Friday, November 7, 2014
The Tsunami of 2014
At one point on Tuesday night, much of the on-air talent for FoxNews were openly laughing at Juan Williams, the lone Democrat on the panels, who was refusing to acknowledge that the election had been a "wave" for the Republicans. Late in the evening, when it became obvious that Republicans not only would win the Senate, but would win a historic majority in the House, and would also win governorships in blue states like Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois, even Williams relented. It was a wave. But... what does it mean?
1. The Republican brand is not ascendant. Let's start with what it doesn't mean. I don't believe that this election necessarily means that the Republican brand is ascendant. The GOP ran a largely negative campaign (and correctly so) that criticized the Obama administration on competence grounds without offering any very large new ideas for governance. They'll have to do so in 2016 if they hope to win the Presidency. Competence won't be a good enough argument... they'll need an actual program. My big idea... fracking, fracking and more fracking to make American energy independent and to fuel a 21st century boom, while at the same time defunding the Wahabbis in the Middle East. This is why the first thing out of the box for the GOP should be a bill to permit the Keystone Pipeline.
2. The Democratic brand is tarnished, but not dead. I also don't think that the election means that the Democratic Party brand is ruined forever. In many of the key Senate races it seemed to me that the problem wasn't the Party, but the specific candidate or the candidate's specific strategy, and sometimes simply the particular state. Dems are always going to be at a big disadvantage in states like Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, etc., because they are basically conservative states. For many of them (North Carolina comes to mind), the incumbent Senator had won by a fluke in 2008 when the economy crashed and Obama was a the knight in shining armor coming to rescue us. But the basic demographics and ideologies of the state lean red, and that meant they were ripe for GOP pickups. In other states (like Colorado), the candidate for the Dems simply had an outdated strategy. He ran on the "war on women." But Americans (and particularly American women) aren't worried about losing contraception... they're worried about Ebola, and open borders, and ISIS. The Dems in CO were still stuck on 2012 Sandra Fluke when they should have been talking about how to keep American women safe in 2014 from organ-dissolving viruses and Islamist beheaders. Finally, and without putting too big a point on it... every Democratic candidate in a key Senate race was white. Kay Hagan... white woman. Mark Warner... rich white guy. Alison Grimes... white woman. Greg Orman.... rich white guy. It's sad to say, but black Americans tend to vote tribally, and won't turn out in huge numbers unless there is a prominent black candidate to support. To win, Dems need to field more black candidates. (The GOP seems to have figured this out... there were a lot of GOP candidates who were either Hispanic or black who won on Tuesday... Tim Scott in SC, the heart of the Confederacy, comes to mind.) I doubt the Dems will miss this obvious point next time.
3. The Obama Effect. Finally, my one big takeaway from the night... the Emperor Has No Clothes moment regarding Obama has finally arrived. The incompetence of the Obamacare rollout, the failure of the stimulus to stimulate, the various alphabet scandals (IRS, NSA, VA), the myriad failures in foreign policy that have made America look weaker and weaker (chaos in Libya, beheadings in Iraq, nuclear weapons in Iran, an aggressive Russia, a soon to be aggressive China), the cover-ups, the erased emails... it has all added up to bring the country to the tipping point. But what has tipped us over the edge is simply Obama himself. He has become an extremely unlikeable figure... the pedantic sourpuss who just keeps boring us with the same cant phrases, who can't really do much of anything himself but always is quick to blame others for the failings; the egomaniac who, despite the ample evidence to the contrary, continues to think he is the smartest thing ever and everyone else is beneath him. After six years of that, Americans are just sick of the guy. We've tuned out. We're not tuning back in. What this means however is that, where the Democrats might have worried about what their party would do after Obama, now my sense is that they can't wait to lift this albatross from around their neck.