03 November 2010

Dead-cat bounce

Well, it was about as bad as expected (the consensus of polls was right, as it usually is). Democrats lost the House but held the Senate by a narrowed margin.

This was very predictable. The party in power usually loses seats in mid-term elections. Unemployment is still high. Mid-terms draw a lower turn-out than Presidential-year elections, which favors conservatives. The Democrats' large majority meant they were holding seats which historically go Republican, seats which were inevitably difficult to defend. Those factors alone suffice to explain Tuesday's results. People tend to over-interpret elections, treating them as an across-the-board endorsement of the winning party's entire platform and a similarly broad repudiation of the loser's, but I doubt that factors other than those I cite here played a role much beyond background noise, in most races.

For holding the Senate, we owe a big "thank you" to the teabaggers. O'Donnell lost in Delaware, Angle lost in Nevada, and Buck may lose in Colorado (from what I've seen it's still too close to call). Moderate Republicans would have won those races easily. Given the narrowness of the Democrats' surviving majority, three more Republican sure wins would have put them at or over 50 seats. The Tea Party cost the Republicans a Senate take-over they could otherwise have achieved. Let's hope that sensible conservatives think long and hard on that over the next two years.

Beyond that, Murkowski may yet win in Alaska, but despite the party rather than because of it, which we can hope will strain their relationship a bit.

What hurts the most, of course, is Rand Paul -- a Senate seat was won by a man who declared that private business should have retained the right to practice racial discrimination. This sends a horrible message, not so much about the Republican party as about the voters.

What all of this means is that for the next two years, most likely, nothing much will get done. The Democrats won't be able to get any more major initiatives through, but the Republicans won't be able to roll back the accomplishments of the last two years. Things might get better if Senate Democrats have the guts to change the rules next year and eliminate the filibuster, but given the timidity of the leadership, I'm not too hopeful.

The infighting on the right wing will continue. Moderates will note that teabaggers lost races that less radical candidates could have won, and argue for a move back toward the center; extremists will claim the overall success as vindication, ignoring the factors (see second paragraph) which made that success inevitable.

The left has lessons to learn as well. The ranters who reacted to the Tea Party, the Arizona illegal-alien law, and the opposition to the Ground Zero mosque by sticking their fingers in their ears and chanting "racist, racist, racist" instead of making the effort to understand what was actually going on -- I doubt they hurt our candidates too much in an election which was mostly about unemployment, but they surely did hurt. There will probably be a slew of blog posts along the lines of "the voters are morons and easily manipulated" -- whichever side loses an election usually vents a certain amount of rhetoric like that -- but once people have gotten the name-calling out of their systems, let's hope that it gives way to the kind of rational assessment that can actually bring understanding and solve problems.

So why am I calling yesterday's results a "dead-cat bounce" for the Republicans? Because what matters most is the long-term trend, which is moving inexorably in our direction. Ultimately, if the right wing remains dominated by its theocratic, anti-science, anti-egalitarian elements, it has no future.

As for the shorter term, 2012 will be different from yesterday. A Presidential election year will mean a bigger turn-out, the economy will have improved, and if the Republicans have spent two years staging nutty antics like government shut-downs and random Ken-Starr-like investigations as some of them have threatened, the voters will have gotten pretty tired of them.

And never forget that politics is not the only important thing in the world.


Blogger tnlib said...

Good last line. Just wish I could remember it.

One of the very few things that pleased me was that despite all the big money of their own some candidates spent and despite all the bucks pumped into right-wing campaigns by Koch, Coors, Armey, etc., voters didn't seem too impressed by either.

I think seeing the economy improve by 2012 is a bit iffy since the Republicans will have more power.

03 November, 2010 06:29  
Blogger Ahab said...

What's a "dead cat bounce"? I've never heard that slang before.

Anyway, the political pendulum always swings back and forth, and in time, it will swing toward the Democrats again. As much as I am disappointed by the Republican gains, I'm deeply relieved that Angle and O'Donnell lost (and I'm crossing my fingers that Buck loses too). Let the Tea Party process that reality.

Rand Paul's victory baffled me. Given his horrible positions on issues, the "Aqua Buddha" incident, and the attack on Lauren Valle, a majority STILL elected him. What the @#$%?

03 November, 2010 07:20  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

TNLib: After what Whitman spent especially, losing's gotta hurt. I hope she thinks the few bucks she saved on her illegal-alien housekeeper were worth it.

It's true that it will be hard to get another stimulus through, and that will hurt the economy, but the fundamentals are strong. A jobs recovery will eventually happen even without government help, though it would happen faster with it.

Ahab: A "dead-cat bounce" refers to an apparent sign of renewed vitality in something which is, in fact, finished or doomed. The idea is that if you drop a dead cat from a great height, it will bounce when it hits the ground and thus be moving upward again, but it's still going to drop back and never be heard from again, despite appearances. The term is often used of the stock market, to dismiss what looks like a recovery after a big drop.

It's true that what swung one way from 2008 to 2010 can swing back from 2010 to 2012.

Paul's victory is disappointing, but not too surprising. He's not as visibily crazy as Angle or O'Donnell. I think Conway's ad about the Aqua Buddha thing backfired by trying to spin it as evidence of non-Christian beliefs (clearly absurd) rather than as evidence of a bullying nature. As for the stomping, people who wanted to vote for him anyway probably decided he wasn't responsible for the behavior of supporters.

What bothers me about him is his extreme libertarianism and the racial implications his own statements gave it. A lot of voters obviously didn't care about that, but I think it sends a divisive message.

03 November, 2010 07:53  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

According to the Denver Post, Buck lost to Bennett, and Hickenlooper, the Democrat, won as well. No TP takeover in CO.

And this is good news as well:

(Reuters) - "U.S. companies added to payrolls more than expected in October, slightly boosting optimism about the job market ahead of Friday's government employment report.

U.S. private employers added 43,000 jobs in October compared with a revised loss of 2,000 jobs in September, payrolls processor ADP Employer Services, which developed the report with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC, said on Wednesday. The September figure was originally reported as a loss of 39,000.

The October number came in well above expectations for a rise of 20,000 private-sector jobs, based on a median of estimates from 35 economists surveyed by Reuters.

It was the latest of some stronger-than-expected data on the U.S. economy, including Monday's report showing surprisingly strong growth last month in the U.S. manufacturing sector, and among the last bits of data before Wednesday's expected Federal Reserve announcement on monetary easing."

All is not lost.

03 November, 2010 07:54  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw, thanks for the info. That's a relief, especially Buck. Three hard-core teabaggers down.

03 November, 2010 08:40  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I know this is not supposed to be a "humor" posting Infodel ... but when I was reading the part about nothing much getting done, I started laughing my ass off! Put it this way .... I feel that the next two year's will be the hardest working two year's that we have seen out of the GOP in recent year's ... I see them as going to be the busiest lil beaver's weve seen ... trying to maulti task out the ass to tear apart everything that this administration has built over the last couple year's and damage more then we can imagine, heh, heh, heh, heh, heh .... as far as what they will accomplish .... I dont know ... I'm only a betting man ... heh, heh, heh, heh, heh ... but I would bet my paycheck on that ... and you know how I am when it come's to my paycheck bet's! :)

04 November, 2010 08:48  

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