WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT?
The biggest success last night went to a man who won't be going to the U.S. Senate. Ned Lamont is the one who spoke, before anyone, for everyone who had had enough. There weren't many Democrats willing to just say no about Iraq before Ned came along and said it, loudly, clearly, unapologetically. Because of the issues Ned raised, the floodgates of support opened as Americans rushed to embrace people who would stand up to Bush and stand up to his rubber stamp Congress.
Let me point to Kentucky, the first state to report electoral results last night. There were 3 Democratic challengers polling reasonably well against Republican incumbents but, in the end, only outspoken progressive John Yarmuth won a seat. The Democratic Inside-the-Beltway establishment was most enthusiastic about retired congressman Ken Lucas, a conservative who gave every indication of going to Washington and being a Liebermanesque type rubber stamp for the awful corporate policies of the Bush Regime. Even worse was Mike Weaver, a virulent homophobe and right wing loon who seems to have wandered into the wrong party when he was drunk.
Reading directly from the DCCC playbook, Chris Matthews was celebrating the grandeur and brilliance of Rahm Emanuel on MSNBC last night. I doubt Howard Fineman got him to actually pull his head out of his ass but Fineman did point out that Emanuel didn't support Yarmuth at all. "He was Rahm's 4th choice among Democrats who wanted that seat." That's right; Emanuel only wanted corporate, or "business friendly" Democrats who wouldn't make waves about the war or anything else, losers like Lucas and his pet (losing) candidate in FL-13, Christine Jennings.
Before we get into why Rahm Emanuel is a disgrace to the DCCC and why this great victory last night happened despite his bumbling and venality, let's just look at who won what in the House. So far (Wednesday, 6 AM, PT) there are 27 Democratic gains:
AZ-05 Harry Mitchell v. Hayworth
AZ-08 Gabrielle Giffords (Kolbe open)
CA-11 Jerry McNerney v. Pombo
CO-07 Ed Perlmutter (Beauprez open)
CT-05 Chris Murphy v. Johnson
FL-16 Tim Mahoney (Foley open)
FL-22 Ron Klein v. Shaw
IN-02 Joe Donnelly v. Chocola
IN-08 Brad Ellsworth v. Hostetler
IN-09 Baron Hill v. Sodrel
IA-01 Bruce Braley (Nussle open)
IA-02 Dave Loesback v. Leach
KS-02 Nancy Boyda v. Ryun
KY-03 John Yarmuth v. Northup
MN-01 Tim Walz v. Gutnecht
NH-01 Carol Shea-Porter v. Bradley
NH-02 Paul Hodes v. Bass
NY-19 John Hall v. Kelly
NY-20 Kirsten Gillibrand v. Sweeney
NY-24 Michael Arcuri (Boehlert open)
NC-11 Heath Shuler v. Taylor
OH-18 Zack Space (Ney open)
PA-04 Jason Altmire v. Hart
PA-07 Joe Sestak v. Weldon
PA-10 Chris Carney v. Sherwood
TX-22 Nick Lampson (DeLay open)
WI-08 Steve Kagen (Green open)
And there are 8 seats still too close to call:
CT-02 Courtney v. Simmons
PA-08 Murphy v. Fitzpatrick
NC-08 Kissell v Hayes
NM-01 Madrid v Wilson
OH-02 Wulsin v Mean Jean
OH-15 Kilroy v Pryce
PA-06 Murphy v Gerlach
WA-08 Burner v Reichert
WY-AL Trauner v Cubin
If you've been following the specifics of the campaign to break the Republican dominance you can't help but notice several things: many of Rahm Emanuel's most cherished candidates are not on this list. And many of the names that are, are men and women who he either actively fought or just ignored.
Where is Tammy Duckworth, on whose campaign he lavished-- and wasted-- over $3 million in a colossal ego battle? That was $3 million dollars that could have been spread around to assure victories in 5 or 6 races that could have easily been won, like Angie Paccione's in CO-04 or, tragically, in NC-08 where a mere 468 votes separate grassroots hero Larry Kissell and rubber stamp wingnut Robin Hayes.
One of the most important victories of the night was Jerry McNerney's 53-47% (85,551- 76, 196) triumph over Dirty Dick Pombo, one of the most extremist, corrupt and dangerous members of he 109th Congress. Not only was this not a targeted race it is a perfect example of how Emanuel fought against grassroots Democrats to try to impose his will. The McNerney story has been told many times, I just want to remind you that Emanuel and his sleazy corporate-whore ally, Ellen Tauscher, tried to impose a pro-business hack on CA-11. They made Jerry waste thousands of grassroots dollars fighting off a well-financed Inside-the-Beltway juggernaut. Unlike in many other cases around the country, McNerney survived Emanuel's attempts to remove some people in the district actually wanted who has values and ideas people in the district were eager to get behind. To Emanuel, McNerney was too anti-war, too anti-corporate and, worst of all, too independent minded.
Jan Schneider wasn't as fortunate. She would have beaten extremist loon Vern Buchanan in FL-13 last night. Instead Emanuel and his posse were able to shoehorn in a Republican-lite banker who inspires exactly no one. And, of course, she was defeated last night in a very costly race. If voters want a Republican, especially in a Republican district like FL-13, they vote for the real thing, not for one masquerading as a Democrat. I don't want to even talk about FL-16, where Emanuel did manage to force a real Democrat Dave Lutrin out of the race so he could insert a wealthy Republican-- Tim Mahoney, who won last night. Why don't I want to talk about it? I think there will be some investigations around that race and how Foley got outed and I don't want to get subpoenaed in that one.
But the point is this: Emanuel gave no help-- or too little too late help-- to many victors and, worse still, near victors, while squandering a fortune on his shill candidates, many of whom lost. These shills, like Rahm himself, don't represent the people of a district; they represent national and business interests often antithetical to working people and consumers and to the very values and principles the Democratic Party is built around.
Don't be fooled when brain-dead CNN reporters get finished talking knowledgeably about the K-Fed/Britney split and segue into Rahm's great triumph. They weren't paying attention when he ran to the front of the parade to make believe he was leading it. Enjoy the national sweep that brought Democrats majorities in the House, the Senate, Governorships and state legislatures and that has helped to set a tone for future victories in districts throughout the country by offering encouragement to the Democrats most important and powerful strength: it's grassroots. And when someone tells you how great Rahm did and how right-wing Democrats will control... something, just say this: "Carol Shea-Porter, Bruce Braley, John Hall, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chris Murphy, Dave Loebsack, Mike Arcuri, Chris Carney, Joe Sestak, Patrick Murphy, Ed Perlmutter, Tim Walz, John Yarmuth, Gabby Giffords."
Yes, Rahm won the coin toss and Heath Shuler decided to run as a "Democrat" in North Carolina instead of as a Republican in Tennessee and he beat Republicrook Charlie Taylor--a good thing-- but the anti-choice right-wing Shuler is an exception and not a rule, although, of course, that is the face the DCCC will work to get all over the media.
CONGRESSIONAL PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS IS NOT RAHM'S STOMPING GROUNDS
The 63 Democrats who make up the Congressional Progressive Caucus helped finance the campaigns of 12 Democrats running for the House. 8 of them won. They will add to the growing power of the seniority-rich power bloc inside the Democratic caucus that is more than enough to counter-balance the Rahm Emanuels and other coporate shills in the caucus. Aside from Madame Speaker, they also boast "ranking minority positions on half of the House’s 20 standing committees, including Conyers on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) on the Education and the Workforce Committee, and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on the Government Reform Committee. As chairmen of those committees, CPC members will now be in a position to both promote progressive legislation and investigate administration wrongdoing. The assumption of committee chairmanships is one way the CPC is working to transform the group from the House’s largest caucus into its most powerful. 'It is important to recognize that this was not just a vote against George Bush and the Republican Congress, it was a vote for a Democratic agenda that is rooted in progressive values,' said Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)." Rahm, on the other hand, did manage to get Mahoney and Shuler elected.
UPDATE: ALTHOUGH MATT TAIBBI'S NIGHT WAS RUINED BY THE LIEBERWHORE'S WIN, HIS ANALYSIS OF ELECTION NIGHT WAS STILL AWESOME
Matt Taibbi makes Rolling Stone the best place for political analysis, albeit something snarky, anywhere. His post-election diary is well worth reading, despite the blow he, like many of us, took right off the bat from the Lieberman victory. "To me, this ruins the whole evening. I can't see any way to describe any day in which Joe Lieberman wins an election as a good day, but here's the good news: Six years from now, both the Republicans and the Democrats will run serious candidates, and Joe Lieberman will be scrambling for the last eleven percent of Connecticut's half-in-the-grave vote, running on a ticket of 'the terrorists support both of my opponents.' It'll be worth staying in journalism just for that."
Other great Taibbi lines (for those too lazy to read his great story):
"Obama appears to be standing on his tiptoes while he talks in an effort to look Lincolnesque, much like John McCain will seem to be doing later this evening when he appears draped in flags and practically wearing his Straight Talk '08 bumper stickers, drooling for power like a fruit bat with rabies."
"The worst episode would probably be a nasty interview on MSNBC the following morning with Tom DeLay, who was surprisingly ubiquitous after the election wipeout, popping up on several channels to remind America that he hadn't been convicted of anything yet, not exactly."
[In the North Dakota Senate race] "Conrad completely wiped out Grotberg, but what was interesting was that both candidates agreed not to run negative campaigns and went to great pains to comport themselves like gentlemen in their public appearances. In a world where social responsibility actually played a role in editorial decision-making both candidates would have been extolled at length on the networks and celebrated for their positive contributions to the political atmosphere-- but given what a catastrophe a return to dignified campaigning would be for the TV news business, it's not at all surprising that these guys didn't even get their own blurb in the CNN baseline crawl."