There are a variety of explanations for the frustratingly backwards outcome of yesterday's election.
Clearly Americans were dissatisfied with the objective reality that the Obama administration and the congressional Democrats actually made things better by cutting the deficit by an historic $122 billion; creating upwards of three million new jobs; ending the war in Iraq; passing the largest middle class tax cut in history; and rescuing the economy from the brink of collapse. Not good enough, obviously.
Or did voters simply not know about these accomplishments? That's entirely possible given the Democratic Party's uncanny penchant for running away from its successes, while also fumbling very basic add-water-and-serve marketing chores. (And, by the way, adding to the party's failures to ballyhoo its accomplishments, the progressive movement was systematically out-hustled, out-gunned and outmaneuvered for much of the last two years.)
Of course there's also the Flailing Rage Factor, which I tend to favor as a reason for yesterday's outcome more than ignorance or lack of Democratic marketing chops. For two years now, Americans have been incited by fakery and horror stories to the point of being pumped up into a 'roid raging mob chanting shallow platitudes and bumper sticker zingers -- incoherently attacking Speaker Pelosi's face, and bent out of shape by the fact that there's not a doddering old white guy stumbling through the West Wing spinning grandfatherly yarns about American mornings and saintly cowboys.
Ultimately, what Americans voted for yesterday was divided government, which admittedly isn't new in American politics. We typically like the idea of two sides, Congress and the White House, locking horns and ultimately compromising on the important matters of the day.
Unfortunately, this is a "pre-01/20/09" mindset. It's a mass delusion based on antiquated political attitudes.
The era when Republicans would, at least reluctantly, compromise with a Democratic president is long gone.
What voters unknowingly asked for yesterday was gridlock: immovable, unprecedented, insufferable gridlock of the worst kind, and at the worst time imaginable.
The Republicans have no intention of handing the president any successes. They'll never in a million years compromise with this White House, or the Senate Democrats for that matter, because any move in that direction will bring down the loud, screechy tweet wrath of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party who will neither accept nor support anyone who appears to be leaning in the direction of the Obama agenda.
How do I know this? There's two years of precedent, naturally -- and the Republicans weren't even the majority party in the House during that time. They voted against anything and everything that came down the line, regardless of how politically awful it looked (health care for 9/11 workers, bonuses for the troops, etc.). Now imagine what they're going to accomplishment in the name of "Hell No You Can't!" now that they enjoy a decent majority in the House and a narrow minority in the Senate.
Now that they're in control of appropriations and all House legislation, they'll only take up business the president would never in a million years sign into law, because as soon as he signs a bill, any bill, it becomes a win for the White House. A victory, however minor, that the president would be able to campaign on in 2012. Consequently, the Republican Party and its Tea Party base will only deliver far-right crap on a stick, with deceptive names and semi-hidden, unacceptable amendments that will make the legislation instant veto fodder.
So it's difficult to imagine a scenario whereby anything gets done from January 2011 through, at least, January 2013.
Yesterday's election launched America headlong across the zero barrier of the Darrell Issa Decade. Welcome, my friends, to the suck that never ends. Let the cartoons begin!
Brace yourself for a wide variety of investigations designed to slowly fester into an all out impeachment necrosis. The Republicans will absolutely investigate ACORN, those two Black Panther guys in Philadelphia, birth certificates, Joe Sestak's (unpaid) job offer, the oil spill response, the tax records of anyone even remotely associated with the White House and, for good measure, I'll go out on a McCarthy limb and predict another congressional witch hunt for commies, with maybe even a bonus witch hunt for Muslim evildoers, in the Obama government.
The cable news media will enjoy this thoroughly. And by "enjoy" I mean "inject it into its bloodstream like black tar heroin laced with permanent orgasms." And we can all rest assured knowing that, with a few obvious exceptions (Maddow, Olbermann), the coverage will be framed with advantage Issa.
Oh, and did I mention the inevitable government shutdown? Just wait until the House attempts to de-fund health-care reform in the next budget and, predictably, the president refuses to sign it. The government will shut down and all of those anti-government-health-care, anti-socialism retirees stop receiving their Social Security checks and Medicare reimbursement checks. And why? Who knows. They'll tell you something about "freedom" and "slavery" and trail off when they begin to slowly realize that they can't pay the bills that month because they elected a Congress that would rather torment the president than actually accomplish the business of governing.
See, unlike the Democratic Party -- and the pre-Bush-era Republican Party for that matter -- the modern Republican Party, driven by the contradictory memes of the Tea Party movement, doesn't require or seek legislative success to thrive as long as there's fear, inchoate rage and a mega-funded media apparatus (Fox News and talk radio) to spread the nonsense far and wide. So why bother digging into the ugly business of compromise with the other side? There's no need. The total lack of legislative accomplishment can simply be masked over with loud noises and sloganeering aimed at blaming, you know, the black guy.
Again, how do I know? The strategy paid off bigtime yesterday.
One final thought: I wonder if this will help to ameliorate a slow growth economy. Don't bet on it.
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