legislature legalized same-sex marriage. We had (note my use of the past tense; I'm sure it will be one of the first things to go in January) a program called Dirigo Health, one of the blueprints for national health reform. And now, suddenly, we're apparently a hard-core Red state.

I just can't find a way to blame this on Obama. I don't know how it happened.
posted by anastasiav at 1:55 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Hey, one post up has puppies!
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Are you saying the Tea Party are frustrated at the failure of Obama to be left wing enough?

No. If the Democrats hadn't punched hippies at every opportunity in the last few months and had managed to enact more and better parts of their agenda, then their base would have turned out and the Tea Party would have been irrelevant. The Republicans catered to their base and won. The Democrats told their base to sit down and shut up and they lost.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:56 PM on November 4, 2010 [26 favorites]


But I'm seeing that well repped here already!

I love how the Republicans said no to larger stimulus spending and when things are still limping along, decry how the stimulus bill didn't work.
posted by nomadicink at 1:57 PM on November 4, 2010


I think this is the bigger issue: winners tend to get complacent the next time around. It's easier to get the party base out voting when they're feeling disenfranchised, not when they've been sitting comfortably for awhile because their person won the last round.
posted by SpacemanStix at 1:58 PM on November 4, 2010


It is, however, going to be a weird blend of scary and just plain interesting seeing how the GOP is going to handle the curse bestowed upon them of governance.

For one thing, if they really think they're going to satisfy their base, they're not. They are not going to repeal "ObamaCare," they are not going to cut the deficit, and they are very likely not going to make any tax cuts permanent--at best they'll get an extension. They won't accomplish any significant social policy because Obama will just veto it, if it even makes it out of the Senate.

I noted this before, but you have to keep in mind that Democrats frustrated with Obama were frustrated over un- or underperformed actions that were in the realm of the possible. Public option, DADT repeal, etc. Difficult, but doable, and often creating outrage not at the failure but in the scoffing at said disappointment. In contrast, the GOP base wants things that are insane. "Why aren't we investigating Bush?" is going to be nothing compared to "why haven't we ordered him to show his birth certificate?" We're only two days after the election. There is going to be two years of realizing some of the lunatics that just got elected.

Meanwhile, it's been 48 hours since the election and they're already freaking out about the lunatics they let into the asylum. Michelle Bachmann now wants a leadership position in the GOP House. Cue insanity.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:59 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


As the previous Democratic president said: "It's the economy, stupid."

The money and stuff helped, possibly making the margin wider than it would have been otherwise. But it can only help so much. Meg Whitman spent $140+ million to try and become governor of California, and lost 54-41. She wasn't a good fit for California, and the incumbent Republican was extremely unpopular.

Similarly, even if Democrats had outspent Republicans, I think the House was going to be lost. But maybe by less.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:00 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ms. Pelosi deserves to be fired.

Pelosi did fine. The House passed lots of good legislation. It was Reid's spinelessness and incompetence in the Senate that was the problem. And yet, Reid won, and will still be in the leadership. This is a worst-case scenario. Reid needs to be fired, not Pelosi.
posted by vibrotronica at 2:01 PM on November 4, 2010 [23 favorites]


This article sorta indicates that politicians have advanced beyond the pretense of actually trying to accomplish things and are 100% busy getting elected, 24-7-365.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:04 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's worth noting that the majority of the Blue Dogs who lost on Tuesday voted against the Health Care legislation. If there's any lesson to be learned from the election, it's that you can represent a Republican-leaning district and still be a Democrat.
posted by Bromius at 2:05 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


If the Democrats hadn't punched hippies at every opportunity in the last few months and had managed to enact more and better parts of their agenda, then their base would have turned out and the Tea Party would have been irrelevant. The Republicans catered to their base and won. The Democrats told their base to sit down and shut up and they lost.

The most important way to parse this is in age demographics. There's a much better way to say this, but the exact same statement holds true. Old people showed up to vote. Young people didn't.

It's always hard to capture youth votes in mid-terms but even so... Jesus, Obama's 2008 campaign had one of the most amazing, high-tech, engaging young and new voter outreach programs in at the very least my lifetime. I have no idea where it went.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:05 PM on November 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure that the trouble is that Democrats are liberal enough. I mean, I know it alienates the left, and perhaps with their votes democrats could be put over the top in elections. But, then, as much as I wish they would, pushing left might alienate the middle and cost them elections. I don't know. I haven't seen any dating supporting one or the other. I think most Democratic candidates vote with their conscience, but I think their conscience is thoroughly centrist, and pro-business, and that's just how it is. I'd rather they were the socialists that the right wants to paint them as. But I don't know that this wouldn't take them out of politics altogether, as has happened with actual socialists.

The trouble is one of tactics. I don't know when or why the Democratic Party abandoned machine politics. I suspect it was broken because of the possibility of corruption. But that possibility is inherent in any tactic -- look at the Republicans, who functionally legalized corruption. Safeguards can be built in, but there were things that machine politics did that have been abandoned:

1. Political machines took care of the poor. The current Democratic party looks after the middle class and leaves the poor to fend for themselves. But the old Democratic party used to wait outside docks to greet and assist new immigrants, and wait outside prisons to help exiting prisoners, and bring turkeys to the homes of the poor on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And they were able to do this because they had a second thing that is now missing:

2. An incredibly organized alderman system. Ever neighborhood had its own alderman, who was the public face of the Democratic party, and took great paints to know and address the needs of the people in their community. You didn't vote Democrat because you liked Obama. You voted Democrat because Mike McMillan, your alderman, helped you secure a loan for your house. It's a technique that works especially well in urban settings, but that's where most of the votes are now.

3. The Democrats have abandoned labor, for some reason. And it's not just the support for unions that has dried up (perhaps because Democrats know they can rely on union support, regardless of what they do). Democrats were responsible for putting into place massive public works programs, and this put thousands of laborers to work. Republicans absolutely oppose these sorts of programs, mostly because they get paid for out of the pockets of their rich cronies. But if you have ten thousand workers who will be out of a job if a Republican gets elected, you have ten thousand workers who will vote Democrat.

I'm looking into this more, but I think the Democratic party desperately needs to revisit the era of Machine politics, and asked themselves what can be taken from it for the modern era. Because cautiously representing the middle class hasn't really worked.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:10 PM on November 4, 2010 [55 favorites]


So if the Republican's main goal is getting Obama fired in 2012, does that mean nothing will happen for 2 years?
posted by Theta States at 2:10 PM on November 4, 2010


No. If the Democrats hadn't punched hippies at every opportunity in the last few months and had managed to enact more and better parts of their agenda,

Hippies are not the base.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:11 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just can't find a way to blame this on Obama.

I'm with you.

BTW -- Obama Can Pursue Ambitious Agenda Without Congress's Help.
posted by ericb at 2:14 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ms. Pelosi deserves to be fired

This is ridiculous. Compared to the speakers before her and likely the one who will come after her she's one of the most accomplished in the last, and next, few decades. For all its faults the health care bill is landmark legislation that will (god willing) require and received many progressive fixes but nonetheless an amazing thing to get 218 votes for. One of my biggest complaints with the Obama White House has been their passive allowing of right-wing targeting to be directed at her. She was as useful a boogeyman for them as she was for the right, often facing horrible, sexist vitriol, and that will never be fair.

She didn't deserve to be fired, but she also didn't deserve some of the people she had to work with. Thankfully many of them got voted out for their lackluster performance. And I imagine the President will be missing her very, very soon. I'd have traded a thousand Harry Reids to have kept her, and I imagine so would he.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:14 PM on November 4, 2010 [21 favorites]


If you accuse people of doing a shitty job long enough people start to believe it. Obama , Reid and Pilosi got it from all angles.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:16 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I kept saying after the economic meltdown: We need to put people in jail or tax the fuck out of the rich and make it clear we are pulling ill gotten profits back. We did neither. What was there to get excited about on the so called left?


I never saw anyone in handcuffs on the evening news and Obama saying "see thieves- you're next", I don't know how they did it, but some how the republicans became the party of 'anti-wall street" in many people's minds.

so weird.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:17 PM on November 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Adding, and this applies to Reid for the Senate, the idea that the Speaker/Leader has to "take the hit" when their party loses is, well nonsensical. It's not Nancy Pelosi's job to get 60 Congresspeople to keep their job; it was theirs. Pelosi's job was to pass Democratic legislation. She did. Quite effectively in most cases.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:17 PM on November 4, 2010


Was Election 2010 about the tea party or Nancy Pelosi?

No, not really: "The outcome of this year's election represented a repudiation of the political status quo, rather than a vote of confidence in the GOP or a statement of support for its policies. By 52% to 42%, more voters expressed an unfavorable opinion than a favorable opinion of the GOP. Indeed, views of Republican Party are no more positive than those of the Democratic Party (53% unfavorable vs. 43% favorable), which was roundly defeated."

The incumbent president's party tends to lose seats in an off-year election; a bad economy intensifies that. And in the wake of Citizens United, we have tens of millions of dollars demonizing any effort to ameliorate economic conditions. Plus the instinctively centrist Democratic Party-- and here, the effective House Dems suffered for the dysfunction of the Senate-- pushed for a too-small stimulus.

As to the link, there's something, not quite admirable, but... far-sighted, for the GOP to ignore Beltway hand-wringing and focus on their own interests. Of course, the GOP's interest required lying about the stimulus, lying about health insurance reform, and working to make America worse off, so, yeah, "admirable" doesn't quite do it.
posted by ibmcginty at 2:19 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pelosi did fine. The House passed lots of good legislation.

No. She did not do fine. The House passed plenty of legislation. This is true. But all of it was deeply unpopular - even among Democrats. She achieved no broad consensus in the public (and neither did Mr. Obama) and only a partisan majority (and barely that) in the House.

Obama failed by allowing the Congress to craft his legislative agenda. (Bill Clinton knew better, but he was more seasoned when he took office.) Hopefully, rid of competing party leadership in the Congress, Obama can step up and take control of his party and its agenda.

Pelosi and Reid weren't doing him no favors, but he was cowed by them. Obama owes no such fealty to John of Orange and hopefully he'll start acting like President and leader of his party instead of just President.
posted by three blind mice at 2:23 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish the story in my home state of Maine was getting more attention.

And here in Massachussets -- who'd of thunk it? ; )
Republicans’ revolution fades in Massachusetts.

Republicans can’t crack Mass. delegation.

Turnout told tale of Tuesday’s Democratic sweep.
And ... for 2012: Democrats say hopes rise of beating Brown.
posted by ericb at 2:24 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


They are not going to repeal "ObamaCare," they are not going to cut the deficit, and they are very likely not going to make any tax cuts permanent--at best they'll get an extension. They won't accomplish any significant social policy because Obama will just veto it, if it even makes it out of the Senate.

Which exactly what the R's want. They want to be foiled by Obama and the Dems. They want Obama vetoing every damned thing they send up. Then, come 2012, they can point to the "obstructionist lib-ruls ignoring the will of the people" and get the electorate to steamroll them again.

The next two years are going to make your heads implode with the utter Machiavellian-ness of it all.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:29 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh christ, I'm so friggin' tired of post hoc explanations for how Republicans are strategic masterminds (see: Rove, Karl) every time they win at something.

They're mean, and they're bullies, and that's about it. The simplistic "South Park" view of the world fits in most people's busy lives, and they don't have the effort or inclination to listen to nuance or complexity. The reality is that life in this complicated world requires some complicated solutions, and if you can't boil that down to be palatable- and fight hard for it once you do- you won't win anyone over.

Bullies spewing hate and fear are always, always, always easy sells to people especially at their most frustrated, and the Democrats don't do enough to sell their own virtues and fix the "common man" problems in visible, immediate ways. This does not in any way make the Republicans geniuses.
posted by hincandenza at 2:31 PM on November 4, 2010 [16 favorites]


What worries me is that when the Democrats -- the relatively Web-unsavvy, Washington-bound, insulated steerers of the party -- when they look at this election, they're not going to see that a lot of people sat home in (frankly) a snit because their unicorn had a yellow bow instead of a blue one.

They're going to see that people voted right-wing. A lot of people.

And while I'm sure all the folks who turned up their noses and avoided the polls think that the Democrats are going to have a come-to-Jesus moment and realize they need to go hard left to get votes back, I'm afraid (not rhetorically: genuinely afraid) that they're wrong.

They're going to look at who voted.

They're going to want those votes.

They're not interested in who might vote if they run down a magical list of hypotheticals. They don't care if you're sitting in your basement thinking that you could possibly vote Democrat again if they cut military spending and get Arrested Development back on the air.

They want votes. Not airy promises of maybe-votes.

And the actual voters are going right-wing.

So I'm worried that the people who think that not voting is going to bring the Democrats further left are in for some bad goddamn news:

You've just delivered cold, hard proof to the Democrats that they need to go even further right if they want to capture votes. The Republicans are going deep into fascist territory to get the Tea Party, and the Democrats are going to go even more Republican to try to catch the less-insane Republican vote. Because people that get off their ass and vote are more valuable than maybe-might-if-you-meet-my-demands imaginary voters.

I could be wrong; I hope I am. But I think the Unicorn Disappointment Brigade is going to have an even more bitter pill to swallow if just driven their best shot at sanity even further to the right.
posted by Shepherd at 2:34 PM on November 4, 2010 [35 favorites]


Obama owes no such fealty to John of Orange and hopefully he'll start acting like President and leader of his party instead of just President.

After that press conference? He's running to the right as fast as he can. We need a liberal who will fight, instead, we have a Reagan Democrat who wants to be more moderate.

Fine, whatever. The country is fucked anyway, when the new House refuses to raise the debt ceiling and the Treasury is forced to not make payment on a due bond.
posted by eriko at 2:35 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Jesus, Obama's 2008 campaign had one of the most amazing, high-tech, engaging young and new voter outreach programs in at the very least my lifetime. I have no idea where it went.

He turned around and rejected nearly everything he promised to do that got them to turn out. End wars? Nope. Stop torture? Nope. Create jobs? Nope. Prosecute Wall St criminals? Double nope.

Youth vote says energized? Nope.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:36 PM on November 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


Jesus Christ. We have eleven percent unemployment. The reason the incumbents lost fits on a fucking napkin.


Not where I'm sitting. Iowa, for no reason other than scare tactics about "liberal politics" and grips about whatever the hell "Obamacare" means, swapped out our (admittedly lackluster) governor for a has-been from the '80s and elected more republicans to our state house despite 6.6% unemployment and a gain of jobs in the last year.

Maybe people voted as a reflection of the actual climate outside their doors in some locations, but not here. A predominately older, rural populace rolled into the polling places as a reaction against ghosts and goblins.
posted by mikeh at 2:39 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well at least now that it's served it's purpose (OMGMUSLIMS!) the Republicans will promptly forget about the Park 51 mosque.
posted by PenDevil at 2:44 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


No. If the Democrats hadn't punched hippies at every opportunity in the last few months and had managed to enact more and better parts of their agenda, then their base would have turned out and the Tea Party would have been irrelevant. The Republicans catered to their base and won. The Democrats told their base to sit down and shut up and they lost.

Not really. Exit polls do not show a dip in Liberal participation, which looks almost exactly the same for the last 8 years. In fact, exit polls show that liberals were slightly more likely to support Democrats in 2010 than in 2008.

The big change between 2008 and 2010 isn't on the left, it's on the right. On one axis, Democrats lost millions of moderates and conservatives. On another axis, Democrats lost millions of independents and Republican switch-voters from 2008. These losses hurt because moderates and conservatives outnumber liberals 4:1.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:46 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I stood in line for an hour to vote at City Hall in the county seat of Wingnut County where I live. My queue-mates were, almost to a person, sickly, malnourished and right-wing. I know which way my county voted and I (sort of) know why - nutrition and education.

I don't know if we can fix it by 2012, but it's not going to get better on its own, especially not with Republicans in office.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:46 PM on November 4, 2010


"I believe that the healthcare bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best healthcare system in the world, and bankrupt our country," - John Boehner, Nov. 3, 2010.

For me, this quote best illustrates the depth of the Republicans' dishonesty, especially when they did their utmost to block ANY reform of healthcare or health insurance.

Obama needs to call them out on exactly what part of this (very modest) reform they would like to repeal.
posted by Danf at 2:47 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not where I'm sitting. Iowa, for no reason other than scare tactics about "liberal politics" and grips about whatever the hell "Obamacare" means, swapped out our (admittedly lackluster) governor for a has-been from the '80s and elected more republicans to our state house despite 6.6% unemployment and a gain of jobs in the last year.


Who cares about unemployment when you have judges to boot for ruling that gay people should be equal?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:50 PM on November 4, 2010


How they did it:
1) Listen to Bill (it's the economy stupid) Clinton
2) Scream OMG/Obamacare/Big government/Bailouts/Deficit

At some point, someone realized that the fact that Bush had tanked the economy was a plus for Republicans because a) Obama was spending money on a new health care program, and b) the economy wasn't fixed yet. It didn't matter that the two major contributors to the deficit were the #1 the Bush tax cuts and #2 the Iraq war, all that mattered was that there was a big deficit and the Democrats were in charge.

In a polarized (red/blue) environment, you only need a few swing votes to tip the balance.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 2:50 PM on November 4, 2010


They are not going to repeal "ObamaCare," they are not going to cut the deficit, and they are very likely not going to make any tax cuts permanent

All these things are far more useful as political levers than as actual accomplishments and are likely to be left in that state as long as possible.
posted by flug at 2:51 PM on November 4, 2010


What worries me is that when the Democrats -- the relatively Web-unsavvy, Washington-bound, insulated steerers of the party -- when they look at this election, they're not going to see that a lot of people sat home in (frankly) a snit because their unicorn had a yellow bow instead of a blue one.

...

You've just delivered cold, hard proof to the Democrats that they need to go even further right if they want to capture votes. The Republicans are going deep into fascist territory to get the Tea Party, and the Democrats are going to go even more Republican to try to catch the less-insane Republican vote. Because people that get off their ass and vote are more valuable than maybe-might-if-you-meet-my-demands imaginary voters.

Jesus, dude, you've created Schroedinger's Liberal -- the magical liberal voter that only exists when you need one to blame. Bravo!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:54 PM on November 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


I could be wrong; I hope I am. But I think the Unicorn Disappointment Brigade is going to have an even more bitter pill to swallow if just driven their best shot at sanity even further to the right.

I see no evidence that the "Unicorn Disappointment Brigade" did much more than inspire a weekly flamewar series on political sites. The illusion that they did is a perceptual bias based on the fact that we're in a small sandbox with a lot of very opinionated and argumentative people.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:55 PM on November 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


You've just delivered cold, hard proof to the Democrats that they need to go even further right if they want to capture votes.

My current joke is that 2010 proved that politicians in 2008 weren't racist enough, and 2012 will see a carefully timed remake of Birth of a Nation before elections.
posted by yeloson at 2:57 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Iowa, for no reason other than scare tactics about "liberal politics" and grips about whatever the hell "Obamacare" means, swapped out our (admittedly lackluster) governor for a has-been from the '80s and elected more republicans to our state house despite 6.6% unemployment and a gain of jobs in the last year.

Well, old people and Bible-thumpers also turned out to kick out three Iowa judges who dared to interpret laws according to how they actually read.

Apparently the WILL OF OUR LORD trumps economic improvements.
posted by delfin at 2:57 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think it's just the same ole, same ole throw the bums out mentality. In 2006 and 2008, the Republicans were the bums, and the Democrats won the house, senate and then presidency. Now it's the Democrat's turn be thrown out. It certainly isn't the teabagger's platform of mindless hooting and terrified pants-shitting that put them into power.
posted by stavrogin at 3:00 PM on November 4, 2010


I see no evidence that the "Unicorn Disappointment Brigade" did much more than inspire a weekly flamewar series on political sites.

Anyone still making the sarcastic comments about "not getting unicorns" on websites is deeply flawed in their self-projection that every voter is actively online, and conversely that active, online bloggers are remotely close to the bulk of the electorate.

As I said a month back, we aren't blogging our way out of fucked. We won't, we can't, and we didn't. But if it's still making people feel better to punch straw-hippies AFTER that strategy failed miserably, more power to them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:04 PM on November 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Jesus Christ. We have eleven percent unemployment. The reason the incumbents lost fits on a fucking napkin.

This is a simplification at best, and frankly wrong. See:

Not where I'm sitting. Iowa, for no reason other than scare tactics about "liberal politics" and grips about whatever the hell "Obamacare" means, swapped out our (admittedly lackluster) governor for a has-been from the '80s and elected more republicans to our state house despite 6.6% unemployment and a gain of jobs in the last year.

Maybe people voted as a reflection of the actual climate outside their doors in some locations, but not here. A predominately older, rural populace rolled into the polling places as a reaction against ghosts and goblins.


Exactly. One can keep adding examples of how many states with ultra low (compared to other states) unemployment still have super angry Tea Party people and right-wing voting - see Alaska, North Dakota etc. - f.ex. N. Dakota is has the lowest unemployment in the nation at 3.7% - this under a Democratic Senator, yet when the seat was vacated for the 2010 race, the Republican candidate absolutely CRUSHED the Democratic one, by embarrassingly lopsided numbers. If ever there was a test case for unemployment, seems the lowest in the nation should be a test case.

And on the opposite side, this is refuted as well. Take California, which has a HIGHER than the national average of 11% unemployment (well above 12%), and yet the Democrats did exceptionally well in these elections, basically sweeping stateside offices... if you had an R after your name, you were toast... it was pretty much all the way Ds in downticket races. Fact is, Republicans are not liked in California (in large part due to a Latino backlash).

So this talk about "unemployment" as the explanation, seems to me a wee bit oversimplified.
posted by VikingSword at 3:06 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought this was very interesting reading. Selection:

One person whose door I knocked yesterday told me she had doorknocked in Woodbury for Tarryl Clark, and was depressed by what she found. She said she was in a neighborhood of "McMansions", which I took to mean new and large homes. Everyone was underwater on their mortgage and worried about their jobs, and planned to take it out on the Democrats. She said even women who are pro-choice planned to vote Republican "out of spite". That fits what we saw, where the suburbs turned strongly against the DFL except the inner tier, and that seems to have been the national pattern.

(Tarryl Clark ran a good campaign but lost in MN-6 to, yes, the dreaded Michelle Bachmann.)
posted by gimonca at 3:07 PM on November 4, 2010


If you think the last two years were paralysis (which in retrospect, they weren't), wait until this plays out.

The gridlock won't come from different parties controlling the house and the senate. Instead, the Democrats will strongly urge Obama not to work with Republicans, because if he does (assuming they could find things to work together on), voters will re-elect a GOP congress.

The American system of government is truly FUBAR.
posted by dry white toast at 3:08 PM on November 4, 2010


The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that Obama doesn't really like being President. He's not happy being President. It bores him. Frustrates him. I think somewhere, deep down, he probably wants out. I wouldn't be totally surprised if he pulled a Johnson sometime between now and 2012.

He could have done so much. He could have, in his first day in office, announced a New Deal that would provide 100% employment until the economy recovered. Something like a 21st century WPA. I don't know how much it would cost to employ 30 million Americans for a year at $10/hour, but it couldn't be more than the cost of a few new aircraft carriers or space shuttles.

"You want a job?" he could have said, "Here, have one." Nobody would be turned away. What did you do before you were laid off? Engineer? We can definitely use you. Graphic designer? We have plenty of inspirational posters to design. Writer? We need stories written. No skills? We can always use more construction workers.

We could have done that. We could have expanded our military bases, improved our federal parks, built new dams, new bridges, new solar panel factories -- whatever we wanted. Yeah, it would have cost money, yeah, maybe a lot of money, but we would have had virtual 100% employment before long, and people would have started spending again. Buying things, making things, improving the economy.

But he didn't do any of that. He could have. He could have at least suggested it, but he didn't. I don't know why. Occasionally I get the sense that all the accusations of "Socialist!" and "Traitor!" and "Muslim!" may have finally gotten to him. Spooked him. He doesn't want to rock the boat too much because he's afraid of what might happen. I remember when he was a Senator he remarked in an interview that he was uncertain about ever running for President, because he feared being assassinated.

Afraid of being assassinated as President? With the full protection of the Secret Service? No, that's not a normal fear. That kind of fear belies a deeper insecurity. It should have been a warning about his state of mind, but we didn't listen.
posted by Avenger at 3:13 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


A predominately older, rural populace rolled into the polling places as a reaction against ghosts and goblins.

Very succinctly put, and I think a very real factor as well.
posted by gimonca at 3:14 PM on November 4, 2010


The problem is they got rid of Howard Dean. Howard Dean knew what he was doing. First, he has a spine and could mobilize democrats and raise money. He came to chair the DNC in 2005 and is a huge reason that 2006 and 2008 elections went the way they did. I am not sure why he is not there any more. Maybe they didn't get rid of him so much as he left, but his absence is a big reason you see the Democrats floundering all over the place, at least in my opinion.
posted by milarepa at 3:21 PM on November 4, 2010 [19 favorites]


The word 'bailout' alone probably gained 10 seats.

The biggest problem Obama could never really overcome, from the time of the big Chicago speech after winning the election onwards, was that to fully explain the extent of the pain ahead would have itself sent markets diving and worsened the recovery.

Presidents have to hew optimistic on economic outlook because it's one if the major tools of the job. So when Obama said it's going to take some time to pick up, the reality he didn't and couldn't mention was that it's actually far far worse, that even a decade of sluggish activity may not turn things around. It was, and remains, a rock and a hard place for Obama and perhaps the greatest casualty from the turmoil will be that the public ends up believing that it was overregulation and government's inability to be a positive influence in hard economic times that were the fucking causes of the whole economic mess in the first place. Timidity with respect to the stimulus was the biggest mistake -it's so easy to claim the bloody thing didn't work and only resulted in further debt to China.

Sure, republicans demonised the deficit and guvmint handouts to a great degree, but it was voter apathy that handed them the vast majority of the seats. Seniors made up 20+% of the voters yeah? Fuck. Alls repubs did was to energise the base; the good news is that they are still hated by a majority.

I guess what I'm waffling towards is this idea that it wasn't really republican tactics that won through so much as an inability to message on the dem's part just how fucking slow and flat the economic recovery was and is going to be. Obama was right about the ditch and the keys story, it's just that it began to sound merely flippant when he wasn't explaining how excrutiatingly slow and painful the path back to the road would be. So the public start to believe it's his inability rather than the depth of the ditch.
posted by peacay at 3:23 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]



They chickened out at the prospect of passing real healthcare or financial reform. What they ended up passing is better than nothing, but they then failed to communicate anything about what they actually accomplished. The Democrats present a persona of incompetence, graft, and of no backbone. They fail on messaging, communication and unity.

Harry Reid came within a hair of losing to an absolute lunatic. Now he plans to cooperate more closely with the Kickers.

Michelle Bachman gets on CNN and claims that the President is spending 200 million dollars a day to visit India. The White House responded with:

"The numbers reported in this article have no basis in reality. Due to security concerns, we are unable to outline details associated with security procedures and costs, but it's safe to say these numbers are wildly inflated.".

It's a mealy, soft and limpwristed response . We're not dealing with opinions, these are cold hard fucking facts. Grow a pair and don't say "I disagree with your facts". Say "You are wrong and here is why". This is not difficult. But they don't. They let outright lies and innacuracies stand. It's as if they're playing a different fucking game.. The Republicans bring a gun, the Democrats bring them bullets.

I don't like the Tea Party. But I understand the anger. I understand the feeling of helplessness, the desire to send a message that we want a government that works for us. I also understand the appeal of someone who will go to the mat for their constituents. I can't think of many. Al Franken.. and... Well, I think that's it.

And it's not just Democrats. The TP doodz are in for a rude awakening if they think they can wander in and change things. What they're going to get is more shit from people like Spencer Bachus, new chair of the House Financial Services Committee who "expressed concern that shareholders of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase will be hurt because the banks will be less profitable.”

I think the outcome from this election was as good as we could've hoped for with the current climate. But I worry that if the Democrats don't coalesce into a progressive group, they're fucked. Middle ground doesn't mobilize shit. Status Quo doesn't mobilize shit. Demonization mobilizes, but conversely, a socially positive message will mobilize the base. Present an alternative. A real alternative. Fire breathing lunatics on one side, positive social and economic growth on the other.
posted by Lord_Pall at 3:26 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


The problem is they got rid of Howard Dean. Howard Dean knew what he was doing. First, he has a spine and could mobilize democrats and raise money. He came to chair the DNC in 2005 and is a huge reason that 2006 and 2008 elections went the way they did.

Eh, sort of. Dean and his 50 state strategy gave us a lot of blue dogs, so if you blame them for paralyzing Obama it's hard to keep calling Dean the savior.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:27 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Afraid of being assassinated as President? With the full protection of the Secret Service? No, that's not a normal fear. That kind of fear belies a deeper insecurity. It should have been a warning about his state of mind, but we didn't listen.

Um. The state of his mind that he remembers that black leaders who actually DO create change instead of mild lip service get assassinated?

Yeah, remembering history is a state of mind I like in my elected officials.
posted by yeloson at 3:27 PM on November 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can't help seeing some parallels with the Weimar Republic. A failed war, massive debt, corporatism, petty-minded and acrimonious electorate (hell, not just with politics and a rising undercurrent of racism, but you've got half of Missourians favoring puppy mills on Prop B). Where are we, perhaps 1923 Germany?
posted by crapmatic at 3:29 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Astro Zombie: "The trouble is one of tactics. I don't know when or why the Democratic Party abandoned machine politics. I suspect it was broken because of the possibility of corruption. But that possibility is inherent in any tactic -- look at the Republicans, who functionally legalized corruption. Safeguards can be built in, but there were things that machine politics did that have been abandoned...

It's interesting you mention this, because I"m reading right now an article about the difference between local and national capitalists. The Machine Politics that used to rule and their support of immigrants, and the sort of nativist Northern European folks who were here before the Eastern Europeans and how they formed Municipal leagues to combat the machine, and how many cities implemented the "anti-corruption" reforms which tilted the power base towards the landed elites while disempowering the local NIMBY crowds.

Who Rules America UCSC Sociology Professor William Damhoff is the force behind this research. In particular this article discusses the Growth Coalition Theory.
posted by symbioid at 3:34 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem is they got rid of Howard Dean. Howard Dean knew what he was doing. First, he has a spine and could mobilize democrats and raise money. He came to chair the DNC in 2005 and is a huge reason that 2006 and 2008 elections went the way they did. I am not sure why he is not there any more

Rahm Emmanuel is why Dean was pushed out as chair of the DNC.

You want dems to win in 2012? DO EVERYTHING THE REPUBS WANT. Give them full credit, over and over, say 'as our republican friends have pointed out, it's the will of the people."

Obama is a one term president at this point, whether things go good or bad, if good, it's because the repubs took the house, if bad it's because Obama is still in the White house.

Dems should become the party of "thats a great idea repubs!" "We would do something different, like regulate the banking industry, but if you think cutting them loose is a good idea lets go for it!"

Some old republican war horse somewhere actually said that what we need is 15 more years of conservative/free market ideology to finally put that crap in it's grave.

What we are actually witnessing is a third world country fighting over our tax dollars with moneyed interests controlling both parties but not wanting to pay their share of any tax while at the same time demanding YOUR TAX DOLLAR from their puppet representatives.

The EXPERIMENT IS OVER YOU ARE JUST A RESOURCE.

This started with Reagan but began in earnest after '94. How? It all started with the dismantling of the FCC. (just ask Rupert Murdoch.)
posted by Max Power at 3:40 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Eh, sort of. Dean and his 50 state strategy gave us a lot of blue dogs, so if you blame them for paralyzing Obama it's hard to keep calling Dean the savior.

I mean that sort of proves my point. Everything sort of ground to a halt and flew off message when he left. Of course there are a number of complex causes and subsequent effects, but his absence is definitely a contributing factor to the democratic train-wreak since 2008.

But to your point, no one factor paralyzed Obama more than the democrat's the collective inability to call republicans on their shit. A few holdout democrats? Ok, then organize your party and make it something they want to join. Was or is Dean a savior? No, but at least he had some balls.
posted by milarepa at 3:48 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rahm Emmanuel is why Dean was pushed out as chair of the DNC.

That's what I vaguely remember, and Pelosi/Reid not liking him didn't help. They dug their own grave with him again; the same way they buried him in 2004. That scream was one thing, but it was really the democrats that were feeding on his corpse.
posted by milarepa at 3:51 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have to agree with the simple explanations. The public has been throwing the bums out for eight years, because as a (relatively uninformed) voter in a two-party system, it's almost all you can do when you want the government to solve things. When the unemployment rate is projected to hover around 10%, and everyone in Washington is all "welp, what can you do", more bums get thrown out.

It doesn't work because the two parties aren't up to the task – one party is terrified of solving anything and the other refuses to on general principle. So the voters are going to keep on throwing bums out.

Obama will probably hang on, though, because the House Republicans are a bunch of howling incompetents and they will Terry Schiavo their way out of the 2012 elections at the earliest possible opportunity.

Also, yes, Dean was very good to the party's campaign apparatus – but see "terrified of solving problems"
posted by furiousthought at 3:59 PM on November 4, 2010


Crap. I mean, "the public has been throwing the bums out for six years" and "Terri Schiavo." Carry on then.
posted by furiousthought at 4:07 PM on November 4, 2010


I don't know how much it would cost to employ 30 million Americans for a year at $10/hour, but it couldn't be more than the cost of a few new aircraft carriers or space shuttles.

30,000,000 * $10 * 40 hours/week * 50 weeks/year = $600 billion.

The USS Gerald R. Ford cost $5.1 billion.

TARP was originally estimated to cost $358 billion, but after being paid back will cost $30 billion.
posted by zsazsa at 4:17 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Where are we, perhaps 1923 Germany?

If someone tries to take a shot at Obama, we might be.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:23 PM on November 4, 2010


We all believe we have a few answers to this, so I will make but a very few observations:
1. Early on, the American public was very much in favor of health care reform. The GOP dumped lots of money into what then became "Obamacare," and by election time this was something that was terrible to have, the voters thought.
2. The Gop has a single solid voice. When they are against something, they are ALL against it.
The Dems have a "big tent," and split on just about any given issue, making it easier for the opposition to get what it wants.
3. Soon, the tables are to be turned: the Tea Party will go at it with the old-liners in the GOP, and this might turn the Solid Party into a split party, resembling in part the Democratic party, or until such time as one or the other faction totally wins out.
4. The bank bailout was a great thing for the banks and a disaster for Obama...the small businesses and defaults looked with contempt at the bailout, and noted rightly that there were few if any punitive actions and not much in the way of new strong regulations.
posted by Postroad at 4:58 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


You've just delivered cold, hard proof to the Democrats that they need to go even further right if they want to capture votes.

Not if they have any ability to read election returns. I'm not sure they do, but that's another topic.

The Blue Dogs got beat up pretty badly. The Progressive Caucus got off pretty light. Firedoglake makes the relevant point that most of the Progressives up for re-election were in pretty safe areas, and the ones who lost were the most vulnerable ones without regard to policy, so I don't think it's as simple as saying "go left and keep your seat." It's a midterm, the President's party gets smacked in midterms, that's how it goes.

But the obstructionist tactics and conservative alignment of the Blue Dogs didn't save them from a shellacking, to use the President's term. It's fairly clear that, at least during midterms if not during every election, the letter next to your name is way more important than anything you've actually done or haven't done. It's not at all clear that going left gains votes, but it's absolutely, abundantly clear that going right does not gain votes. As Maddow put it last night, when the conservative goes to vote, you think they're going to vote for the real right-winger or the fake one? There was a time when the Blue Dogs had a role to play in Democratic politics, because of last century's political makeup holding over ("My daddy was a Democrat, his daddy was a Democrat," etc.). That's not really true anymore; the South and the conservative West has been almost solid red for a generation or more.

I don't think the Democrats failed to mobilize the liberal base -- I think it was Avenger in the election-day thread who pointed out that per exit poll, self-reported liberals lined up with the overall percentage of self-reporting liberals in the country -- so much as they failed to mobilize, period. By that, I mean that they failed to communicate to both their supporters and to the moderates upon whom both parties lean that the Democrats should be voted for. Rightly or wrongly, they allowed themselves to be tarred with the impression that they were bumbling, ineffectual, and weak.

The Democrats were always going to lose last night, and they were almost surely going to lose pretty badly. But if they take away from that loss the notion that going right is the way to maintain power, they're exactly as stupid and incompetent as they've allowed the people to believe them to be.
posted by Errant at 5:06 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


As long as Democrats and their supporters are convinced that people not voting for them is 1) massively unfair, and 2) chiefly the result of malice and ill-will, they will never be able to win an election.

The reason the Republicans won is not because of Citizens United. The two parties spent almost exactly the same amount of money. The Democrats actually spent about 1% more than the Republicans in House races and the Republicans only spent about 5% more on Senate races.

Face it: the Democrats made some bad political miscalculations and got blindsided by crop of electable candidates* with a well-run ground-game. Take your medicine, keep your chin up, and do better next time.

Frankly, I think most of the GOP are a bunch of nutters, but them winning is almost worth it to see progressives putting Chris Carter to shame with their conspiracy mongering.

*Notice that Angle, O'Donnell, Fiorina, and Brown, the four most obviously unqualified candidates, all got more-or-less stomped. The American public may be pissed, but that doesn't mean they're insane.
posted by valkyryn at 5:19 PM on November 4, 2010


valkyryn: "The reason the Republicans won is not because of Citizens United. The two parties spent almost exactly the same amount of money. The Democrats actually spent about 1% more than the Republicans in House races and the Republicans only spent about 5% more on Senate races."

That's a very silly thing to say The Citizens United ruling wasn't about what the parties could spend, but what outside groups could spend, instead. It's about unlimited corporate funding of political ads and media.
posted by barnacles at 5:24 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Citizens United ruling wasn't about what the parties could spend, but what outside groups could spend, instead.

Not entirely. Part of the restriction that Citizens' United removed was funding of campaigns by corporate entities. And either way, unions count as corporate entities. The AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFCSME, NEA, and UAW spent a total of just over $200 million. The idea that Citizens' United only benefited the GOP is itself a silly thing to say.
posted by valkyryn at 5:30 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


It looks like a link, your name is "TheWhietSkull"... meh I don't think I'll click.
posted by vectr at 5:37 PM on November 4, 2010


30,000,000 * $10 * 40 hours/week * 50 weeks/year = $600 billion.
You are forgetting to multiply by 2.2 for overhead andadministrative expenses. Annual cost $1.3 trillion.
posted by humanfont at 5:41 PM on November 4, 2010


It looks like a link, your name is "TheWhietSkull"... meh I don't think I'll click.

It's history, fool.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:42 PM on November 4, 2010


*Notice that Angle, O'Donnell, Fiorina, and Brown, the four most obviously unqualified candidates, all got more-or-less stomped

Rand Paul, anyone? I really think that he and Marco Rubio were able to slip under the radar of the national conversation that saddled O'Donnell and Angle with the crazy label because of all the attention on the "Mean Girls" of the GOP.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:46 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rand Paul, anyone? I really think that he and Marco Rubio were able to slip under the radar of the national conversation that saddled O'Donnell and Angle with the crazy label because of all the attention on the "Mean Girls" of the GOP.

I didn't say those four were crazy, I said they were "obviously unqualified." O'Donnell isn't qualified to be dogcatcher. She's a joke, and not a very funny one at that. Fiorina and Whitman have no record of public service. Angle has earned herself a reputation as a certifiable wingnut in the Nevada House.

Rubio, on the other hand, has been Speaker of the Florida House twice, in public service for ten years, and was probably going to win this election even without the Tea Partiers.

Paul is admittedly an exception, but it's undeniable that he's trading on his dad's reputation. Either way, unlike O'Donnell and Angle, he didn't say anything manifestly stupid on the campaign trail.
posted by valkyryn at 5:51 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The conservative Blue Dog Democrats were the biggest losers with a 50% rate of attrition, while the Progressive Caucus lost only 4 seats out of 79. I’m not sure what to take from this. Did the Blue Dogs lose because they’re from inherently more conservative districts, or did The Progressives fare so much better because they had the courage of their convictions?

I prefer the latter interpretation. In any case this gives The Progressives a stronger voice in the Democratic caucus of the incoming Congress.
posted by Huplescat at 6:00 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The reason the Republicans won is not because of Citizens United. The two parties spent almost exactly the same amount of money. The Democrats actually spent about 1% more than the Republicans in House races and the Republicans only spent about 5% more on Senate races.

The totals on that page are only ~$1.4 billion. That's far from the whole story, even when only considering House and Senate races. Total spending for this election was about $4 billion. The part of campaign spending that was affected by Citizens United was dominated by conservative organizations: "Identifiably conservative organizations are spending more than $2 on advertisements and other communications for every $1 liberal organizations do."

You can read the section titled Outside Money Buoys Republicans for the details, but here's the bottom line:
$176.5 million has come from non-party-committee conservative organizations, through Wednesday. That compares to $81.6 million from non-party-committee liberal organizations. In four U.S. Senate races, outside groups have spent more than the candidates themselves through mid-October.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($34 million), American Action Network ($22.1 million), the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads ($19.9 million) and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies ($16.2 million) and ranked one, two, three and four among outside organizations spending money on independent expenditures, electioneering communications and other political communication costs through Wednesday. All are overtly conservative organizations.
Thus far, Republicans and conservative groups have taken much more advantage of the Citizens United ruling. I don't think it should surprise anybody that large corporations have much more money to spend than labor unions.
posted by jedicus at 6:01 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jesus, dude, you've created Schroedinger's Liberal -- the magical liberal voter that only exists when you need one to blame. Bravo!

Actually, I know one of these "magical liberal voters" personally. It's a guy I used to work with -- he's a gay dude who wants the right to get married to his boyfriend, wants abortions to be legal, wants pot to be legal (he already has a medical marijuana license for his rheumatoid arthritis, but wants to be able to buy it at the corner store instead of the dispensary)... but he won't vote. He categorically refuses to vote, and here I will quote from his Facebook status update on election day, "I didn't vote today, NOR do I plan to do so. Call me ignorant if you will, I don't care. I just find the voting system to be nothing but lies and propaganda. If you ask me, everything politician is nothing more than a fucking jackass."

A surprisingly large number of his friends "liked" his post, too. Several people commented on his post to explain why voting is good and why not voting doesn't do anything but screw us all over, and he's like, "Whatevs, I don't care! I'm not voting for crooks!"

Pretend people like this don't exist if you want to. I'll be over here trying to convince them to fucking vote instead.
posted by palomar at 6:07 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's funny because it's true.
posted by gamera at 6:12 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Nice one gamera! love Tom Toles.
posted by Max Power at 6:25 PM on November 4, 2010


Paul is admittedly an exception, but it's undeniable that he's trading on his dad's reputation. Either way, unlike O'Donnell and Angle, he didn't say anything manifestly stupid on the campaign trail.

*Cough cough*

posted by Rangeboy at 6:43 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


The problem is they got rid of Howard Dean. Howard Dean knew what he was doing.

Amen to this. Dean was very solid in 2006 and 2008 in doing the legwork to recruit challengers against Republican incumbents. That way, Dean was able to take advantage of later events like the scandals with Mark Foley and Tom DeLay. As the New York Times article showed, Boehner simply borrowed from Dean's playbook and started recruiting candidates for 2010 election all the way back in 2009.

So, there's a lesson here. Instead of bitching, it's time to be proactive in recruiting candidates. If you're in a Republican district and you know a local politician or activist who could challenge that Republican, tell them to start running now!
posted by jonp72 at 6:54 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


"You want a job?" he could have said, "Here, have one." Nobody would be turned away. What did you do before you were laid off? Engineer? We can definitely use you. Graphic designer? We have plenty of inspirational posters to design. Writer? We need stories written. No skills? We can always use more construction workers.

Are you really saying construction work requires no skill? And that out of work engineers, graphic designers, and writers should be used to further government propaganda?
posted by eeeeeez at 6:58 PM on November 4, 2010


jedicus: "The totals on that page are only ~$1.4 billion. That's far from the whole story, even when only considering House and Senate races. Total spending for this election was about $4 billion. The part of campaign spending that was affected by Citizens United was dominated by conservative organizations: "Identifiably conservative organizations are spending more than $2 on advertisements and other communications for every $1 liberal organizations do.""

Don't forget the incredibly intense campaigning Fox News continues to do for the party, including giving almost all of their prime presidential contenders paying jobs as "commentators." Hard to put a price tag on a 24/7 promotional network/attack machine that's watched by millions.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:59 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know how they did it? 10% unemployment. That was the factor that determined the outcome. The strategy really didn't matter in this one. Unemployment has ridden at around 10% for month after month. Unemployment = the economy to most people in the US; so if that's still high, the economy is not strong, even if you personally have a job.
posted by Mister_A at 7:00 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: as I've sighed numerous times already
posted by John Cohen at 7:06 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Obama failed by allowing the Congress to craft his legislative agenda. (Bill Clinton knew better, but he was more seasoned when he took office.)

In the Alternate Universe you lived in then, I suppose. 1994. Failure to pass health care reform. Jesus.
posted by raysmj at 7:12 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


jedicus, I read that, but I'm still not convinced. It is not at all clear to me what percentage of that spending would have been prohibited pre-Citizens United. "Made considerably easier by" is not the same thing as "made possible by." The end of that section also seems to indicate that the Democrats led in "inside" spending. There aren't many numbers there, but I'm still far from convinced that the election can be blamed on this in any significant way.

Hard to put a price tag on a 24/7 promotional network/attack machine that's watched by millions.

Approximately 3.7 million people, if the numbers are to be believed, i.e. something like 1.2% of the population. Hell, only a little more than half the country even has cable. I mean yeah, the channel is obnoxious and has a negative effect on the culture, but I'm a firm believer that the perceived influence of FoxNews is magnified by the Internet media echo chamber far out of proportion to its actual influence.
posted by valkyryn at 7:26 PM on November 4, 2010


Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

If the Democrats had won, we'd be reading about how the Republicans are doomed and the Tea Party nothing more than the death rattle of the not-quite-corpse. Now that they won, we have to go back and study everything they did to determine their Master Plan.

I don't think they have any idea why they got elected any more than the Democrats know why they lost, which is to say, they know they won because they got votes and the other guy didn't.

As evidenced by the campaigns that fall flat or backfire, they're far from geniuses on either side of the aisle. The Republicans might be marginally better at poking the medulla oblongata of the body politic, but their M.O. seems to basically be 'do a bunch of crazy shit and see what gets attention, then keep doing it.' (This time around, the would-be elites almost got outmaneuvered by a bunch of people whose most signature accomplishment was mailing teabags to members of Congress.)

Look at the outcome of any chaotic system long enough and its easy to ascribe intelligence to actors or phenomena that are really very stupid on an individual level. We seem to want to believe that there's someone back there, pulling the strings, but often there isn't.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:42 PM on November 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


Here is how I think they did it: the US is a nation of people who fear too much and understand too little. And I say that about everyone as a generality, regardless of public affiliation. Ultimately, if you fear your friends and family telling you you're an idiot, and you don't understand enough about politics to have well-informed views and be capable of defending them if confronted, you're going to be swayed by emotions rather than logic or reason, no matter how you justify it to yourself.

Again, that's people on both "sides" of the major parties, and no matter what else you may believe, believe this: the majority is the fearful and ignorant, and the minority is the confident and well-informed.
posted by davejay at 7:54 PM on November 4, 2010


Approximately 3.7 million people, if the numbers are to be believed, i.e. something like 1.2% of the population

First, that's just the number watching any given night, not the number that watch on a regular basis. Second, Beck has an average of 7 million viewers. As a proxy for the number of regular viewers we can consider the number watching Fox on election night. That was 9 million in 2008 and likely more this year.

Furthermore, I'll bet the great majority are potential voters (i.e. non-disenfranchised citizens over 18). The median age for Fox News viewers is 58 (as of 2004), which doesn't leave a lot of room at the left side of the curve for people under 18. Further, that older skew (compared to MSNBC's median age of 52.4), means a lot of likely voters. Let's say 8 million regular Fox viewers are eligible voters. That's roughly 6% of the number of people who voted in the 2008 presidential election.

That may not sound like much, but that's bigger than the margin of a lot of elections. No doubt a lot of Fox viewers are committed Republicans, but it wouldn't have to sway many independents to have a significant effect.

Hell, only a little more than half the country even has cable.

Fox also runs the Fox News radio network, which had over 10 million listeners in 2005, according to this XM Radio press release. And of course a huge part of Fox's effectiveness is its ability to control the news cycle by bringing so much attention to its personalities like Beck and Palin.
posted by jedicus at 7:57 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really wish it were just as simple as "Blue Dogs lost, that'll teach Dems not to go right!" I really, really do. However, that doesn't explain everything that happened on Tuesday. We lost one of the Senate's greatest progressives, Russ Feingold. We lost Ted Strickland even though Obama campaigned for him. We lost Tom Perriello, who also got a campaign appearance from PotUS and (although he made conservative votes from time to time) voted with the Dems on the stimulus, energy, and health care reform. This shit just breaks my heart (ok not Ted Strickland in particular, just wanted to point out that he wasn't running from the President. But the other two...it fucking hurts). I know there's not going to be any one grand theory to explain every single race, and I'm obviously not trying to claim that running on one's liberal credentials is a bad thing either (because I noted, and under other circumstances would be quite tickled by, the demise of the Blue Dogs), just that it clearly isn't a silver bullet. There's a lot going on here, and I think that money is most definitely part of it.
posted by naoko at 8:09 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Several people commented on his post to explain why voting is good and why not voting doesn't do anything but screw us all over, and he's like, "Whatevs, I don't care! I'm not voting for crooks!"

Voting for the candidate who will screw things up less is still doing your civic duty. Not voting is...well...not.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:20 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's amazing what you can get done when all you care about is winning.
posted by nola at 8:30 PM on November 4, 2010


"A strong German nationalist,[3] Rathenau was a leading proponent of a policy of assimilation for German Jews: he argued that Jews should oppose both Zionism and socialism and fully integrate themselves into mainstream German society."

it is history, fool.

Postroad hits it, worsening economic conditions will generate blacklash rendering the GOP impotant.

{removes stylus}

more bread
less or more circus?
no war.
posted by clavdivs at 8:40 PM on November 4, 2010


backlash
posted by clavdivs at 8:59 PM on November 4, 2010


It's hard for me to distinguish between the horse race and governing but are you guys saying more progressive policies would have had better optics and dems would have won or are you saying more progressive policies would have been more effective so dems could have pointed to results. As it is blue dogs had bad optics and no results. Did all the hippies Rahm punched really cost them the election? Or did the fact that unemployment is higher than it was two years ago cost them the election
posted by Ad hominem at 10:11 PM on November 4, 2010


He could have done so much. He could have, in his first day in office, announced a New Deal that would provide 100% employment until the economy recovered. Something like a 21st century WPA. I don't know how much it would cost to employ 30 million Americans for a year at $10/hour, but it couldn't be more than the cost of a few new aircraft carriers or space shuttles.

As ably pointed out above, the math shows otherwise. NASA's entire budget is also tiny by comparison. And as I've mentioned before, Roosevelt did not solve the economic problems of the US overnight, or anything like it.

I know this is just MeFi and not a term paper; and I know much of the GOP's appeal to voters is based on emotion rather than tedious recitation of facts, and that the media is to blame much of this shallowness in our political discourse. I am a pedantic old policy wonk. Still, why would anyone take seriously an argument that demonstrates such total intellectual laziness?

No skills? We can always use more construction workers.

Is this meant to be some sort of parody of Obama as an elitist ivory tower liberal? If not, you need to seriously work on both your manners and general knowledge. Condescending remarks like that are pretty much guaranteed to turn off large numbers of voters.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:41 PM on November 4, 2010


Look, the Republicans will tell you themselves that the government doesn't create jobs: the private sector does. The government, through stimulus and other policy measures, can create conditions that put more money in the private sector's pockets and make it easier for the private sector to create jobs, but short of creating massive public jobs programs, the government can't actually coerce the market to create jobs.

Republicans are the party that deliberately and consistently works on behalf of the interests of the private sector (the Chamber of Commerce literally might as well be an adjunct of the damn party, with its close coordination of effort with Rove in the most recent electoral cycle, for example). Moyers has some insightful, if depressing remarks on the current status quo here.

It isn't rocket science to see that the Republicans know perfectly well the Dems will continue to suffer politically as long as no one's hiring. Lucky for them, since they're also coordinating their politics with the people who in the best position to do the hiring, they're in a pretty unassailable political position. By their own admission, they represent the interests of the private sector and only the private sector can create jobs. Recently, they handed out a Nobel prize to an economist who offered one convincing explanation for the apparent paradox that, while American corporations are flush with record revenues right now, they aren't hiring. His explanation might have convinced many economists and the Nobel committee, but I've come to believe a much simpler explanation (and if you accept Occaml's razor, it's therefore a more likely one): Republicans and republican aligned interests aren't hiring because it benefits them politically. And there's a lot of evidence to support that view.

That's how the Republicans won this, and it's how they will win in 2012, unless there's a dramatic shift in public awareness about what this fight is actually about and who's really at war with whom. Put simply: It's just business looking out for business. A passage from the Moyer's piece I linked above puts the point in context, citing a "document published in the spring of 2005 by the Wall Street giant Citigroup, setting forth an 'Equity Strategy' under the title (I’m not making this up) 'Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer.'":
Now, most people know what plutocracy is: the rule of the rich, political power controlled by the wealthy. Plutocracy is not an American word and wasn’t meant to become an American phenomenon – some of our founders deplored what they called “the veneration of wealth.” But plutocracy is here, and a pumped up Citigroup even boasted of coining a variation on the word— “plutonomy”, which describes an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer and that government helps them do it. Five years ago Citigroup decided the time had come to “bang the drum on plutonomy.”

And bang they did. Here are some excerpts from the document “Revisiting Plutonomy;”

“Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by
market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper… [and] take an increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years.”

“…the top 10%, particularly the top 1% of the United States –
the plutonomists in our parlance – have benefitted disproportionately from the recent productivity surged in the US… [and] from globalization and the productivity boom, at the relative expense of labor.”

“… [and they] are likely to get even wealthier in the coming years. Because the dynamics of plutonomy are still intact.”

The only allegiance the Republican party has is to the community of like-minded business leaders they represent (and in very many cases, are). This isn't a secret in the business community, and yet, the public remains largely oblivious to the fact.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:42 PM on November 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


Apologies for typos. It's almost 2 A.M. I'm sleepy. Good night.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:44 PM on November 4, 2010


The GOP Goes Gray:
The electorate on Tuesday was older and whiter than the presidential election cycle electorate in 2008, which poses challenges for Republicans, who have not significantly broadened their vote and are relying on rural, older voters for their majority. Indeed, exit poll data shows that the GOP is still struggling to appeal to young voters, as well as black and Hispanic voters.

Exit polls show that white voters represented the vast majority of the electorate this cycle, casting 78% of the votes, 60% of which went to the Republican Party. However, among other voters, the Republican Party did poorly: 90% African-Americans voted for Democrats, as did 64% of Latinos and 56% of Asians.

Young voters showed up in far fewer numbers this year than when Barack Obama was up for election in 2008. Voters between 18 and 29 years old represented only 9% of the electorate this year, compared to 18% in the 2008 election. The 18-29 demographic was the only age group measured by CNN’s exit polling to be won by Democrats: 57% of this group voted Democrat, as opposed to only 40% for Republicans.

Republicans struggled with lower-income voters but managed to dominate the middle and upper classes. Exit polls show that voters making less than $50k voted for Democrats by an 11 point margin, but those making between $50k and $100k voted for Republicans by a 10 point margin. $100k+ earners voted for Republicans by nearly 20 points.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:01 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Republicans and republican aligned interests aren't hiring because it benefits them politically. And there's a lot of evidence to support that view.

Say what now?

You're actually suggesting that corporate America is deliberately not hiring so that one party can get a political advantage? You're serious about that?

What, exactly, is your evidence for this? Because you haven't shown any so far. Noises about plutocracy do not actually constitute evidence for a vast conspiracy.

You and I frequently disagree, but I generally respect your positions as reasonable. This is just unhinged.
posted by valkyryn at 4:20 AM on November 5, 2010


palomar: Pretend people like this don't exist if you want to. I'll be over here trying to convince them to fucking vote instead.

Oh yes, they exist. But they're numerically irrelevant and getting votes out of them is like trying to squeeze blood from a turnip. Yelling about non-voting leftists who are not even statistical noise in the exit polls when you just got your ass kicked because millions of moderates and conservatives switched their votes this year is short sighted.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:50 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, as a pragmatic progressive, I accept Blue Dogs as a fact of our political existence. I'll vote for all but the most obnoxious Blue Dogs because I think that party discipline can be leveraged against them, making them a softer target for legislative activism, and Blue Dogs in opinion and policy are usually better than the alternative Republican.

But, I'm not inclined to write them a check, or kiss their ass by withholding criticism of their positions. I'll save that for political activism groups who advance my political goals on a nationwide basis including statehouses, courthouses, city halls, and schoolhouses. And most of the yelling about the so-called "unicorn block" strikes me as less about votes than about our refusal to apologize for pressing for reform on every front and strategic tool we have.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:02 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Presidents have to hew optimistic on economic outlook because it's one if the major tools of the job.
Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.

Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.
-- Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933

You don't need optimism. You need direction. FDR didn't waffle. FDR stated the problem clearly -- oh, and he noted this.
Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people’s money, and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency.
Obama's biggest mistake was that he tried to work with the very causes of this economic downfall. FDR was clear that he would not -- that they had lost the trust of this nation.

Obama had a crisis caused by monied interests following a monetarists economic doctrine to its logical conclusion. FDR had the same. FDR hired people to fundamentally change how business was done in the US, and instituted a Keynesian stimulus to make sure that the fundamental consumer in the US -- the people -- had the resources to create demand.

Obama hired ... well, pretty much the same people that caused the crisis. His answer to monetarism was money. He built a stimulus demand that didn't help much, because half of it was tax cuts. This doesn't work, because cutting a poor person's taxes doesn't give them much at all. $10 a week more on a paycheck isn't much, and when you're not getting a paycheck, it isn't anything.

FDR created jobs. Obama cut taxes. FDR rapidly turned the economy around -- right up until 1937, where he made the mistake of listening to the GOP and cut spending to "balance the budget" The result was a deep second dip.

Obama? Tax cuts, not nearly enough spending to get people back to work, and the slow squeeze that drove U3 (the headline standard) from 5.8% at his inauguration to 9.6%, and U6 to 17.0% -- one sixth of this country is unemployed, part time when they want full time, or has given up on finding work, but would work if there was work for them.

One sixth of this country. Over 50 million people are un- or underemployed.

That's why the election was a slaughter. Obama promised change, and nothing did -- and he didn't even appear to fight for it.
posted by eriko at 7:36 AM on November 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Also, the Republicans seized control of the narrative.

They had a simple message. It was bizarre. It was false. It was cruel. But they stuck to it.

A vision is compelling.

Progressives need to conceive of what total victory would look like and start working towards that, not half-way measures.

e.g. complete enactment of Roosevelt's second bill of rights.

These demands might seem improbable. But no more improbable than the claim that Obama is an anti-colonial socialist who wasn't even born in America.
posted by lucien_reeve at 7:53 AM on November 5, 2010


Groups like the Tea Party (or back in 1994 the convergence of gun nuts, racists and antiabortion zealots) have a profound effect on the electorate. This is very much the same dynamic (and in many cases the same players and rhetoric on the influential margins) as in 1994.

So all the LOLTEAPARTY noise was not the right response. Neither was the centrist-extremist analysis from the Democratic leadership. They were wrong and they don't know why.

Instead of trying to placate people obviously activated by a very successful organizing drive, the Dems should have been organizing. Instead, they muffed it. Having blown it so bad, they can't explain it now nor generate an analysis to respond.

The economic determinism in President Obama's "shellacked" speech isn't even wrong. The polling stat show clearly that the people suffering from the bad economy didn't vote and the people with above-average income and wealth - those who plainly aren't suffering in this economy - turned out heavily.

Why weren't there massive pro-healthcare demonstrations? Because, for one reason or another, the Democratic leadership didn't want them. The primary tension in the Democratic party is between the grass roots and the hacks. When the hacks win, the party loses, but the hacks consolidate their power.

Wha' happen? Them Dems got out organized.
posted by warbaby at 8:00 AM on November 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's hard to judge these things from the outside. The conclusions I'm drawing from this thread, though, are:

1) The left needs to organise, in a big way. When it organises, it wins. A big organisation full of personal connections is much harder to overwhelm with propaganda.

2) In order to organise, the left needs a compelling vision. This means something to fight for. This means something inspiring.

3) As a matter of elementary politics, the left needs to get better at telling its supporters and telling people who aren't its supporters (and maybe don't care about politics) just how bad the Republicans are. Not LOLTeaparty! Rather: a clear, simple message that says why voting for any Republican candidate is just shooting yourself in the foot.

Partly this is messaging. Can you summarise what was so great about Obama's Wall St. Reform? I can't and I like politics. I certainly can't do it in a sentence. Remember "McCain voted with Bush 9 out of 10 times"? That very neatly took down McCain's reputation to being a maverick in 2008.

If a potential voter is only going to know one thing about politics, it needs to be that the Republicans are bad - they need a clear, good reason why voting Republican means complete disaster for them.

This also means

4) Do much better at blaming the Republicans for the Bush recession (because the economy was clearly hugely important).

These things aren't impossible. The funny thing is, the right does them very well all the time.
posted by lucien_reeve at 8:32 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


valkyryn: "Republicans and republican aligned interests aren't hiring because it benefits them politically. And there's a lot of evidence to support that view.

Say what now?

You're actually suggesting that corporate America is deliberately not hiring so that one party can get a political advantage? You're serious about that?

What, exactly, is your evidence for this? Because you haven't shown any so far. Noises about plutocracy do not actually constitute evidence for a vast conspiracy.

You and I frequently disagree, but I generally respect your positions as reasonable. This is just unhinged.
"

It's not unhinged. It *sounds* unhinged, and I will agree with making a claim of specific conspiracy is a bit too far when it comes to logical debate (I'm very leery of ascribing motive and agency when there isn't necessarily an indication that there is such a need to invoke it), however, there has been a clear lack of investment from the corporate community when they have, in fact, been sitting on large piles of cash reserves:

WaPo article:
For months, companies have been sitting on the sidelines with record piles of cash, too nervous to spend. Now they're starting to deploy some of that money - not to hire workers or build factories, but to prop up their share prices.

Sitting on these unprecedented levels of cash, U.S. companies are buying back their own stock in droves. So far this year, firms have announced they will purchase $273 billion of their own shares, more than five times as much compared with this time last year, according to Birinyi Associates, a stock market research firm. But the rise in buybacks signals that many companies are still hesitant to spend their cash on the job-generating activities that could produce economic growth.

Some companies are buying back shares partly because they don't want to invest in developing new products or services while consumer demand remains weak, analysts said.

"They don't know what they want to do with all the cash they're sitting on," said Zachary Karabell, president of RiverTwice Research.
Regardless of motive, it shows a fundamental disconnect between Trickle Down theory and reality. The money is there, but they're not using it. Tax Cuts as the solution ain't gonna fix things. We've got the Paradox of thrift happening, and this means that the "investor of last resort" NEEDS to step in, and unfortunately, we're not, because we too chicken shit of the right-wing screaming "COMMIES!"

I look forward to the great raise my Republican boss is gonna be giving me since the economy will suddenly get better in our wonderful newly Republican dominated State.
posted by symbioid at 8:47 AM on November 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


My limited understanding of the situation is that in an economic climate in which there's not of demand, it doesn't make sense for companies to start hiring, since they'd be paying people they don't need. It's financially smarter to do something else with the cash. Now, if the government specifically incentivized hiring...
posted by Bromius at 9:19 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are only two factors that mattered:

1) The economy isn't 100% better yet and voters don't know it's not the Democrats' fault.

2) The Republicans have a massive, coordinated propaganda machine that is very, very good and the Democrats don't.
posted by callmejay at 10:03 AM on November 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


there has been a clear lack of investment from the corporate community when they have, in fact, been sitting on large piles of cash reserves

Profits--and thus cash reserves--are indeed up, but sales are actually still down. They're making more money, but they're doing it on less revenue, i.e. they've cut costs, mostly in the form of laying people off. They don't actually need more people, because they're already selling just about as much as they expect to sell. Hiring more people just to hire them makes populists' little hearts happy but does not actually constitute a rational business decision most of the time.

So what exactly is the business world supposed to do then? Yes, it has cash. But it doesn't foresee much in the way of growth, which means that the workforce it has is adequate to meet demand.

Somehow this is supposed to translate into deliberately putting off hiring to create a bad economy and thus give Republicans an advantage at the polls?

That is precisely what saulgoodman has suggested. That is also crazy talk.
posted by valkyryn at 10:28 AM on November 5, 2010


Democrats didn't lose in 2010. Some good points form William Saletan

Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded. In 2008, Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and by the thinnest of margins, they rammed a bill through. They weren't going to get another opportunity for a very long time. It cost them their majority, and it was worth it.
And that's not counting financial regulation, economic stimulus, college lending reform, and all the other bills that became law under Pelosi. So spare me the tears and gloating about her so-called failure. If John Boehner is speaker of the House for the next 20 years, he'll be lucky to match her achievements.

posted by humanfont at 11:03 AM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]




It's financially smarter to do something else with the cash. Now, if the government specifically incentivized hiring..

It has. It's offered tax credits for hiring. The administration also tried for over a year to pass a small business jobs bill. The Republicans opposed the bill, despite acknowledging that it would help create jobs, on the grounds that the bill needed to be part of a broader discussion including the extension of the Bush tax cuts, their only really serious policy goal right now. The small business jobs bill finally scraped by this last September by the slimmest margin, not nearly in time to make any impact prior to the election. The Republicans fought it tooth and nail at every step despite never disputing that it would help create jobs.

As for my "unhinged" ideas: I doubt anything would meet your standard of evidence, Valkyrn, and I'm not suggesting there's a blue print somewhere that all the major business leaders are following, since that would be ridiculously unsophisticated and unnecessary, but facts are facts.

So here are a few pieces of evidence for the general argument--that Republicans, abbeted by its allies in the Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups--have deliberately been undermining hiring and economic expansion for political reasons (meaning, because they don't like certain political developments and are determined to get their way):

First, an example out of many that Republicans won't hesitate to kill American jobs for political gain.

Second (and it's been widely reported elsewhere too): Most major companies have had plenty of money to begin hiring for a long time now, but have chosen not to, citing "uncertainty about the political environment." Reporting on that, here with a little more here on the link between the plutocrats' political grievances and continued job market stagnation despite record-breaking profits.

Leading up to the midterms, groups like the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate interest organizations repeated endlessly in their public statements that their members remain reluctant to hire despite record breaking revenues due to the "political uncertainty" around the tighter regulatory requirements the administration has advanced and around the issue of the Bush tax cut extension.

For months, these groups have been saying in effect, "Our members won't hire because we're not sure the Bush tax cuts are going to be extended and because we don't like healthcare reform and the prospect of tighter regulations." Meanwhile, their members actually haven't been hiring, despite demonstrably having more than enough revenue to do so--so much revenue, in fact, that they've seen fit to throw bucketfuls truckloads of untraceable money into campaigning for the Republicans in the midterms, as described here and here.

So what exactly is the business world supposed to do then? Yes, it has cash. But it doesn't foresee much in the way of growth, which means that the workforce it has is adequate to meet demand.

Exactly what it derides the administration for not doing: magically create jobs. Especially since, by their own admission, they're the only ones who can. If they want government out of their way, then they have to accept some responsibility for society's well-being for a change. Someone has to.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:23 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


See: they're already getting to work. This NYTimes article from yesterday notes:

In policy documents, including a blueprint this week from Representative Eric Cantor, the likely Republican majority leader in the new Congress, the party has made clear that its main proposals for creating jobs are to cut regulations and taxes — in particular to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent for all incomes. Extending the tax cuts, however, would add nearly $4 trillion to the debt by 2020, and hundreds of billions more in interest owed for the additional government borrowing, greatly complicating another Republican goal: balancing the budget.
....

But Republicans say they will insist that, whatever the duration, all rates must be extended in tandem — the easier to extend them together again in the future. Both sides recognize that, politically, Republicans would have a harder time in the future trying to extend only the rates that benefited the richest Americans, about 2 percent of taxpayers.

posted by saulgoodman at 12:35 PM on November 5, 2010


Mmmm...I know businesses run mainly by Democrats that are not hiring, and businesses run mainly by Republicans that are. It's true corporate America in general has a pile of cash, and also that the Chamber of Commerce heavily favors the Republicans.

But it's a mistake to assume the one is what makes the other possible. Total spending in this election was about $4 billion, maybe 60% of this coming from business donations. Corporate cash reserves are somewhere in the region of $1 trillion. Of course those numbers sound staggeringly large from an individual standpoint, but there's something like 5.5 million businesses (that actually have payroll - source) in the US, so all that election spending comes out about $1000 per business. Of course it's not evenly distributed, but my point is that $1000 is really not a lot of money even for a very small business. With a general election every 2 years, that's like $10 per week.

So the idea of 'no hiring > not paying wages > big corporate cash pile > enough to buy an election' isn't really credible. The level of contributions we saw in this election is really not that big relative to the number of potential contributors. It's pocket change.

Some of the cash pile is related to healthcare reform and regulatory uncertainty. Several large corporations put > $1 billion dollar writedowns into their financial projections - not to create economic FUD, but because they are required to declare foreseeable expenses on their SEC filings, and insurers have continued to increase premiums. And in some industries, there is sufficient regulatory uncertainty to make managers cautious until they can forecast their costs a bit better. Consider that a good portion of this cash pile is in finance, where nobody is quite sure what capital adequacy ratios will be required in a year's time. The biggest reason of all, though, is an excess of caution, just as there was an excess of risk-taking before the bubble burst. Sitting on the company's money instead of making a risky investment looks economically and legally safer. A few years ago the belief was that if you didn't leverage your company to the hilt on cheap debt, you were gutless and your competitors with greater appetite for risk would sail past you. Now the fear is that a temporary cash flow problem could lead to sudden death in the market, as outsiders assume your firm must be in dire financial straits. Maintaining a large cash pile (even if you're not quite sure what to do with it) signals to investors that your company is financially secure, and is absolutely positively not going to turn belly up like Lehman Brothers or AIG.

I don't think this is economically sensible - rather, this is an excellent time for a company to take some risks and expand, stealing some market share from competitors. But few are, because they're fearful of over-extending themselves, losing their cash reserve, and being gobbled up by a competitor. It's like people hoarding food after a famine, even though there's no direct necessity any more and they're hungry all the time.

[Business should do] [e]xactly what it derides the administration for not doing: magically create jobs. Especially since, by their own admission, they're the only ones who can.

Every time someone says this, I have the same questions: jobs doing what? Manufacturing? Of what? A business needs to see an increase in demand to justify building more plant or increasing production, otherwise they end up with a warehouse full of stuff they can't sell or a an office building full of people with nothing to do or an empty hotel or whatever. Adding more capacity with no visible extra demand to justify is very possibly a waste of money, and specifically of other people's money, which management is obliged to look after carefully. The safest expansionary move in this situation is to look around for a smaller company that's making a steady profit and just buy it. That increases revenue and constitutes growth for the parent company, even though the net increase in productivity across the economy as a whole is zero. Hence the rash of mergers and acquisitions in the last year or so.

I'm not endorsing this strategy, I think it's past the point of being economically harmful. It's like a village terrified by a tiger: if everyone went out of doors and made a big noise they could scare it away, but going out alone could be fatal. So every night, almost everyone in the village cowers indoors wishing the tiger would leave them alone. The next day they all grumble about how scary the village has become and how much trouble they've had getting a good night's sleep, which makes them all twitchy and paranoid.

But this paranoia is rooted in anxiety rather than hatred of government or even the Democratic party. It's in the business pages every day; Microsoft keeps pointing out that they've broken sales records with Windows 7, and the tech press frets over whether Microsoft has any future as a consumer brand - not because the company is in any sort of trouble, but because it doesn't have an obvious explosive growth product. Investors are largely afraid of making any big bets, and ultimately managers do what investors want.

Where would you invest a billion dollars right now in the US, with the proviso that you need to make some kind of profit within a reasonable timeframe? It's not your own money, so you can't just give it away to show how generous you are. Pretend you manage a pension fund or the like, so you have a responsibility not to screw it up.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:04 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, their members actually haven't been hiring, despite demonstrably having more than enough revenue to do so

This statement doesn't make sense. Revenue doesn't drive hiring — just because you have cash coming in doesn't mean that it necessarily makes sense to increase headcount.

You only start hiring if you think there are opportunities for growth. If you're just motoring along, selling the same number of widgets this month as last month and expecting to do the same thing next month, then the only hiring necessary is due to attrition (and given the job market right now, attrition is not terribly high at most companies).

If you saw a ton of year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter revenue growth without hiring, that would be somewhat interesting, but there are still a lot of reasons that could happen without invoking some sort of political conspiracy to undermine the economy. (E.g., increased automation or process improvement might let a company grow without increasing headcount, doing more work with the same number of workers.) Since hiring and training is expensive, it's likely that most companies have a fair bit of personnel slack right now that they can flog the living shit out of fully utilize before they actually start hiring.

But the biggest issue with the whole conspiracy angle is that it seems to take on premise that the business leaders behind all of it care more about some sort of nebulous political goal than they do about profit, and in fact are willingly sacrificing growth opportunities in order to spite the Obama administration. And I am just not buying that. If the last few years have shown anything, it's that the U.S. marketplace optimizes very heavily for short-term profits at the expense of anything more than a few quarters out. A company that ignored growth opportunities for political reasons would pretty quickly get taken apart by politically agnostic competitors. (This is not just hypothetical; I've seen it happen as a result of outsourcing decisions.)

Like all conspiracy theories it's plausible, but not likely. There are far simpler internally-consistent explanations for the unwillingness to hire: primarily that — despite various claims and projections — nobody is sure enough that the economy is recovering (or how quickly it's recovering) to bet significant money on it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:45 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every time someone says this, I have the same questions: jobs doing what? Manufacturing? Of what? A business needs to see an increase in demand to justify building more plant or increasing production, otherwise they end up with a warehouse full of stuff they can't sell...The safest expansionary move in this situation is to look around for a smaller *company* that's making a steady profit and just *buy* it. That increases revenue and constitutes growth for the parent company, even though the net increase in productivity across the economy as a whole is zero. Hence the rash of mergers and acquisitions in the last year or so.

is this not General Motors?

*country*

*outsource*
posted by clavdivs at 12:58 AM on November 6, 2010


".."
posted by clavdivs at 12:58 AM on November 6, 2010


Every time someone says this, I have the same questions: jobs doing what? Manufacturing? Of what? A business needs to see an increase in demand to justify building more plant or increasing production, otherwise they end up with a warehouse full of stuff they can't sell or a an office building full of people with nothing to do or an empty hotel or whatever.

Jobs create demand. As long as companies don't hire, there will be less demand. Only companies can fix that--the government can't simultaneously get out of the private sector's way and help create jobs. Even an 100% tax cut isn't going to make this "uncertainty" that's being used to excuse the industry's contribution to inhibiting recovery disappear. In fact, since it would expand the deficit, it would only make it worse. A major public jobs program might help stimulate demand, but the anti-socialism brigade in charge now absolutely won't let that happen and have made it abundantly clear already their only priorities are continuing the kind of deregulation that caused the housing collapse and making the deficit expanding Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent.

You can't have it both ways: those who insist the government should play a smaller role in the economy want to insist for political and personal financial interest reasons that the government is to blame for the market's failures, while out of the other side of their mouths proclaiming the infallibility of the market. If we're suffering, and the government can't be an active part of the solution, then the private sector has to be held politically accountable. You don't get to say the government can't do it, only we can, and oh yeah, by the way, don't blame us anyway because we're at the mercy of forces beyond our control.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:35 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm personally down with massive infrastructure spending by the government, but people who think a WPA 2.0 is an instant fix that Obama can just summon into existence are being a bit naive.

As for the private sector, it's not a monolithic entity like the government. Jobs need to be paid for in order to stimulate demand. This is why I asked how you'd invest a billion dollars of other people's pension money. Government can get the investment back a generation later via taxation but the private sector needs to make a profit ina shorter timeframe (eg a few years) because it has no tax-raising powers.

So where would you advise investing someone's life savings that would also create jobs?
posted by anigbrowl at 2:49 PM on November 6, 2010


saulgoodman, what you're basically saying is that you admit that companies have no business reasons to hire, but because they aren't deciding to give money away to people for jobs that they don't need, this constitutes a conspiracy to get the Republicans into power so that "corporations" can go on screwing poor people.

Saying that this is unrealistic would be an insult to bad fiction writers everywhere. Neither of your links supports your thesis, that "corporate America" is deliberately restricting its hiring for political gain. Companies are itching to expand. And you're right: they've definitely got the capital to do it. And as soon as it is profitable to do so, they will. But it isn't right now. So they aren't. End of story.

I think you may need to add "business planning" to the growing list of things you don't know anything about.
posted by valkyryn at 4:59 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


All I know is Ayn Rand promised me the free market would buy me a unicorn, and I want my damn unicorn. (Of course the private sector isn't monolithic, but there's a fairly solid core of wealthy industry leaders and Wall Street captains who have actively promoted a bunker mentality within the business world. Coincidentally, these same interests have been aggressively lobbying for more laissez faire economic policy and aligning themselves with the Republican party.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:57 PM on November 6, 2010


Well I don't give two shits about Rand, but the reasons I and others have offered are entirely sufficient to explain that phenomenon. An phenomenon I've got no interest in disputing, by the way. But adding additional reasons for which there is no actual evidence is unnecessary to the point of being paranoid.
posted by valkyryn at 3:19 AM on November 7, 2010


wealthy industry leaders and Wall Street captains who have actively promoted a bunker mentality

OK, but you can always find people expressing pessimism about one or other party and demanding rules be amended in their favor. If you're claiming conspiracy then I think you need citations, and I don't mean something like 'just read the WSJ Op-Ed page or watch Fox News.'

Because even if there were a capital conspiracy of some sort, it would hardly include firms in Europe and Asia who would gain a tremendous competitive advantage from voluntary American opportunity sacrifice.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:06 PM on November 7, 2010


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