Congratulations, Voters: You Swept Out the Last Remaining Republican Moderates in the GOP Primaries and Democratic Moderates in Last Week's Elections -- Leaving Both Parties in Congress Totally Dominated by Hard-Line Ideologues of Both the Right (GOP) and the Left (Dems). Bipartisan Cooperation? Forget About It!
(Posted 5:30 a.m. EST Tuesday, November 9, 2010)
A 'SKEETER BITES REPORT EDITORIAL
Congratulations, America. You did the exact opposite of what Guest Columnist Russell King strongly urged you not to do last Tuesday.
Now, for the next two years, you're going to have to suffer the consequences.
For months, you've told pollsters that you were sick and tired of the partisan wrangling in Washington. Yet when you went to the polls -- in both the primaries and in last week's general election -- you elected what is destined to be the most ideologically polarized Congress in American history since the Civil War -- the 150th anniversary of which, ironically, is next year.
In the Republican primaries, you defeated one moderate Republican after another, going instead with conservatives, many of them backed by the Tea Party movement. In last Tuesday's election, you swept out one moderate-to-conservative Democrat after another, going instead with even more conservative Republicans.
ONE AFTER ANOTHER, MODERATES OF BOTH PARTIES GET SWEPT OUT BY FIREBRANDS
Indeed,, instead of ending the partisan gridlock, you, the electorate, did the exact opposite, voting in a Congress with a near-total absence of moderates of either party -- especially in the House -- guaranteeing that the hyper-partisanship you so thoroughly despise will only intensify, as both parties become even more ideologically rigid than before, to whom the word "compromise" is as alien as a Martian.
Of the 49 Democrats you tossed out of the House, 24 of them were moderate-to-conservative "Blue Dogs," including Mike Arcuri of New York, Baron Hill of Indiana, Jim Marshall of Georgia, Glenn Nye of Virginia, John Salazar of Colorado and Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota.
In the Senate, the most prominent "Blue Dog" who lost was Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas -- who barely survived a fierce primary challenge from party liberals angered by her opposition to a government-run "public option" as part of the health-care reform law passed last May.
Among Republicans, one moderate after another found themselves swept away by a right-wing tsunami driven by the Tea Party movement in the GOP primaries. Among the moderates who got thrown under the Tea Party bus: Mike Castle of Delaware, Charlie Crist of Florida, Trey Grayson of Kentucky, Bob Bennett of Utah, Rick Lazio of New York and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
(Murkowski, however, may well have gained sweet revenge for her primary defeat by beating her Tea Party-backed opponent, Joe Miller, in last week's general election as an independent write-in candidate. Murkowski's win, if confirmed, would be a bitter blow to former Governor Sarah Palin, who ousted Murkowski's father, Frank, as governor in 2006 and strongly supported Miller.)
But by far the biggest loser of all was Republican-turned-Democrat Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. He abandoned the GOP when it became clear that he would lose in the primary to conservative former Representative Pat Toomey -- only to lose the Democratic primary to liberal-backed Representative Joe Sestak. In the end, though, Toomey narrowly defeated Sestak, 51 percent to 49 percent.
RESULT: GOP MORE RIGHT-WING THAN EVER; DEMS MORE LEFT-WING THAN EVER
Left standing on Capitol Hill after the "Red Tsunami" is a Republican caucus that is the most right-wing in its history and a Democratic caucus that is equally the most left-wing in its history.
Within days after the election, Republican leaders -- and their Tea Party allies -- made it abundantly clear that they're in no mood for compromise. Senator-elect Rand Paul told ABC News on Sunday that compromise with the Democrats -- or even with his own party's leadership -- was out of the question.
"We're coming," Paul said. "We're -- we're proud. We're strong. We're loud. And we're going to co-opt. And, in fact, I think we're already shaping the debate."
House Democratic leaders, however, aren't about to roll over and play dead. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), who will lose the speakership to GOP House leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), declared Friday that she was in the running for House minority leader. In a letter to fellow House Democrats, Pelosi vowed to fight to preserve her party's legislative achievements -- especially the health-care reform law that Republicans have vowed to repeal.
"Our work is far from finished," Pelosi wrote. "As a result of Tuesday's election, the role of Democrats in the 112th Congress will change, but our commitment to serving the American people will not. We have no intention of allowing our great achievements to be rolled back."
Pelosi has reason to strike a defiant tone: Her congressional district is one of the bluest in the country. While the outgoing speaker has only a 30 percent job-approval rating in national polls, she won a record 13th term in her overwhelmingly liberal San Francisco district with 80 percent of the vote, breaking the record set by her predecessor, the late Phillip Burton.
She also has the numbers on her side: Although several moderate-to-conservative House Democrats are likely to oppose Pelosi, they're now badly outnumbered by the liberals, thanks to the loss of nearly half of the House Democrats' conservative caucus in the election.
For his part, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell sharply defended his comments that his party's top priority in the next two years will be to ensure that President Obama becomes a one-term president. "Some have said it was indelicate of me to suggest that our top political priority over the next two years should be to deny President Obama a second term in office," McConnell said Thursday in a speech to the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.
"But the fact is, if our primary legislative goals are to repeal and replace the health spending bill, to end the bailouts, cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government, the only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things," McConnell asserted.
IT ISN'T ALL BAD: WORST OF TEA PARTY EXTREMISTS -- AND A LIBERAL FIREBRAND -- GOT THE BOOT
However, to your credit, voters, you did say "no" to several hard-line right-wing Tea Party-backed extremists who proved to be an embarrassment to the GOP and incurred the wrath of Latino voters angry at their anti-immigrant, anti-Latino campaigns, including Sharron Angle of Nevada and Tom Tancredo of Colorado.
And, also to your credit, you resoundingly rejected the totally off-the-wall campaigns of Christine O'Donnell of Delaware and Carl Paladino of New York -- both of whom clearly demonstrated that they were unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate and the New York governor's office, respectively.
And in Kentucky, you said "no" to Democrat Jack Conway after Conway made the foolish mistake of mocking his GOP opponent Rand Paul's religious faith -- or lack thereof -- in his now-infamous "Aqua Buddha" TV campaign ad, which angered conservative Christians in a deeply conservative state.
Frankly, this column is surprised that Conway's ad didn't also anger practitioners of Buddhism -- the world's fourth largest religion, with 360 million adherents worldwide -- who could rightly accuse Conway of mocking their faith.
SENATE FACES TOTAL PARALYSIS AS BOTH PARTIES CAN NOW FILIBUSTER BILLS
But with the Democrats now more firmly under liberal control with the ouster of so many "Blue Dogs" -- and under tremendous pressure from liberal activists and public-sector labor unions not to give in on health-care reform -- a knock-down, drag-out ideological war is almost certain.
Republicans have vowed to repeal the health-care reform law passed by Congress without a single GOP vote. But the repeal effort is almost certain to fail, with Obama wielding his veto stamp and Republicans fully aware they lack the two-thirds majority required to override.
A repeal bill is unlikely reach the president's desk anyway; with the Senate still under Democratic control, Senate Republicans lack the 60 votes required to choke off an expected Democratic filibuster. Indeed, with neither party able to choke off each other's filibusters, the Senate could fall into total paralysis.
GRIDLOCK COULD PROVE DANGEROUS AS DEBT-CEILING VOTE NEARS
This could prove extremely dangerous next year, when Congress will be required by law to vote on raising the national debt ceiling. Essentially the nation's credit-card limit, the debt ceiling, now set $14.3 trillion, could max out as early as next spring.
The national debt is now estimated at $13.7 trillion. If Congress fails to raise the limit, the government would legally default on its debts, destroying the nation's credit rating and causing a panic on Wall Street that would make the Meltdown of 2008 seem tame by comparison.
Already, there is a bitter debate among Republicans over what to do about the debt ceiling, with some newly-elected Tea Party hard-liners vowing to vote no. GOP national chairman Michael Steele declared that his party won't approve any debt-limit increase. "We are not going to compromise on raising more debt. We are not going to compromise on raising the debt ceiling," Steele said on CNN's "State of the Union" on the Sunday before the election.
But soon-to-be Speaker Boehner warned that failure to raise the debt limit is not a viable option. "Increasing the debt limit allows our government to meet its obligations," Boehner told ABC News, "and I think that there are multiple options for how you deal with it. But for our [GOP] team, I think we're going to have to demonstrate that we've got to have reductions in spending. The government's spending more than what we bring in. We can't afford it."
PARTY POLARIZATION SEEPING DOWN TO STATE LEVEL
Under these circumstances, do you really expect the hard-line ideologues of the right and the left who now control both major parties to find common ground and compromise -- especially since they're already sounding white-hot belligerent rhetoric? If you do, we have a bridge in Brooklyn that we want to sell you.
The really bad news is that the ideological polarization in Congress is seeping down to the state level, as state after state is seeing one party or the other take total control of both the legislatures and the governor's offices -- essentially bifurcating the nation into red states and blue states and leaving moderate voters out in the cold.
While much of the country was swept in a tsunami of Republican red, The Northeast and the West Coast, particularly California, have become fortresses of Democratic blue. Democrats swept all but one of the nine statewide offices in California for the first time in the state's history and tightened their control of both houses of the legislature -- as well as both U.S. Senate seats and the majority of the state's congressional delegation.
In Vermont, Democrat Peter Shumlin, a champion of a state-run "single-payer" health-care system, was elected governor and Democrats retained their overwhelming majorities in both houses of the Vermont legislature. Connecticut will have a Democrat as governor for the first time in 20 years as Dan Malloy narrowly defeated Republican Tom Foley.
For all the bemoaning and bewailing by voters about the partisan polarization of the two major parties, the results of the 2010 elections clearly show that, to the contrary, America is a more deeply polarized nation now than at any time since the Civil War -- and perhaps in all of American history.
Former President Jimmy Carter, in an interview broadcast on "NBC Nightly News" in September, said that the country has become "astonishingly" polarized to a degree that he's never seen before. "President Obama suffers from the most polarized situation in Washington that we have ever seen," Carter said, "even maybe than the time of Abraham Lincoln and the initiation of the War between the States," as most Southerners, including Carter, refer to the Civil War.
For those who complain bitterly about the poisoned partisan atmosphere in the nation's capital, it may already be too late to do anything to bring a halt to it.
Which is why the next two years could prove to be America's worst political nightmare.
Editor & Publisher
The 'Skeeter Bites Report
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