Following the 2010 elections I’ve been enjoying post-election hand wringing on the left. I’m sure they enjoyed hand wringing on the right in 2008. The universe is filled with balance.
However, there’s nothing mysterious about 2010 any more than 2008 was a mystery. To claim you don’t understand why the voters acted as they did is to willingly choose misdirection. Apparently that’s a common desire because left biased post-election explanations often coalesce around “we didn’t communicate well enough”. Here’s an unremarkable example from USA Today:
…the Obama administration succumbed to an enduring Democratic blunder: talking over the heads of the American people.
…Democratic members of Congress swamped by the great tidal wave of Nov. 2 might be tempted to console themselves with the ironic mantra that “no good deed goes unpunished,” but a good deed needs to be identified as such in the mind of the person on whom it is being conferred.
So there you have the received wisdom of the press. Us clueless knuckleheads in flyover country didn’t understand the the “good deeds” which Democrats had “conferred” on us. It was a failure to communicate. Bad advice!
Nobody has ever gone broke underestimating the Press’ ability to miss the obvious when it suits them, so I’ll spell it out: The successful challengers in 2010, just like Obama in 2008, won because the politicians formerly in power pissed the people off. That’s all there is to it. The tone of voice used while beating us over the head with a two by four wasn’t really the problem. As a public service I’m asking elected officials from both parties to have my newest Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight tattooed on their ass:
It is not the message. It is what you do.
What did the Democrats do? Well I could write a book but it would be a boring one we’ve all just lived through (and it’s not over yet). So I’ll pick a nice clear example among many. On Christmas Eve in 2009 Congress finally pulled the trigger and had their health care vote. Reasonable people can agree to disagree about Government controlled health care but nobody can claim that it was a reflection of the true will of the American people. I’m absolutely sure of it and I’ve got proof. My proof? A vote on Christmas Eve.
The last time the Senate held a roll call on Christmas Eve was in 1895. (They lifted a ban on former Confederate soldiers serving in the Post-Civil war U.S. military.) What was the reason for the recent historic, first in 114 years, life or death, gotta’ happen now on Christmas Eve vote? World War I? World War II? The Wall Street Crash of 1929? Nope. It was a health care vote during a brief window of time when the Democrats had a solid majority.
There’s no bullshitting the people. Congress pulled out all the stops to do something they couldn’t normally do. You shouldn’t do what can only be accomplished by dirty politics. Which leads to my second Curmudgeonly Gem Of Insight for today:
If you shouldn’t do it; don’t.
A mere 321 calendar days later the Democrats got a world class electoral ass kicking.
To be clear I’m not singling out Democrats. It’s only fair that I hammer the Republicans so here goes with a nice bedtime story from Wikipedia:
On March 21,  Congress passed a bill, S.686, that allowed Schiavo’s case to be moved into a federal court. The controversial law is colloquially known as the Palm Sunday Compromise. It passed the Senate on Sunday afternoon unanimously, 3-0, with 97 of 100 Senators not present. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, deliberation ran from 9pm EST to just past midnight during an unusual Sunday session. The bill was passed 203-58 (156 Republicans and 47 Democrats in favor, 5 Republicans and 53 Democrats against), with 174 Representatives (74 Republicans and 100 Democrats) not present on the floor at the time of the vote at 12:41 a.m. EST. President Bush returned from vacation in Crawford, Texas to sign the bill into law at 1:11 that morning. (Emphasis added)
Did you get that? A Senate vote of 3. On a Sunday. (I applaud the other 97 Senators for behaving like civilized human beings and not running amok with gavels.) This was followed by an “unusual” House vote at 12:41 am. The president flew in from vacation to sign a bill at 1:11 am on a Monday morning.
Like Government controlled health care, the Terry Schiavo case can cause reasonable people to reasonably disagree. However, three yo-yo’s in a room does not a Senate debate make. (The Senate should never vote with fewer people than I can fit in a fishing boat!) A House vote at 12:41 am is shady at best. And I’m a firm believer that the president should never sign anything at 1:00 am in the morning unless there’s a mushroom cloud over somewhere all Americans can immediately locate on a map.
It was dirty politics. It was wrong. Impassioned people may debate that it was a good thing but the deliberative bodies of our Nation should never ever be cooking the books after midnight on a weekend just for one parties pet cause. It was one of many little things that paved the way for Obama to hammer McCain like a bent nail in 2008. It is also one of the things that has the Tea Party crowd ready to drop the guillotine on the new Republicans that just got elected.
Why am I saying this? Because I live here. This is my goddamned Nation. This is where I park my car. It’s where I’m raising my child. It’s where I keep all my stuff. I love America and I want it to continue to thrive as the beacon of freedom and prosperity it was meant to be. That means I want good governance. I do not want Republican hegemony any more than I want Al Gore to regulate my lightbulbs. I want two (or more) intelligent parties in constant competition trying to govern as well as possible. (I also want a pony.)
When either party starts voting on something at midnight it’s bad news. When they do something on a weekend and only after the press cycle will bury the story it’s dishonest. When they tinker with voting counts, Gerrymander, collude and scheme my Nation takes it in the shorts. I’m not cool with that. The Republicans have a brief period of time to demonstrate they can actually govern. The Democrats just got a solid hammering for demonstrating their failure in that respect.
Americans need at least two parties in competition to be the best. Right now neither party is doing their best to govern. We can and have dumped one or more parties forever. Americans are adaptive. Don’t fuck with us or you’ll wind up a footnote in a history text. Our two party system started with Federalists versus Republicans. Seen a Federalist lately? (Perhaps they’re in disguise as Tea Partiers?) Then it was Democrats versus Whigs. Seen a Whig lately? When all hell broke loose around slavery Republicans took center stage again. (Lincoln…might have heard of him?) Democrats and Republicans are what’s left among several parties that have dried up and faded away. They’re both looking tired and disreputable. Both would be well advised to straighten up and fly right.
Just as I don’t pine for a Studebaker when I’m driving my Honda, I don’t pine for a Whig or Bull Moose when I’m reading the morning news. If my Honda craps out I’ll shift to a Ford or a Toyota. If neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can steer thought the debt surrounding Baby Boomer’s retirement, they’ll be toast. Given their collective lack of restraint over the last several decades, we wont miss them.