Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Obama backlash routs Democrats in House races

From the Houston Chronicle:

Election Day polls found that most voters thought that the federal government is doing too much, spending too much and taxing too much. Just 24 percent said the federal government is working effectively, while 74 percent had a negative impression of Washington.

Voters gave both parties failing grades. And though Democrats scored marginally better than Republicans overall, people who disliked both tended to vote Republican, said Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling.

The anti-Washington, anti-Democratic vote was driven by roiling public discontent with the worst economic slide since the Great Depression and two long, costly wars. Eighty-eight percent of voters said the economy was in "not so good" or "poor" shape, according to NPR exit polls. About 40 percent of voters say they are worse off financially than they were two years ago, Associated Press exit polls found.

Political scientists also described the results as a backlash against Obama's activist liberal agenda, including a trillion-plus dollar economic stimulus package and a sweeping overhaul of the American health care system.

"Democrats are fooling themselves if they think it was only the economy," said Steven E. Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College. "And Republicans are fooling themselves if they think the vote was simply a repudiation of Obama's policies."

Whatever the cause, the Democrats setbacks were massive, both geographically and demographically.


Well, that's what they get.

It's funny that I find myself in no way bummed about this. In years past I would have a bit of dread seeing the election returns come in, wondering what awful bullshit the Republicans had in store for us all. But after a couple of years, four years, actually, if you go back to the Democrat takeover of Congress back in '06, of enduring the awful bullshit slung at us by the Donkey Party, I'm really wondering tonight if this even matters.

I mean, sure, it matters. To some small extent. The health care bill, for instance, might actually give me slightly better health care access than I have now. It might. Slightly. The stimulus, far too weak to really pull the economy out of its slump, probably kept us from descending further into another Great Depression. Bully for Barack. Other than that, however, things just don't seem too terribly different from the Bush years. We still have troops in Iraq. Afghanistan is arguably worse. The corporations and bankers still run everything. The rich get richer while everybody else gets poorer. What's the difference?

I am worried, however, about the lessons the Democrats will draw from this stinging defeat. Conventional wisdom, on full display in the excerpt above, will say that Obama was "too liberal," and that is why voters rejected Democrats on Tuesday. While it is true that "voters" cast their ballots mostly for Republicans, we cannot ever forget that most people don't vote, and that's particularly true during midterm elections. Based on these election results, we cannot possibly conclude that the nation has turned right, or has rejected Obama's fake "liberalism." All that we know is that the people who actually showed up at the polls yesterday are pissed at the establishment, generally speaking.

My sense is that if Obama and the Congress had behaved like real liberals, taking on the wealthy elite who own and operate the country, making some real changes, actually making people's lives better, the Democrats would have had a lot more excitement going into the election. Instead, Obama's business-as-usual approach, his restoration of the banking and financial order that destroyed the economy, his continuation of Bush's wars and torture regime, his tailor-making of a health care bill that benefits Big Pharma and the health insurance industry over citizens, his deference to the oil industry both before and after BP's infamous Gulf spill, basically his entire presidency to date, has rammed down Americans' throats the notion that what they want is totally unimportant.

That is, "Republican Lite" is a twofold failure. It fails politically because you just can't out-conservative the GOP, and it fails in terms of governance because when you water down ideology you get mush and mud. But then, I don't really think Obama and the Democrats have watered down their own ideology: they really are "Republican Lite;" they're not liberal, in spite of psycho far-right protestations to the contrary. The Democrats these days, like their reactionary colleagues across the aisle, are loyal to the ideology of the corporation. Their masters are not the American people. They serve the wealthy elite.

Americans know this, which is why the biggest vote in this election, you know, cast by the majority of citizens, the ones who didn't bother to show up, was for "fuck you." I used to think that it was a heinous sin to not vote. Now I think it's the most rational course of action. What the hell do you do when the system keeps offering you candidates who are going to make the country worse? To be honest, I have no idea, but blessing such a system with your participation is pointless at best, and humiliating at worst.

Just for the record, I did vote on Tuesday, for Democratic Senate candidate Charlie Melancon, but mostly against Republican Senator David Vitter. Of course, my guy lost. But I don't really care. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. This country is so fucked up.