Could Congressional Progressives Come Out Of The Midterms In A Stronger Position?
There's the roll-up-your-sleaves-and-get-to-work way to win elections and then there's the Inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom about what candidates are supposed to do. Inside the Beltway it's all about fellating big donors and special interests all cycle, building up a tremendous warchest, hiring "the right, connected" consultants who have the clout to tap into the Beltway power stream, and leaving it all to "the experts." Meet the vulnerable Democratic incumbents.
At the grassroots level, it's all about registering voters all cycle, creating a bond with the voters, serving the interests of your base, creating a convincing narrative and putting together a ground game-- for pre-election day voters and for election day. Those are the ones Zeleny and Hulse were moaning and groaning about-- complicatingly resilient they called them-- in yesterday's NY Times. Fellating seems so much more attractive to most of the natural born fellatio artists who take up politics as a career.
By now, Republicans had hoped to put away a first layer of Democrats and set their sights on a second tier of incumbents. But the fight for control of Congress is more fluid than it seemed at Labor Day, with Democrats mounting strong resistance in some parts of the country as they try to hold off a potential Republican wave in November.
...Yet even as spending from outside groups is threatening to swamp many Democratic candidates, Republican strategists estimated that only half of the 39 seats they need to win control of the House were definitively in hand.
Many Democratic incumbents remain vulnerable, but their positions have stabilized in the last month as they have begun running negative advertisements to raise questions about their Republican challengers and shift the focus of voters away from contentious national issues like health care, bailouts and President Obama’s performance.
...“Our candidates are remaining viable long after the Republicans have counted them out,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Voters are taking a very close look at the Republican challengers.”
But the Beltway game is a losing game for Democrats. Ultimately the only way they can compete on that level is by turning themselves into Frankenstein Monsters barely distinguishable from Republicans... and we wind up with Blanche Lincolns and Ben Nelsons, Joe Liebermen and "leading" us, sold out corporate shills like Rahm Emanuel, Steny Hoyer and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Their model is fatally flawed and guarantees nothing but ultimate failure and stagnation. That said, a new poll, just out from Newsweek, offers hope despite the magnitude of the systemic ineptness of the DCCC, DSCC and DNC. All year polls have generally shown, as this one does, that in a generic congressional match-up-- so not taking into account that Sharron Angle has advocated murdering Harry Reid or that Christine O'Donnell wants to do something about "the great American masturbation problem" or that Daniel Webster is a devout and devoted follower of a religious charlatan who demands that disobedient women and children be stoned to death, or that Tom Ganley sexually assaulted a conservative Christian mother of four who was working for his campaign and, after dousing himself in cologne, spraying his mouth with breathe freshener and shoving a $100 at her, attempted to drag her into a bathroom and rape her-- that Democrats lead among registered voters (in this poll 48-43%). The corporate media then invented a narrative of it's own: the enthusiasm gap, in which the fired up minority who voted for McCain and yearn for more Bush-Cheney, would descend on the polls in droves while disappointed Democrats would sit home muttering darkly about how much they hate Rahm Emanuel.
That narrative crashed on the shoals of the huge turnout, at least relative to the widely promoted Beck Hatefest in DC, for the One Nation Working Together rally and on something that more progressives than just Bill Maher have been telling themselves in increasing numbers:
"When it comes to voting, when we only have two choices, you got to grow up and realize there's a big difference between a disappointing friend and a deadly enemy."
But the new poll has much better news for Democrats than a repetition of their lead among registered voters. Among respondents who say they are “definitely” going to vote in the midterms, the Democratic lead widens to 50- 42%! Presumably that's because voters, like Maher, trust Democrats more than the gruesome alternative.
[D]espite months of media coverage insisting that voters are "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore," anger is unlikely to decide this year's elections. For starters, self-described angry voters constitute only 23 percent of the electorate, and there's no reason to believe that they're more likely to cast ballots in November than their calmer peers. Why? Because the percentage of angry voters who say they will definitely vote in the midterms is statistically indistinguishable from the overall percentage of voters who say the same thing (84 percent vs. 81 percent). In fact, majorities of voters say they would not be more likely to vote for candidates who express anger at Washington incumbents (60 percent), Wall Street bankers (52 percent), the illegal-immigration problem (53 percent), the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (65 percent), or health-care reform (55 percent). Fifty-three percent of voters see Obama's unemotional approach to politics-- his "coolness"-- as a positive, versus only 39 percent who don't.
Anger isn't the only factor that's been overhyped in the run-up to Election Day. The president, for example, appears to be a neutral force rather than a negative one. His approval rating stands at 48 percent, roughly where it has remained since January of this year, and far better than where George W. Bush stood before the 2006 midterms (33 percent) or where Bill Clinton stood in 1994 (36 percent). Meanwhile, the percentage of voters who say they will be voting "for Obama" in November's congressional elections (32 percent) is statistically identical to the percentage who say they will be voting "against" him (30 percent). Voters dissatisfied with the country's current course are more likely to place "a lot" of blame on Bush (39 percent) than on his successor (32 percent).
Another factor that has garnered a lot of potentially unwarranted attention is "the issues." Simply put, in the Newsweek Poll, voters said they trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle pretty much every problem currently facing the country: Afghanistan (by 6 points), health care (by 12), immigration (by 2, though that figure is within the margin of error), Social Security (by 14), unemployment (by 12), financial reform (by 14), energy (by 19), and education (by 19). Voters even prefer Democrats to Republicans on federal spending (by 4 points), taxes (by 5), and the economy (by 10)-- the GOP's core concerns. The only area where Republicans outpoll Democrats is the issue of terrorism, where they lead by a 6-point margin.
With very few exceptions, the Democrats in the most vulnerable positions are conservatives who have voted most consistently with Boehner and the untrusted GOP minority, Blue Dogs like Bobby Bright (AL), Glenn Nye (VA), Chris Carney (PA), Travis Childers (MS) and Frank Kratovil (MD) and inherently reactionary political cowards with no moral compasses like Tom Perriello (VA), Suzanne Kosmas (FL) and Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ). If Democrats can manage to hang onto the few progressives who refused to play the Republican lite game who are in jeopardy in swing districts-- Carol Shea-Porter (NH), Alan Grayson (FL), Mary Jo Kilroy (OH), Phil Hare (IL)-- and at the same time, manage to shed some of the dead weight, the House Democratic caucus will be far better off, far more focused on helping ordinary American families and far less susceptible to blackmail from corporate conservatives in its own midst.