Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Two Years' Vacation

A couple of points to be made about last night's midterm elections.

1) The election map last night was singularly antithetical to Democrats. To put it in terms conservatives understand, we were playing in their ballpark.  Of the seats in play last night, an aggregate 46% voted for Barack Obama in 2012. Many of the seats the Democrats defended (and lost) last night were taken in the 2008 Obamaslide and naturally reverted back to better reflect the redness of the underlying midterm electorate. Which brings me to point 2.

2) In 2016, the map reverses. That election, before we even know who the candidates are, will see at least five or six seats that conservatives picked up in the 2010 reactionary midterm elections go blue again. Having 52 only (literally, only) seats now guarantees a minority status by 2017 as most of the states where Republicans gained seats in 2010 were carried -- and in big numbers, including Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Illinois -- by Obama in 2012. Democrats will only be defending 10 seats, while Republicans will defend 24, meaning resources and money are stretched thin in a year that will see a) a Presidential election suck up more resources and b) a larger turnout which always...always...means Democratic victories. Which brings me to point 3.

3) Voter turnout in midterm elections usually lag turnout in Presidential elections by about twenty percent nationwide. While numbers are far from final, preliminary data suggests that trend probably continued in 2014. That Democrats were competitive in states like North Carolina with such low voter turnout means that Republicans are far from dominant. They're dominant in the way an NBA player would be against the girls' junior varsity captain: they sort of had everything set up the right way this time around.

So the watchwords for the next two years are "filibuster" and "veto". Expect a lot of right wing whining about both, and about Obama's golf game.

What? You thought they didn't read the maps? This is why they made such a big issue about it this year, to set up the next two years. In fact, Obama demonstrated to me a singular vision in avoiding the campaign trail. In 2016, he can look like a kingmaker.

The conservative strategy of nickel-and-diming the President succeeded to a degree. It was not as successful as they believe but it was more successful than it should have been. Democrats should have been out in front of him, taking the heat off him, especially these last two years. They weren't. This could not have but contributed to his lack of enthusiasm for them.

Now, back to filibusters and vetoes. First, understand that McConnell will do nothing about them. He can't. Not because he doesn't want to (altho he might not) and not because his base doesn't want him to (they do) but because without a Republican President, there's no point in changing a rule you'll benefit from two years down the road.

But suppose he does decide to trigger the nuke. Obama vetoes any bill that comes up the pipe. It goes back for an overturn. It might pass the House, but the Senate requires a 2/3 majority, too. 67 votes is simply not happening.

The likely outcome? A government shutdown over Obamacare. Again. Because shutdowns worked soooooo well the last two times for Republicans. They'll become an even more distant smear on the rearview mirror of America.

The other area of concern is the Supreme Court. Ginsburg is feeling her age, and its long been rumored she wants too retire. Likewise, Breyer. Here I think cooler heads will prevail and as long as the President doesn't want to upset the ideological apple cart (and John Roberts appears comfortable with the other eight justices, and I suspect he'll have some sway here), he and McConnell can horse trade.

Keep in mind, then, that the 2016 election looms large in the Court, and Scalia and Kennedy are both 78. I doubt they want to see 85 in chambers.

The takeaway from last night's election, however, is something I've hinted at and discussed in broad strokes but something America should contemplate as the far larger flaw in our process: turnout.

Nate Silver called last night's election the least important election in decades, and he's probably right at a national level. But as John Oliver noted, legislation is not being done at the Federal level at all. It's being left to the state and local governments, and this is where the money of the Kochs and Adelsons has been the most pernicious (remember gerrymandering? ALEC? Those are happening in state and municipals leges all around the country).

You see, it doesn't matter that there's gridlock at the top. That is precisely what the Kochs of the world want. Right now they are enjoying tremendous financial rewards given to them by the political party stupid enough to sell the birthright of a nation to them. They have lower taxes, a nonexistent regulatory body, and the ability to buy and trade people. Literally, buy and sell people.

The only way to stop them, the only way to take back our country, is to turn up and vote. Why else do you think the Kochs (NB. By "Kochs" I now expand the term to mean billionaires bent on destroying America) and their minions are putting up roadblocks to voting? It's the only way, the only way, they can maintain their hegemony long enough to siphon the nation dry and move on before they die.

As the saying goes, if the 99% voted, it wouldn't matter what the 1% wanted.

Here's why: the corporatists can count on about a third of the vote to go their way, without any persuasion needed and a third of the vote to go against them as unpersuadable. In an off year, that's roughly 60 million of 90 million votes in aggregate they don't have to buy (I know the percentage split slightly differs in minions/opponents but in aggregate, its about the same).

Now imagine if 240 million people suddenly showed up to vote. Now you're talking about persuading not an additional 30 million but 80 million. and now you have to not only advertise on the local news shows and FOX but on sports networks and prime time television as many more of these don't vote because they work a couple of jobs and raise families and study for classes. You have to make a real effort and the cost/benefit ratio gets skewed against you.

There's only so much campaign money to go around, no matter how many billions you have banked.

And the other benefit of a 99% turnout: politicians wouldn't be able to pander to their base and expect them to lift the wagon over the tougher waters. They wouldn't be able to blame those people for our ills because  those people can and will actually punish them at the polls now. They wouldn't be able to smear another candidate for hoaxed behavior because, guess what? We'd be talking about the issues that matter and any politician who tried to deflect the conversation would find themselves quickly losing ground. 60% of the voting population is turned off because of "politics as usual" but if those 60% voted, it would no longer be politics as usual.

This is something liberals need to focus on: not the GOTV every two years or so, but a long term commitment to persuading people that its in their best interest to vote early and vote often, at least in the course of their lifetimes.

See, we win when they vote. It's as simple as that.