Neither Kathy Hochul Nor Jane Corwin Were All That Important Tuesday-- Paul Ryan And The Republican Agenda Were
Tuesday night we tweeted the NY-26 special election returns and, until now, there hasn't been a post-mortem at DWT. Both the New York Times and A.P. drew the correct conclusions: this election results were all about independent voters telling Republicans across the country to step on the brakes or suffer the consequences. Paul Krugman used the word "Buffalo" eight times in his Wednesday morning post-- and that was just in the headline!
The obvious point is that Republicans, having run in 2010 largely by scaring seniors with tales of death panels, are now horsed on their own pet aardvark, or something.
The difference is that whereas Democrats were not, in fact, trying to impose death panels, Republicans really do want to dismantle Medicare – and that’s the truth no matter how many times Very Serious People reach for their smelling salts when Democrats say that. And you would think that would make Medicare an even more potent weapon for the Dems than it was for the Rs (unless they go out of their way to ignore what the electorate is really concerned about.)
It’s now starting to look like a real possibility that we will have had three electoral waves in a row-- a Democratic sweep in 2006-2008, a Republican countersweep in 2010, and a countercountersweep in 2012 as voters realize that the GOP is the same as it always was, only more so.
As you may be aware, we were less than enthusiastic about Kathy Hochul here at DWT because of her willingness-- even eagerness-- to use Republican framing and to toss vulnerable minorities under the bus in her quest for career advancement. That said, I was certainly rooting for Team Blue Tuesday night, if, for no other reason, to wipe the smirk off Paul Ryan's ugly face and watch his carefully-crafted-- crafted by Wall Street puppeteers-- political career fall into a ditch.
Within hours of the disavowal of his vision for turning seniors' healthcare over to his financial backers at the predatory health insurance companies, Ryan was desperately trying to salvage what's left of his credibility-- with his own paralyzed caucus (remember Boehner and Cantor had tricked them all into backing Ryan's crazy plans). He was tweeting up a storm Wednesday morning with every kind of excuse for what a great big misunderstanding his plan to turn Medicare into an inadequate private voucher system has been. He tried ducking responsibility by blaming the Democrats... of course.
But even after Jane Corwin's approval numbers began tanking when she blundered into admitting that she would have voted for Ryan's budget, Ryan never showed up in Buffalo to defend her. The Republicans there and in DC were at least savvy enough to know that his presence in the district would have meant instant death for her campaign. Instead they invited Boehner and Cantor to defend her. That amounted to a slow drawn out death.
And as we've been explaining all month and as Steve Benen summed up so elegantly at the Political Animal yesterday, the voter revolt in Republican territory against the Republican agenda didn't begin this week and didn't begin in NY-26. As Benen explained it may have been the highest profile defeat for the Republican so far, but it was just the latest in an unbroken string of victories for the Democrats:
* New Hampshire: Last week, there was a special election in a state House district where Republicans have dominated for years. The Democratic candidate won in a landslide, even after a local town clerk illegally required photo IDs to vote.
* Florida: Also last week, Jacksonville was home to a high-profile mayoral race, and the state GOP touted the election as the first warning shot of the 2012 cycle. Instead, voters elected Democrat Alvin Brown-- Jacksonville’s first African-American mayor-- stunning the Republican establishment statewide.
* Wisconsin: Three weeks ago, there was a special election in a Wisconsin state Assembly district that has been represented by a Republican for 16 years. In this case, the Democrat won by eight points.
* Maine: Two weeks ago, there was a special election to fill a vacancy in the state Senate, in a district that has been very competitive in the recent past. In this case, the Democrat won by a crushing 2-to-1 margin.
...After a series of losses in races Republicans expected to win with relative ease, the party would be wise to take a moment to realize Americans aren’t buying what the GOP is selling.
Indeed, it looks an awful lot like buyer’s remorse is the most common public sentiment.
When pondering what happened in NY-26 Tuesday, it's important to keep in mind that Chris Lee, the last Republican elected there, just last November, won with 74% of the vote. That's how conservative the district is. Carl Paladino, who was widely viewed as a deranged joke of a gubernatorial candidate and only took 34% of the vote statewide, won NY-26 with 61%. It was McCain's strongest district in New York and the GOP and GOP front groups spent between three and four million dollars in an effort to keep from losing the seat (and destroying Ryan's career). Corwin spent another $2 million of her own on the race.
And it wasn't only about motivated Democrats and independents turning out in big numbers that propelled Kathy Hochul into Congress. Republicans, as the NYTimes ascertained, were unenthusiastic, not necessarily about Corwin, but about the direction their party has been moving:
“I have almost always voted the party line,” said Gloria Bolender, a Republican from Clarence who is caring for her 80-year-old mother. “This is the second time in my life I’ve voted against my party.”
Pat Gillick, a Republican from East Amherst, who also cast a ballot for Ms. Hochul, said, “The privatization of Medicare scares me.”
And the slap in the face to Ryan didn't exactly go unnoticed back in Wisconsin. His opponent for reelection, Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban was out with a statement Tuesday night:
"Tonight it is clear that Representative Paul Ryan's plan to end Medicare is the wrong choice for our families, and we will not stand for it. Voters in New York's 26th Congressional District rejected Paul Ryan’s backward vision of America that puts our seniors at risk. If New Yorkers don’t want Medicare replaced with a voucher plan, you can be sure that families here in Wisconsin's First District will have something to say in the next election. Wisconsinites put our trust in Paul Ryan only to be sold out to special interests.
"I’d like to congratulate New York’s new Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Hochul for winning this strongly-held Republican district. We have our work cut out for us to put our nation back on track, but ordinary people have spoken up tonight to say, 'Hands off our Medicare, Paul Ryan'."
Mike Tate Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party backed up his messaging against right-wing over reach the next morning:
"In the face of overwhelming opposition, Republicans have been stymied in their attacks on our seniors.
"In the Legislature, Republicans furiously reversed their own plans to gut SeniorCare only after six GOP senators now face recalls this summer and thousands of Wisconsin citizens signed petitions to save the successful program that helps seniors pay for prescription drugs. They claim that they will, for the moment, spare the program.
"And as New York's Congressional election shows, Paul Ryan's attempt to end Medicare is being rejected even by Republican voters.
"Both Republican legislators and Paul Ryan promise that they will preserve SeniorCare and Medicare, but we know these promises are an absolute sham.
"It's time for Scott Walker and his rubber-stamping Republicans to stop playing politics with SeniorCare, for Paul Ryan to stop his plans to end Medicare and for all of them to stop paying for tax cuts for the rich and huge corporations on the backs of Wisconsin's seniors."
Norman Solomon, one of the Blue America candidates running on a Medicare-for-all platform in next year's congressional races, looked at the race in NY-26 and said it proves that "Democrats can win uphill battles by really putting up a fight instead of splitting the difference with the extremist Republican Party. The reality is that the GOP is committed to dismantling Medicare and a wide range of other humane government programs. We should not give an inch when the lives of children, the elderly and other vulnerable people are at stake."
Paul Ryan is the biggest danger middle class families are facing to their children's future. Wall Street and Big Business will stop at nothing to get him and his toxic agenda into the White House. There is only one way to stop him-- and that's with direct action. And right now that direct action means electing Rob Zerban to the seat Ryan has been sitting in. It won't be easy, but it's not any less possible than the race in NY-26 was. In fact, President Obama won WI-01 in 2008, and the district is filled with fired up Democrats and newly awakened independents. Can you help Rob's campaign? Ryan's budget and his vision and his entire political career were inspired-- as he freely admits-- by deranged anti-Christian novelist Ayn Rand. Wall Street adores her too... and would love her simplistic and extremely dangerous ideas dominating our politics:
Late yesterday afternoon, Harry Reid forced Senate Republicans into the unenviable task of having to vote YEA or NAY on killing Medicare by bringing up the Ryan budget. It failed (57-40), of course, but Republicans Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Scott Brown and Lisa Murkowski voted against it, claiming they could not stick with their party's intentions of dismantling Medicare, while Kentucky psychopath Rand Paul also voted NO-- because Ryan's plan, in his mind, didn't dismantle Medicare quickly or thoroughly enough.
Corporate shills inside the Democratic Party, led by conservatives like Steny Hoyer and Clare McCaskill, want to "compromise" with the Republicans. Real Democrats, what we call progressives, will stand and fight. Watch: