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Forum - Booman Tribune's Initial Response to the Carpet Bombing of America

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Agent MattPosted: Nov 03, 2010 - 10:46

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by BooMan
Wed Nov 3rd, 2010 at 09:21:52 AM EST
With some obvious exceptions (Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle) the quality of the candidates didn't seem to matter last night. We lost pretty much everywhere we could lose. This wasn't about the candidates but the party labels. If you were a Democrat, you were in deep trouble. It didn't matter a whole lot where you live, unless your district was ethnically diverse you were likely to lose. Powerful chairmen like John Spratt (Budget), Jim Oberstar (Transportation), and Ike Skelton (Armed Services) were bounced out of office. They weren't beaten because they were too far to the left. They lost because white people have turned rather decisively against the Democratic Party. The exit polls showed that the Republican Party was actually slightly less popular with the electorate than the Democratic Party. But, what mattered was where the Democrats were popular. Chakah Fattah won in Philadelphia with 90% of the vote. Meanwhile, Democrats lost elections in all but one of the suburban Philly seats. Most of the Democrats who won reelection in California won with over 70% of the vote, but that didn't help in a couple of districts with low levels of racial diversity.

This isn't just a result of the economy. People still blame Bush for the economy. It isn't really a reaction to this or that policy. The Republicans and their media friends have been relentlessly hammering on the president with messages that the president is not on white America's side. That's what the stealth birth certificate is about. That's what the 'he's really a Muslim' thing is about. It's why they talk about the New Black Panthers and ACORN all the time. And this stuff doesn't work very well with whites who live in racially and religiously diverse regions or areas of the country. It seems absurd to us, actually. But out in truckstops of Indiana, or the Wal-Mart parking lots of rural Kentucky, they're convinced that the Democrats are just looking out for minorities.

The reason we did better in the Senate was because progressive votes counted. I don't think we lost because of all the independent money, although that didn't help and prevented us from being able to play any offense at all. I don't think we lost because the Democrats didn't do x, y, or z. The voters weren't making a rational policy decision. This was tribal, and it was based on a very successful Republican messaging campaign that was largely subterranean and not even formally embraced or acknowledged.

I don't think we should take too many lessons out of this election about policy or campaign finance. What we have to turn around is this perception that the Dems are not on white people's side, because if that persists then we're not going to able to win national elections and the House will stay in Republicans' hands.

How do we do that? That's the difficult part. I guess it starts with gaining a thorough understanding of how the Republicans were able to create that impression.

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MuertosPosted: Nov 03, 2010 - 10:51

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I disagree with this analysis. I don't think it was primarily racial or "tribal." There were a lot of complex factors this time around, and history of elections show that you can rarely, if ever, chalk them up to one specific factor.

This is the usual gloom-and-doom punditry you'd expect the day after an election. The truth is, last night really wasn't that bad for Democrats. Very little is going to change and Obama will still be re-elected. This isn't 1994 (and even 1994 wasn't nearly as momentous as conservatives like to tell everyone it was). Not even close. I really don't see what the big deal is.

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Agent MattPosted: Nov 03, 2010 - 13:51

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Further Thoughts on the Carpet Bombing

by BooMan
Wed Nov 3rd, 2010 at 12:43:38 PM EST
As Meteor Blades explains, more than half of the Blue Dogs lost their seats or were not replaced (if they retired) last night. Meanwhile, only four Progressives lost their seats and one of them was replaced by a Democrat who will probably caucus with the Progressives. We picked up a seat in Hawai'i that will probably add to the Progressive Caucus. So, I think that we'll probably see a loss of two seats in the Progressive Caucus after an absolute bloodletting for the Democratic Party as a whole.

Now, there are two ways of looking at this. One is that progressive policies are not viable in areas of the country that don't have substantial racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. The other view is that the Blue Dogs failed to stand up for this Congress's accomplishments and actually made matters worse by standing in the way of things like the public option which actually was the most popular element of the health care reforms.

I don't actually think this is the most important debate for Democrats to have. When polls indicate that the people were simply misinformed about on all the major issues (were taxes raised or lowered, is the economy growing, are we gaining or losing jobs), it seems obvious that our first order of business is figuring out to communicate more effectively.

Regaining control of the House is going to require that we win back a lot of the seats previously controlled by the Blue Dogs. These are seats where we just saw unprecedented white flight from the Democratic Party. We have to figure out how to recruit candidates who can win those voters back, and we have to discover how to communicate in those districts so that people are better informed about the basic facts about what's going on in this country.

Now, there isn't some obvious message from last night that the answer is to be more progressive. Tom Perriello and Alan Grayson lost just like Bobby Bright and Walt Minnick lost. It didn't matter whether the candidate was brazenly populist or unapologetically liberal, or whether they said they wouldn't vote for Pelosi as Speaker. Nothing worked in these districts.

In my opinion, the racialized politics of the last two years worked against us. And these districts are not going to change all that much demographically over the next two years. So, we have a problem as far as taking back the House goes.

As for the president, he doesn't have any choice but to move a bit to the center. It's a simple matter of congressional arithmetic. What's important is that he sets the right priorities and makes a stand on certain core principles. It was an easier shift for Bill Clinton to tack to the middle in 1995 because he was a centrist by instinct. Obama's remaining agenda doesn't line up nicely with what the Republicans want to do. But one thing Obama should emulate from Clinton's experience is taking credit for whatever passes and denying credit to the Republicans.

I'm pretty sure a government shutdown crisis will unfold around the budget, just as it did in 1995. I think the crisis will unfold a little differently this time though because I don't see how a budget will even get to the president's desk. The Senate and House are not going to be able to agree on anything. So, basically, the Democrats in the Senate are going to have to sit down with the president and decide what their bottom line is, and they'll have to make sure that that bottom line is very popular with the electorate. And we'll fight our battle there.

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