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The Midterms Are All About the 'Stills'

by danps Sat May 22nd, 2010 at 06:55:47 AM EST

Analysis of Tuesday's results has largely skewed towards nuts-and-bolts electoral minutiae and lazy repetition of talking points.  Not much has focused on the actual policies leaders have put in place, though.

For more on pruning back executive power see Pruning Shears.

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

It was probably inevitable that the Tuesday election post mortems would focus on process and conventional wisdom.  An outfit like Politico can pump out a feature length article on it almost by rote:  There is a great deal of populist anger out there, from tea parties on the right to the netroots on the left; incumbents are the targets and cannot take anything for granted; new forms of organizing and fundraising are changing the possibilities for candidates; Democrats once again had a better ground game and better strategy.

There is something to each of those points:  A good part of the electorate is angry.  Calling it "populist" gives it a vaguely irrational and menacing subtext, but sometimes anger is legitimate, and sometimes it is channelled in productive ways (like, for instance, in a primary challenge).

It is also true that some of the new actors on the scene are subverting old structures.  A site like Daily Kos lets partisans bypass a traditional media that may ignore or be hostile to issues important to liberals.  Act Blue can make candidates easily available to small donors across the country and has somewhat improved candidates' ability to succeed without lots of large contributors or institutional support.

And yes, party machinery plays a role.  The DCCC has a nice little winning streak going, and maybe it has some kind of advantage in election day "get out the vote" operations.  There certainly seems to be some kind of structural advantage in that regard.

Even granting all of that, the analysis looks skewed because it misses the big picture.  Like the fact that we are still waging two wars nearly four years after voters flipped control of Congress largely out of deep unhappiness with Iraq.  Maybe voters are angry because the thankfully soon to be retired David Obey said the following in 2007:

As chairman of the appropriations committee, I have no intention of reporting out of committee any time in this session of Congress any such (war funding) request that simply serves to continue the status quo.
Yet somehow, three years later, we are still there.  Obey is hardly the only one guilty of this, either.

Maybe the fact that the Afghanistan war has become deeply unpopular but still endlessly grinds on has people a little upset.  Maybe the ramped up program of remote murder has people thinking that perhaps we are doing more harm than good there, and maybe any vital national interest there (if it exists) could be achieved at a less fearsome cost.  Maybe the fact that tens of billions more dollars will soon be approved for our wars is making folks not feel very kindly inclined towards incumbents.  Maybe the fact that the money will come from the same off-the-books deception that George Bush was such a fan of doesn't strike people as very responsible (or mature).  Maybe they remember Barack Obama congratulating himself that he had foresworn emergency supplementals in favor of a budget that "accounts for spending that was left out under the old rules."

The unemployment rate lingers near double digits; what has Congress done to address it?  All of Washington seems to just be waiting for the economy to correct itself.  Perhaps those outside the Beltway do not view the situation with the same equanimity.

I know I tend to have a bee in my bonnet over civil liberties, but maybe there is a broader discomfort over the ongoing efforts to weaken Constitutional protections.  Or the fact that the same scumbags who wrecked the economy not only escaped entirely unscathed from their crimes, but came out of it with a system rigged to guarantee their further enrichment.  Or that the company that just unleashed (via) the biggest environmental catastrophe since Chernobyl is dictating terms to the government.

To spare a few thoughts for conservatives, most of them were never particularly thrilled with the bailout, and it has come to take on iconic status for the Republican base.  Being associated with it is by itself discrediting, much like the Iraq war vote has been for liberals.  From Florida to Texas to Utah, those who can stick that label onto their opponents are doing so, and winning.

In short, Washington has for several years now been fully committed to disastrous policies.  Citizens are responding by getting rid of those responsible in the hopes that the policies will change.  It is not the result of some rabid, irrational rage but an emphatic vote of no confidence in the things they are doing.  Getting all wrapped up in the weather in Pennsylvania obscures the fact that on almost the full range of issues people care most about, America's leaders are doing things that voters really, really hate.

by danps (dan at pruningshears (dot) us) on Sat May 22nd, 2010 at 06:56:05 AM EST
nice diary.

it breaks down to how well the corporate media do their job on glorifying war and pastellising its downside, while keeping the fear, or better abject terror levels nice and high.

O-man doesn't play the 9'11 or the colour coded alerts games like georgie did, for that we are duly thankful, but then he doesn't have to, cuz there are just enough loopy shoebombers et al to keep HS justifying its leonine budget, and while drones aren't popular, they play better than kids coming home in bits, physical and psychic.

during the last gaza pound-down i was in american CNN land, and was horrified to see the watered down version of media truth americans have to slurp.

the left shambolically has made growth on some less controversial issues, such as health and energy, but the financing of the killing machines seems untroubled by reality on the ground, so far.

the kill factories keep unemployment from going terminal, the banks are safe from regulation, war crimes and constitutional abuse remain unaccounted for, the eco-criminal enterprise of the gulf is pandered to, baghram goes on, the overton window could hardly go any righter, yet as predicted here so often, the actual pain of living in a sick, war-dependent society is forcing some to reconsider principles they held as axiomatic, and yearn for real change, they kind they thought they had voted for.

i still see huge problems unless campaign finance, media puerility, K st. and the military need for hegemonic over-reach are seriously addressed, ie not in the purely token way we are now accustomed to from Obama, whose game is either over, as he became a historical figure just for winning, or so long as to have vanished over the horizon...

ultimately it's about seats in gvt, not presidents who make nice noises and then still pedestalise wall st connivers as clever chappies, and expand unconstitutional murder-by-admin-decision black-ops and such blatantly evil stuff.

i think if things were bumbling on in 'normal mode' voters would be in a 'pox on both of yez' mood, but the very gravity of the times are stirring bums out of barcaloungers, and we can hope they will plug for the least-worst and not go all t-baggy come november.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun May 23rd, 2010 at 10:30:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not just that our pols are doing things we really really hate, there is also the fact that many of the policies that the public think they would prefer actually make things worse.

It's actually very easy to sell the idea that, if your govt is overspent, you should cut down on govt spending. But, as we know, that is neither the best way forward, nor are the things they cut the most effective savings.

We elect representatives to be expert in things we don't have time to understand. Unfortunately they are both clueless as well as captured by the moneyed parties with a preference for the lucrative status quo.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue May 25th, 2010 at 12:06:14 PM EST

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