Saturday, October 16, 2010

2010 Politics

Two bits of opinionizing on American politics in the year 2010:

1. The Tea Party.

A couple of years down the road, we're going to look back and see the Tea Party as a massively over-hyped phenomenon, enabled by the very same mainstream media that its more vocal members pretend to hate.

The Tea Party is not a political party. That's not a value judgement, it's a fact. The Tea Party is a brand, and it's a brand that nobody owns. You hear about "Tea Party-endorsed" candidates, but all that means is that they have the Palin or Angle seal of approval. I could run for Congress on a platform of increasing the national debt to one hundred trillion dollars and requiring all U.S. citizens to work for the federal government and I could call myself a Tea Party candidate. No one could stop me.

We're talking about a brand that covers such a varied group of individuals and beliefs that it's difficult to make sweeping statements about its followers. It seems to come down to a belief in lower taxes, less government spending, and smaller government. That's all. Say any more, get into immigration or cultural issues, and already you're painting with too broad a brush.

Now, I'm no Libertarian. Heck, I can think of lots of places where the government ought to be funneling more money. But let's be honest - there is nothing new in the core of the Tea Party platform. Their economic attitudes have been prevalent in American society for decades and will continue to be prevalent for decades more.

Frankly, I can respect people with right-wing economic views far more than I can respect people who think, if they don't like the President, it's mature and appropriate to imply he's really from Africa. Or people who like to pretend that liberals want to build a mosque right where the Twin Towers used to be.

The substance of the Tea Party is nothing new. It's a bunch of attitudes that have been in American politics for a long time, only re-packaged and with razzle-dazzle added. The substance isn't going anywhere, but I don't see the razzle-dazzle lasting long. The Tea Party brand might well be old news by 2012. Alternatively, I could see the Tea Party coalesce into something resembling a coherent political party in 2012 if the GOP nominates a Presidential candidate that the Tea Partiers deem unacceptable.

But either way, I think by 2020 we'll be looking back and seeing the Tea Party as a great big overrated pile of media-driven hype.

2. 2010 Elections.

In the House: The GOP will take over and hold a narrow majority. Speaker Pelosi will fall and Speaker Boehner will rise.

I might be wrong. FiveThirtyEight is currently giving the Democrats a 27% chance of holding onto the House. But if the Republicans do fail to take the House, it'll be the biggest failure of prognosticators since the 1948 Presidential election, and I will want to be a part of it.

In the Senate: The Democratic majority will survive in shrunken form. Possibly even 50-50. We'll probably have a different Majority Leader than Harry Reid. Reid's Senate seat may well survive the year (44% chance says FiveThirtyEight), but the Democrats are most likely going to call for his head.

Now, although I've had an eccentric habit of voting for Republican Congressional candidates in the past, I'm not at all a fan of the GOP of 2010, or the rhetoric its leaders are throwing about. But I've made my peace with the prospect of GOP control of at least one house of Congress. Deep within me there lurks a soulless, cold, calculating political junkie, reckoning the Democrats will be in a better position in 2012 if the GOP captures part or all of Congress in 2010 and find they have to put together a record they can run on. One nice thing about party politics is that any loss, no matter how catastrophic, can be spun as laying the groundwork for a win 2 or 4 years down the road.

Remember, it's all fun and games! The lives of real people in the real world won't be affected in any way by which party controls Congress, right?

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