Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The 2010 horserace: Dems looking droopy

The conventional wisdom is that Democrats are going to get creamed in the midterm elections in November -- and I think that's probably true. What do I mean by creamed? Roughly speaking, seeing Dems knocked down from holding 58 seats in the Senate to 52 (or even losing enough to lose the majority of 50, though that is unlikely) and losing more than 35 seats in the House of Representatives and so control of the 435 member chamber (all too possible).

Just two years after President Obama won 53 percent of the vote nationwide and carried 28 states, Democrats are in big trouble. Why?
  1. The economy is still rotten; in fact it is probably getting worse. Democrats have been in power; they haven't fixed it. They will be punished.

    No, a lot of voters aren't moved by a health "reform" that will kick in four years from now (many probably don't believe that anything that far away is real and they may be wiser than their rulers). They don't believe that a framework for regulations on financial elites that still has to be written amounts to much either. If folks were back at work and secure in their houses, they might give the Dems a pass, but not when whatever economic security they ever had continues to slip away. Yes, there are nuances, but probably not enough to protect Democrats.

  2. The oh-so-exciting Obama coalition -- the young, the newcomers, the unmarried women, the people of color, organized working people, the religiously unaffiliated, and significant numbers of creative, college educated and more affluent whites -- that won in 2008, simply isn't ripe enough to prevail in these awful circumstances.

    That coalition's time is coming. We've seen it emerging in California since 1995. Democratic demographer Ruy Teixeira has described its outlines yet again as recently as this May. But not yet. The fear, the malaise, created by the Great Recession and Democrats' weak response is enough to stifle enthusiasm in an aggregation not yet sure of itself. The Republican strategy of preventing Obama's administration from doing much of anything is paying off. The Obama coalition is the progressive majority of the future, but its day has not yet arrived.
The behavior of the Obama administration in power looks as if his political team didn't understand why he won. (They weren't alone in this; along with too many others, his victory seemed to me a triumph of deft political footwork.) Actually Obama owed his election to George W -- the nation was ready for a black man with a funny name because it had reached absolute disgust with lying and losing wars, watching disgrace of its best principles, seeing a city drown through incompetence, all abetted by corporate and financial looting by elites.

In June, Organizing for America (OFA -- the Obama email apparatus now under the Democratic National Committee) turned its attention to trying save the Dems by turning out the first time voters from 2008. They are bucking all electoral history with this effort; new voters just don't turn out for midterm elections. But the effort is certainly the right one; the emerging progressive majority is real and its time will come unless the Republicans manage to crack up the country completely first.

Because at root I'm an organizing and campaigns geek, as we head toward the November elections, my interest in the mechanics of politics will overwhelm my attempts to understand and explain issues and policy in our limping democracy. It happens every election season. I've decided to post these thoughts occasionally with the topic "2010 horserace" til I get them out of my system. Expect a lot of these posts over the fall.

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