Republican Mandate?

Republicans assume they have a knockdown mandate due to the result of last week’s election. They are prepared to force their cut at any cost agenda upon President Obama while Democrats stand aside as the loyal opposition. In reality, Republican newcomers will confront their willful leaders in Congress who have their own established agendas: get re-elected. Democrats, meanwhile, are preparing for war to the knife and the knife to the hilt.

The most significant consequence of last week’s election is the possibility that the Tea Party could form the basis of a Third Party. By appealing, to moderate Democrats in the Northeast and Independents throughout the country, a new coalition could form that does not represent the two establishment parties. Time will tell.

Jonathan Riskind commentary: Tuesday’s vote was against Democrats, not for Republicans

Sunday, November 7, 2010 02:56 AM
By Jonathan Riskind
The Columbus Dispatch

It wasn’t a surprise when two-term Democratic Reps. Zack Space of Dover and Charlie Wilson of St. Clairsville were swept out of office Tuesday by eastern and southern Ohio voters in the 18th and 6th Congressional Districts.

They were the Ohio lawmakers who were going to serve as a barometer for just how bad it would be for Democrats. So by Election Day, it was no shocker when they fell along with Democratic freshmen Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy of Columbus, John Boccieri of Alliance and Steve Driehaus of Cincinnati.

But Republicans chortling over the defeats of lawmakers such as Space and Wilson, and ecstatic over the GOP’s ascension to a House majority, should keep something in mind going forward.

During two days each that my colleague Jack Torry and I spent in Space’s and Wilson’s districts the week before the election, we heard a lot of voter anger over the economy and unemployment rate and a lot of despair over what had happened to the “change” they thought they were voting for in 2008.

And yes, Republicans did a particularly masterful job in those socially conservative, rural districts – both of which were won by Republican John McCain two years ago – of tying Space and Wilson to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

We also heard a fair amount of hostility to “Obamacare,” as well as to the House climate-change bill that had a “cap and trade” plan to penalize utilities and other manufacturers for exceeding certain carbon emission levels.

Space voted against the final health-care overhaul and Wilson voted against the climate-change bill. Still, despite controversy over both measures – including labor unions in Space’s district angered by his health-care vote – it was the lack of “change” and the scary, still sagging economy that really dragged them down.

But here are two factors that had little to do with Space’s and Wilson’s defeats: their Republican rivals, Bob Gibbs and Bill Johnson, respectively.

Few voters brought up their names when asked about the election. With all due respect, and crediting each for running an efficient campaign (aided by outside money), this election was about voting against Democrats such as Space and Wilson, not for Republicans such as Gibbs and Johnson.

Some of what occurred can be attributed to a large group of voters also delivering a rebuke to President Barack Obama, a message that they weren’t happy that Wall Street and the auto industry got bailouts and that government is growing too large and intrusive.

But very little of what happened Tuesday can be read as a massive vote of confidence in congressional Republicans, led by Ohio’s own presumptive House Speaker John Boehner.

The nonpartisan Rasmussen Reports released a survey the day after the election showing that 59 percent of likely voters nationwide said it was “at least somewhat likely that most voters will be disappointed with Republicans in Congress before the next election.”

Analyzing Election Day exit polls, the Pew Research Center noted that the electorate was older and more conservative than in the 2006 mid-terms, a sure sign of that “enthusiasm gap” touted by Republicans.

But, Pew found, the biggest reason for GOP success Tuesday was “its striking gain among political independents.”

Independents favored a Republican candidate by a 55 percent to 39 percent margin, about the same margin by which independents favored Democrats in 2006. Obama captured the independent vote by a 52 percent to 44 percent margin two years ago.

But that didn’t mean a majority of voters especially liked GOP candidates.

“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,” Pew noted.

Obviously, voters viewed Democrats in a negative light Tuesday. Exit polls put the number at 53 percent of voters having an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party vs. 43 percent having a favorable view. But the Republican Party was viewed unfavorably by 52 percent of voters, Pew noted.

That’s no mandate. It’s a pox on both their houses and a message that the same thing just might happen to GOP incumbents in two years if they aren’t careful.

Pelosi move is a sign that Democrats intend to fight the GOP, not cut deals

By Mike Lillis – 11/05/10 05:23 PM ET

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s aim to remain the leader of House Democrats is an indication the party is ready to go to war with Republicans in the next Congress, not cut deals across the aisle.

The California Democrat is a radioactive figure in many districts across the country, where Republicans parlayed her unpopularity to pick up seats in Tuesday’s landslide elections. But she’s also a master at energizing the Democratic base, and her liberal resolve, some Democrats say, will draw much sharper distinctions between the two parties than that of more conservative members who might otherwise assume the leadership spot.

“The lesson [of the elections] is not to back down from a fight,” Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “The lesson learned is we need to fight harder for real, fundamental change for the middle-class. And no one fights harder than Nancy Pelosi.”

Put another way: “She’s in a better position to throw the bombs back at Republicans,” a former House Democratic aide said tersely. “I mean, who’s the better person to make John Boehner look crazy? It’s Pelosi.”

Before Friday’s surprise announcement that Pelosi will run for minority leader, Rep. Steny Hoyer, the current No. 2, was widely seen as heir apparent to head the party. The Maryland Democrat is known, in the words of one Democratic strategist, as “a dealmaker, a tactician” — someone who “makes the trains run on time.”

But making deals with the newly empowered Republicans isn’t high on the priority list of liberal Democrats, who suddenly find themselves with a much louder voice following Tuesday’s decimation of the conservative-leaning , who tended to gravitate toward Hoyer.

Pelosi — a master vote-counter — and her liberal allies spent the latter part of the week taking the temperature of the Democratic caucus on questions of leadership. Her decision to throw her name into the ring is indication enough that the responses were favorable.

It’s also a signal that many Democrats consider Tuesday’s midterm drubbing to be unrelated either to the controversial Speaker or the major legislative victories she won in recent years, including passage of healthcare and Wall Street reform.

Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.), for instance, said Friday that it was the sagging economy – and not Pelosi – that torpedoed Democrats in 2010.

“I don’t think she was a drag on our party,” Honda said in a phone interview. “She just said we should do the right thing for the country.”

Asked about Blue Dogs who feel Pelosi was partly to blame, Honda replied: “How many Blue Dogs are left?”

Hoyer, for his part, announced Friday that he’s weighing a run at minority whip, which would set up a tough contest with Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who wants to keep his current whip role in the next Congress. The decision is the result of “an outpouring of support from Democratic colleagues who have told me that I should remain in our party’s leadership,” Hoyer said in a statement.

Hoyer’s office said Friday that a final decision will come “relatively soon.”

Several lawmakers are already on the record in support of Hoyer for whip, including Reps. Peter Welch (Vt.), Jared Polis (Colo.) and Robert Brady (Pa.).

In eying the whip position, Hoyer made good on earlier vows not to challenge Pelosi should she want to keep her spot atop the party.

Still, the perils of retaining Pelosi as face of the Democrats are glaring. Republicans this year were wildly successful at branding her a big-government, high-spending San Francisco liberal symbolic of
the party on the whole. That strategy seemed to work on the campaign trail, leaving Republicans cheering Friday’s announcement that she wants to remain.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result,” said National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) communications director Ken Spain.

A number of Blue Dogs on Friday were also quick to respond to Pelosi’s run, aligning themselves squarely against her. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), for instance, said he won’t support Pelosi “for House Democratic Leader or any other leadership position.”

Another right-leaning Democrat, Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.), has threatened to challenge Pelosi if she didn’t resign from her leadership role in the next Congress. Shuler’s office did not return calls for comment Friday.

Yet the backlash from conservative Democrats has also had the effect of energizing liberals, with left-leaning blogs uniting behind the embattled Speaker and a number of Democrats vowing to redouble their efforts to enact White House priorities.

“The lesson to be learned is that too much caution … gets us into trouble,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told MSNBC Thursday. “It’s not a question of ideological purity as much as the party — my party, the Democrats — need to stand for things.”

In the end, the Democrats are gambling to leave Pelosi at the head of the party next year — if that’s indeed what happens. Still, some say it’s a risk worth taking if the party hopes to rebound from Tuesday’s drubbing.

“You can demonize her easier than Hoyer,” said the former House aide. “But she’s also in the better position to bring the Democrats back from the abyss.”


About Jerry Frey

Born 1953. Vietnam Veteran. Graduated Ohio State 1980. Have 5 published books. In the Woods Before Dawn; Grandpa's Gone; Longstreet's Assault; Pioneer of Salvation; Three Quarter Cadillac
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