Monday, September 20, 2010
Democrats and Republicans share the doghouse
Professional pundits and casual political observers all agree: this is a bad year to be an incumbent. Pollsters predict a "wave" election, sweeping out establishment candidates, bringing in a new slate of congresspersons.
Ostensibly, this is bad news for Democrats. After all, with their vast majorities in both houses of Congress, they have more seats to defend and are therefore more likely to bear the brunt of voter anger in November.
But, at this point, the only certainty is that the Republican establishment is discredited and despised. It is true that voters despise Democrats, who have a pathetic approval rating of 30% according to a CBS News/NYT Poll. However, the same poll indicates that Republicans, with their 20% approval rating, are even more despised.
The elections this year have certainly made clear that Republican primary voters (which, presumably consist of a good number of tea-baggers) detest so-called "establishment" Republicans. This year, "mainstream" Republican have been crushed. Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware, Trey Grayson of Kentucky, Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, and other Republicans have been rejected by angry tea-baggers. So, while it is clear that, although the tea-baggers certainly hate Democrats and President Obama, it is also clear that they hate Republicans. Or, at least, they hate incumbent Republicans. (But, then again, so do I.)
So, while the tea-baggers have succeeded in weakening the structure of the Republican party by discrediting some of its long-bearded panjandrums, they have yet to prove themselves capable of winning in general elections.
Odds are that a number of the tea-bag candidates will win in November, in this year of voter discontent, with unemployment near 10%. I'm almost resigned to it. And, in spite of it, I'm relatively buoyant about the future.
Here's why: If this does turn out to be a "wave" election, it will be the third such consecutive election, dating back to 2006. In that year, Democrats swept the Junior Bush Republicans out of office. Then, in 2008, voters again punished Republicans, smothering them in the Obama coattails and affording the Democrats with huge majorities in both houses of Congress.
My prediction is that, if Republicans are swept into majorities this year, 2012 will be another "wave" election. The candidates that Republicans are selecting in the primaries are ideological purists, who will be unable to compromise with the Obama administration and with Democrats. This will result in paralysis of the federal government, which the president, with his bully pulpit can exploit to discredit them.
So-called "swing" voters are fed up and they will generally vote to oust incumbents. Their votes will not be for tea-bagger candidates so much as they will be against the status quo. But when the insanity and ignorance of the tea-bag movement is on display in the national venue, people will very quickly wake up.
Six weeks from now, Democrats may well take a drubbing. They've earned it. But the real losers, in the long run, will be Republicans.