Archive | November, 2009

Don’t expect 2010 to be 1994. Part 2: Healthcare

23 Nov

“I’m not going to get into the numbers today, but it’ll — I think if you’re not impressed, you should be.”

Harry Reid is pretty proud of his healthcare bill.  The next few weeks will be intense and immensely important to him and his party. The ramifications of this bill will be seen and discussed for generations, similar to other fundamental legislative changes in the relationship between American government and its people, like the GI Bill and Medicare. They can’t afford to pull a 1994 again.

After the House passed their version of the momentous reform Obama promised during his campaign, Reid and his Senate Democrats are about to make the hardest push yet. Republicans hold considerable power in the Senate–mainly by just lying dead in the hallways–and the Democrats have an ideologically diverse party to wrangle. Reid will lose the sleep Pelosi is now making up.

Healthcare reform is not just economically important and a revision of 1/6 of our economy. It also is vital for Democrats seeking re-election. If healthcare reform fails, it would not be 1994 all over again–it would be worse. The GOP would make a comeback after years of mismanagement, corruption, and ineptitude, and after having done close to nothing of substance in their role as a minority party. .

When healthcare reform does pass (Democrats cannot fathom a plan B), it will pay handsome dividends. As mentioned in the last post of this series, it will give them enough of a nudge to help them avoid the GOP takeover many pundits predict. Democrats need accomplishments to regain the footing they didn’t have most of this decade, and right the wrongs of administrations passed.

Jobs will rule 2010. Unfortunately, they will probably continue to be scarce well into next year. But those that do spring up, the green shoots economists and politicians always look for, will be seized for political ammunition. Healthcare reform has the potential of giving Democrats a shot of momentum, especially if the public option comes with the package. In part that is because healthcare reform and job production are not correlated factors, but causal.

The public option is an often misunderstood thing. But it is just another government-run and funded competitor, like the US Postal Service,  in a market full of thriving private competitors.

As any other new business, it will need people and create jobs. The jobs will come from new bureaucratic institutions, new auxiliary departments, additional support by other already existing government agencies, and by the secondary markets and services any new business can create (developing applications for the iPhone is a prime example). Some are already predicting that healthcare reform, even without a public option, may help businesses create as many as 10 million new jobs due to the money saved in covering their employees. Adding the public option element will make this an exclusively Obama’s Democratic Party victory; any good news that trickles in will be attributed to no one else.

This big picture landscape will be used in small doses for 2010. Even if a few million jobs are created because of healthcare reform, they will not all suddenly appear in one year. It may take years to see the full effect of reform, but those jobs that pop up will be framed as part of a larger outcome. There are regional estimates of how much impact reform will have on local jobs and economies. (An example of that for the state of Colorado).  Democrats will be most convincing if they keep their pleads for re-election local, and measured but hopeful. Otherwise, even the most ignorant voter will know they are making castles out of straw.

While they wait for the jobs to come in, the political boost Democrats will get after reform is passed will be felt instantaneously.  It will revitalize a party that is exercising in shaky fashion the most power it’s had this decade. The last large piece of legislation the Democratic Congress passed was the stimulus earlier this year. The effect of that is still materializing and debated, so they can hardly count that as an achievement. But healthcare reform, which many thought was close to impossible, which crushed their party over 15 years ago, which most thought was just another campaign promise, would communicate political power like very little else could. “Yes, we ARE the majority party…See!” It boosts confidence in the loyalists and makes the undecideds curious: “Who are those studs with a hop in their step?”

This could turn two ways for the Democrats. It could either give them a short-term or a long-term boost. They can either have readily available results to tout in their favor in 2010 and 2012: new jobs, great hopes, a new, fairer, America. Or, it could give them a boost years down the line. This could be a legacy legislation.

The Republican party often recalls with pride President Eisenhower’s Highway Act of 1956. It was transformative, innovative, and had the long view always in mind. It was a bold stroke of risk taking that paid off. That was a legacy legislation. Democrats hope this will be as well. But they also need to show Americans they can benefit today. That is why linking small improvements to grand outcomes is so important. There jobs depends on it.

A New Brand of Conservative Politics

18 Nov
A New Brand of Conservative Politics
She’s smart, attractive and lacks any brain-to-mouth filter.  She came into politics by chance, dug her heels in, and much to the dismay of Democrats (and some Republicans) refuses to leave.  She is not Sarah Palin. She is Michele Bachmann.
Like Palin, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann represents a new breed of conservative women that arent afraid to use their noisemakers.  Sure, many women in the Republican Party have been fighting for ultra-conservative values for years, but Bachmann’s method of political leadership takes things to a whole new level.
To understand Bachmann, you need to hear the story of how she became a senator.
Once upon a time, a lawyer, mother of five, and foster mother of 23 got pissed off at her state senator.  The senator, a Republican, had the nerve to stop supporting pro-life legislation, and support tax increases. Bachmann threw on a pair of jeans, showed up at the local Republican nominating caucus, and gave this senator a piece of her mind.  Conservatives at the caucus liked this outspoken rebel with a cause, and when Bachmann left that day, she left with most of their endorsements.
Since gaining her seat in Congress, Bachmann has shown that she has no concept of the “speak softy and carry a big stick” ideology.  She prefers to shout at the top of her lungs (frequently while in front of a Fox News camera), threatening, often with colorful language, to take down the Democratic Party.  She could be described as a milder version of Ann Coulter, with brown hair and a legitimate position in politics.
She is passionate and feisty but it often seems as if Bachmann speaks without thinking.  Her “facts” can be inaccurate and sometimes plain wrong.  The recent “Super Bowl of Freedom” rally against health care reform, her brainchild, drew criticism from the Democrats who said that Bachmann’s language was encouraging violence.
During her speech at the rally, Bachman said to the enthusiastic crowd, “You came for an emergency House call, and are they going to listen? Oh yeah, oh yeah. They’re going to listen. It was Thomas Jefferson who said a revolution every now and then is a good thing. What do you think?”
Bachmann is pro-life, supports drilling, opposes gay marriage rights, believes that global warming is a fallacy and is strongly against health care reform.   But her views on everyday political issues are not what make her newsworthy.
Bachmann is a bit of a conspiracy theorist.
She has a laundry list of conspiracies that involve the Democrats, namely President Obama. She believes that Obama is a socialist with a hidden agenda to do away with the dollar and brainwash the youth through AmeriCorps, which she refers to as “re-education camps”.   She accuses the President of “palling around” with terrorists and during the presidential campaign she was shouting from rooftops that he was not born on US soil.  She refuses to completely fill out the 2010 Census, because she is convinced that ACORN is part of the collection efforts and will use her personal information to…well no one really knows.
Democrats pretend that she’s not a serious threat, that her claims are so outrageous that the likeliness of anyone take her seriously is low. Republicans also cringe at her conspiracies but at this point most are willing to sit back and let her draw in as many followers as possible.  She may rely on shock value to get attention, and for now it’s working.
Despite her arguably eccentric accusations, Bachmann, along with her political counterpart Palin, have transformed conservative politics.  The GOP’s longstanding image of gray-haired men with a stern demeanors has been replaced by attractive, outspoken and passionate women.  The change seems to be invigorating the party, dragging it out of the depressed state it’s been in since the 2008 elections.
The problem with this change is that the women at the forefront rely too much on emotion.  Bachmann plays off of fear of the Democratic Party, which can only get her so far before conservatives start to realize her extreme views are not in line with the majority and will not help the Republican Party gain votes.  Palin can only go so far with her horror stories about Katie Couric–it wouldn’t be surprising if when her book tour ends, her political career officially bites the dust.
Bachmann and Palin are temporary fixes for a party that is struggling to define itself.
Come 2012, the Republican Party knows that in order to take back the White House they will need to gain as many independent votes as possible.  If Bachmann (or God forbid, Palin) gains the party nomination they can kiss those votes goodbye.  But perhaps for now the GOP needs to let the media attention focus on Bachmann and Palin while they quietly groom their future leaders…distract the Democrats with the shiny balls before they pull the real punches.
photocredit: AP

photocredit: AP

She’s smart, attractive and lacks any brain-to-mouth filter.  She came into politics by chance, dug her heels in, and much to the dismay of Democrats (and some Republicans) refuses to leave.  She is not Sarah Palin. She is Michele Bachmann.

Like Palin, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann represents a new breed of conservative women that arent afraid to use their noisemakers.  Sure, many women in the Republican Party have been fighting for ultra-conservative values for years, but Bachmann’s method of political leadership takes things to a whole new level.

To understand Bachmann, you need to hear the story of how she became a senator.

Once upon a time, a lawyer, mother of five, and foster mother of 23 got pissed off at her state senator.  The senator, a Republican, had the nerve to stop supporting pro-life legislation, and support tax increases. Bachmann threw on a pair of jeans, showed up at the local Republican nominating caucus, and gave this senator a piece of her mind.  Conservatives at the caucus liked this outspoken rebel with a cause, and when Bachmann left that day, she left with most of their endorsements.

Since gaining her seat in Congress, Bachmann has shown that she has no concept of the “speak softy and carry a big stick” ideology.  She prefers to shout at the top of her lungs (frequently while in front of a Fox News camera), threatening, often with colorful language, to take down the Democratic Party.  She could be described as a milder version of Ann Coulter, with brown hair and a legitimate position in politics.

She is passionate and feisty but it often seems as if Bachmann speaks without thinking.  Her “facts” can be inaccurate and sometimes plain wrong.  The recent “Super Bowl of Freedom” rally against health care reform, her brainchild, drew criticism from the Democrats who said that Bachmann’s language was encouraging violence.

During her speech at the rally, Bachman said to the enthusiastic crowd, “You came for an emergency House call, and are they going to listen? Oh yeah, oh yeah. They’re going to listen. It was Thomas Jefferson who said a revolution every now and then is a good thing. What do you think?”

Bachmann is pro-life, supports drilling, opposes gay marriage rights, believes that global warming is a fallacy and is strongly against health care reform.   But her views on everyday political issues are not what make her newsworthy.

Bachmann is a bit of a conspiracy theorist.

She has a laundry list of conspiracies that involve the Democrats, namely President Obama. She believes that Obama is a socialist with a hidden agenda to do away with the dollar and brainwash the youth through AmeriCorps, which she refers to as “re-education camps”.   She accuses the President of “palling around” with terrorists and during the presidential campaign she was shouting from rooftops that he was not born on US soil.  She refuses to completely fill out the 2010 Census, because she is convinced that ACORN is part of the collection efforts and will use her personal information to…well no one really knows.

Democrats pretend that she’s not a serious threat, that her claims are so outrageous that the likeliness of anyone take her seriously is low. Republicans also cringe at her conspiracies but at this point most are willing to sit back and let her draw in as many followers as possible.  She may rely on shock value to get attention, and for now it’s working.

Despite her arguably eccentric accusations, Bachmann, along with her political counterpart Palin, have transformed conservative politics.  The GOP’s longstanding image of gray-haired men with a stern demeanors has been replaced by attractive, outspoken and passionate women.  The change seems to be invigorating the party, dragging it out of the depressed state it’s been in since the 2008 elections.

The problem with this change is that the women at the forefront rely too much on emotion.  Bachmann plays off of fear of the Democratic Party, which can only get her so far before conservatives start to realize her extreme views are not in line with the majority and will not help the Republican Party gain votes.  Palin can only go so far with her horror stories about Katie Couric–it wouldn’t be surprising if when her book tour ends, her political career officially bites the dust.

Bachmann and Palin are temporary fixes for a party that is struggling to define itself.

Come 2012, the Republican Party knows that in order to take back the White House they will need to gain as many independent votes as possible.  If Bachmann (or God forbid, Palin) gains the party nomination they can kiss those votes goodbye.  But perhaps for now the GOP needs to let the media attention focus on Bachmann and Palin while they quietly groom their future leaders…distract the Democrats with the shiny balls before they pull the real punches.

Ashley is a contributing writer at PoliticsMajor.com. She initially caught my attention with her writing on politics, culture, and its many cross-sections, at her very interesting blog: Coffee Late@Night. Look out for more of her contributions in the near future. She resides in Wisconsin.

Sarah gives you a visual

17 Nov

She knows how to sell a book, for sure. From Going Rogue:

That [religious] zeal carries through to the 2008 campaign, when she relates that she took a call from Pastor Rick Warren while she was showering. He offered to pray with her. “I said, absolutely! Pray away!” Palin writes. “I would never turn down prayer even with limited hours in a campaign day, standing in a few inches of water with a shower curtain for a wardrobe. You do what you’ve got to do.”

Sexy Pretty Political Things

17 Nov
photocredit: PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK

photocredit: PRNewsFoto/NEWSWEEK

Sarah Palin and I agree on one thing: the need to promote healthy eating (eating what you kill) and exercising (killing what you eat). On everything else, I feel her politics are all shine, no substance. What will make me note-worthy? What will get me headlines? Drilling into a national reserve? OK!

But there is something Sarah Palin represents in today’s politics that cannot be ignored: sex and beauty. She does not necessarily embody either, but her popularity, if not people’s curiosity in her, is partly based on both. She sparkles, she clacks, she exudes near-aesthetic perfection in an industry that was once called “the Hollywood for ugly people.” Her recent appearance on Oprah, with her trademark messy/sexy hair, videos of her working out, and catty nicknames for female anchors ( Katie Couric, “the perky one”), remind us why she mattered in 2008. She wants your attention, and gosh darn it, she will get it.

Palin cannot claim exclusivity to this well-manicured terrain. In fact, she may be the one who has used it the least to her advantage. Sex appeal, glitz, and shine has been used by the pols for decades. The first to sell himself with sex appeal might have been President Kennedy. The pictures of him on the beach, on a boat, and with his brothers, they all let America know they had a chance to show sexiness to the world. And they did, after comparing the young strapping Navy boy with Nixon, a man unfit for the magnifying glass of the media. Kennedy used his appeal so adroitly that decades after his affair, his short, and by many measures, mixed performance as a president, he is still regarded as one of our nation’s best ever and loved by millions.

The next one to use it was someone many thought was JFK’s second coming. Bill Clinton used it (abused it) and suffered the consequences of commanding too much mojo. His sex appeal relied more on his talk than his looks. His tongue, however, was only mighty enough to keep afloat, after dashing his ambitious agenda for his second term. John Edwards fell down the same path, unable to contain himself, his impeccable hair, or his dignity. Both understood the limitations of being too lusty: you’re in the public eye, you will be caught, you will be embarrassed.

photocredit: the huffington post

photocredit: the huffington post

Barack Obama uses sex and shine in more measured doses. He might be as calculating with what he let us see as Palin: his shirtless torso, his flirty exchanges with voters, his quiet show of masculinity in interviews when discussing his marriage. The parallels between the Obama and the Clinton marriage are evident (law school, politics, a smart, strong bride, and a charismatic, Democratic beau), but Barack has found a way to make his sex appeal travel through his relationship with Michelle, not around her or in despite of her. Bill gave his appeal to much credit.

photocredit: The Washingtonian

photocredit: The Washingtonian

There is a very thin line between selling the goods and becoming one.

Many historians blame current political dramatics, so focused on what things look like, sound like, and “feel” like on Lyndon Baines Johnson. The man that succeeded Kennedy and attempted to bring us the Great Society, was a Washington animal, for sure. His legislative prowess helped push through some of the most ambitious pieces of legislation ever to become law. But his knowledge of how people’s political minds worked is what got us to where we are now. He knew people voted mostly on feelings and prejudices (in the most benign sense of the word), not necessarily on reason or self-interest. He used fear of nuclear destruction, death, and disarray to win over votes. He launched an “image” campaign, something that was not typical back then. He sold himself and sold what his absence would look, sound, and “feel” like. People re-elected LBJ in 1964.

Sex is used in politics in the same effect it is used in advertising: it’s a spice that makes the idea of buying a certain kind of beer or voting for a certain hockey mom much more enticing. It whets your appetite for X thing or person. When the most opportunistic people use it, they make you feel what no longer being able to see said sexified product would be like, and what a heartbreaking injustice that would be. Sex appeal in any industry is used to become wanted. When wanted, people don’t want you to leave their sight.

Politicians like to be liked. Their ego needs to be stroked, no matter what they say about the importance of humility. Some of them probably are humble, but, just to think about it, these people think they are good enough to rule over us. That takes a certain kind of ego, and one that likes to be nurtured every now and then. So when sex appeal becomes one of the weapons in their charisma arsenal, it makes for a very powerful pol. Think of all the good looking or sexy politicians, past and present, you can right now…how many are important or influential? Most of them? Now you see why Palin, Edwards, and Obama like to wink at us: We become smitten, we become enchanted, they become publicly elected officials.

In Afghanistan, it's all about the numbers

11 Nov
photocredit: The US Army (flickr)

photocredit: The US Army (flickr)

Let’s say you’re visiting Earth from another planet. You have no reliable information on what’s been going on in 2009. You read a hastily written and vague brief titled “America in 1,000 words.” Near the end, it mentions that there is a major war afoot, one the “wimpy Democrats are like really, really against” (I told you it was hastily written).  When you are about to find out where this war is located, it smudged–fax machines will do that to you. But you read your Cliffnotes on America up until 2006, so you figure, “Duh. Iraq!”

Silly alien.

One reason the Democratic Congress has approval numbers that are not that much better than the Republicans had in 2006, is their flippancy. The war they (eventually) feverishly opposed was Iraq, but this year it became Afghanistan. What was consider the “good war” of the two is now the newest version of “our Vietnam.” Afghanistan is not Vietnam, but Democrats are giving that argument some credence, and thereby making themselves look weaker by presenting it. Maybe the “wimpy” label was not so far off.

Democrats feverishly opposed Iraq because they could feverishly support Afghanistan. It was good, just, worthy of sacrificing some of our best men and women, and worthy of the surmounting monetary cost. But now that Iraq is looking pretty stable, they need a new straw man. Enter the new Vietnam.

The war in Afghanistan is definitely not popular, with over 45% of Americans preferring to remove troops from the battlefield. Democrats might have switched their tone because of this. It’s unpopular, so lets boo the ugly prom date. But their party leader, President Obama, may once again go against the wishes of their progressive ambitions.

Afghanistan is torn, tattered, and in shaky condition after a sham election and pervasive violence that torments Afghans and their neighbors. President Hamid Karzai is unpopular amongst his people, and unreliable amongst White House officials. He vows to fight corruption just a few weeks after he blatantly committed electoral fraud and strong-arming. The insurgency within Afghanistan does not only target American soldiers, but Afghan civilians, Pakistan, and often collaborates with the Taliban to bring them back to power. In a word, it’s broken. This is why Obama knows he cannot see this war through a Vietnam lens.

The war in Afghanistan is more about the numbers than Vietnam ever was. Nixon and Kissinger thought they could win Vietnam by just overpowering the Vietcong with agent orange and carpet bombing, with more troops, more power, and less restraint. It failed, mainly because the enemy was not a single entity. The entire country was, in one way or another, supporting the insurgents. The only way to win in Vietnam would have been to obliterate the country or win each of their hearts. Both are pretty hard and expensive to do.

It is not a matter of whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, but how many and why. The country’s administration is incompetent at best, corrupt at worst, so why send more Americans there to lose their lives and prop their illegitimate institutions? What good is a promise to improve things, if it comes from Karzai? And if things are going to get better, won’t sending more Americans deflate the urgency Afghan security forces and politicians have to make themselves the keepers of their country’s security? If we lose Afghanistan, will Pakistan soon follow?

According to WH advisers, Obama is asking these questions, and becoming increasingly frustrated with the Afghan government. He is taking his time to weigh all of the proposed plans (some call for 10k more troops, some 30k, some none, some suggest pulling out completely). He may be doing this to check the country’s temperature: how much power will Karzai have once he starts trying to crack down on violence and government, earnestly or not? A month from now, will things be better, worse, or altogether different?

Obama will put more boots on the ground–begrudgingly.  It must be done, because Afghanistan can be won. Insurgents are not fighting united with the Afghan people, but beside them and sometimes against them. Civilians fear the insurgents, but possibly fear the void an American pullout would create even more. How many more troops American will send to the land that defeated the USSR and Alexander the Great will depend on how confident they are a reliable ally is on the other end. That, Mr. Karzai, is where you come in.

Don't expect 2010 to be 1994. Part 1: The Dollar

9 Nov
photocredit: Photos8.com (flickr)

photocredit: Photos8.com (flickr)

There is a noticeable strut to Michael Steele’s step nowadays. After last Tuesday big “wins,” the RNC Chairman finally feels good about his work as the ceremonial head of the party (Limbaugh is boss, and don’t you forget it). Chants  of “1994! 1994!,” the year the Republicans took back Congress after President Clinton botched his proposed healthcare reform, float around the political arena. The economy continues to shed jobs, albeit at a much slower pace. As Yogi Berra would say, deja vu all over again?

Not quite.

While the economy continues to provide headlines that offer optimism and pessimism in equal measures, it’s still the stinking corpse on Obama’s and the Democrats’ back. Many believe this corpse, along with the healthcare reform many pray will fail to become law or become effective, and the Afghan war that may make Obama an LBJ, will not only take back the House and Senate from Democrats, but will be enough to cut Obama’s ambitions short to only a single term as president.

Obama and the Democrats have a lot riding on the economy. While the effects we are currently suffering are still the doing of his Republican predecessor, the “it was broken when we got here” argument does not have the same effect today as it did in January–and it will be even less persuasive late next year. The aggressive moves the administration and Congress has taken to fix the economy make the link between the three even stronger. Like it or not, the corpse is now theirs to bury or revive.

So will the 2010 mid-term elections deliver the same results seen in 1994? Despite the shot of life the GOP got last Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey, all signs point to no.

The economy will not fully recover by then, but it will certainly appear to have improved to a select and important few. By November 2010, manufacturing, select service, and hospitality jobs will have been added to payrolls. It is a near certainty. All thanks to the wonderful shrinking dollar.

The price of the dollar keeps falling, falling, falling. It is weaker by the minute, and the press makes you want to think this is a cause for alarm. It would be if you have a stake in the currency’s value (say, banking or finances), or if you are an importer, but for most of America, this is a good thing.

A weaker dollar means American exports become more attractive to the rest of the world. One hundred yen will purchase more Lazy-Boys today than it did 6 months ago, because each yen is worth more by the dollar being worth less. An example: Each Lazy-Boy has a fixed price, say $80. A yen’s, or any other foreign currency’s, value in America is reflected by how many dollars it could be traded for. If more dollars can be traded for the same amount of yen (since the  each dollar is weaker, more dollars are needed to make up for the drop in value) than less yen can buy the same amount of Lazy-Boys–American exports become “cheaper” to the rest of the world. The short of all this is that more jobs will be created because our exports will be in greater demand, our tourist locations will be more affordable to the foreign traveler, and our increase in production means an increase in the service jobs that support those products being shipped out.

The Obama administration knows this. That is why you have seen it take a laissez-faire stance on the supposed alarming news that the dollar is shrinking. It may make some overtures to pacify some of those who really need a strong dollar, but in all, they will continue to stay out of the way and let the dollar bring them some good economic news they can really sell.

This doesn’t mean unemployment will decrease substantially, if at all, next year. That may still take a year or more to reduce. But regions in the United States that have been hit especially hard during this recession (Ohio, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania) will feel some relief, enough to let them feel confident enough to re-elect the Democrats bound to the economy’s performance.

There is the possibility that the economy will take took too long to provide these regions the relief I predict. What if new jobs begin to appear in November, or December, or maybe are so spread out they carry no real political power? Then the fate of both parties may go back to healthcare, the war, and the personalities of the politicians and the parties. More on the latter two  later. But for now, the economy looks like a promising lifesaver for the Democrats. That is, if people still buy American.

Biggest Tuesday since the last Biggest Tuesday

4 Nov
photocredit: j_bary (flickr)

photocredit: j_bary (flickr)

People shouldn’t care about voting in off-years, right? Tell that to Maine voters who gay marriage shouldn’t be allowed; or upper New York Republicans voting with a Democrat that was more in line with their values; or recently blue Virginia wondering how blue they wanted to be. Yesterday’s results may not have wide ramifications for 2010 or 2012, but it will certainly affect the attitude both parties enter with the new year.

It was a bad night for the Democrats. No matter which way the yarn is spun, Democrats lost two governorships, saw a cause they tacitly embrace (considering Democrats champions of  gay marriage is a tad foolish) suffer resounding defeat, and leave doubts in the air as to how much clout Obama has in local politics.

Republicans won, but dancing a victory shuffle misses the point. Polling shows that those who voted for Republican governors in Virginia and New Jersey did not do so in protest of President Obama’s job thus far. In New Jersey, 57% of all voters approved of the president; in Virginia, he still garnered a 51% rating. In fact, 27% of New Jersey voters that liked the job the president was doing voted for someone other than the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Corzine.  Same thing happened in Virginia: 20% of Obama supporters voted for the Republican, Bob McDonnell. Obama’s clout in the national scene is not being questioned, but his influence in local races has yet to be proven.

Local politics ruled the day. In NJ, people who voted to keep Corzine cited national issues (healthcare, the environment) as their top priority; those voting for the Republican challenger, Chris Christie, cited local issues (taxation, corruption) as what mattered most to them. In NY’s 23rd District, a Democrat won for the first time in 100 years because the Conservative, Doug Hoffman, was too right-wing and too out of touch with local politics to keep this district in Red.

The interesting thing in Maine was the turnout. Pro-gay marriage activists thought a high turnout would play in their favor, but this was not the case. A high turnout turned out to be a resounding defeat for the equal-rights cause, not just because of the final split (52%/48%), but because it was in blue-state Maine. This defeat was also important because of the promise it represented for the gay marriage movement. This could’ve been the first time gay marriage was approved by popular vote, not a court’s ruling.

While many pundits will call this a referendum on Obama, it’s more of a referendum on the Democrats and conservative politics.

Weak Democratic candidates were still weak even after Obama campaigned for them. All of the candidates Obama campaigned for were defeated. Even the Democrat Obama kinda sorta maybe supported, and probably only because he had to, Bill Thompson for NY Mayor, lost (although by a much smaller margin than many predicted). This bodes very poorly for Obama. If his popularity (which he still has) cannot be transferred to candidates he endorses, how can he assure Senators and Congresspeople voting on his ambitious agenda that he will be there to give them a boost when they are up for re-election? He is asking them to jump off a cliff, unable to assure them his net will hold.

As for conservatives, Tuesday was not a cause for celebration. Branded conservatives lost in all races. Hoffman, the conservative Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh vigorously campaigned for, lost in NY. Republican Chris Christie in NJ was a moderate running on his anti-corruption record as a federal prosecutor. Republican Bob McDonnell in VA is a conservative that ran on a moderate platform, knowing the c-word was not in style anymore.

The people that won Tuesday were not brandishing their right-of center credentials, but hiding them. Obama’s power was tested, and, due to underperforming candidates and the inability to make the national local, had it swatted down. He came out hurt, but Democrats, and their progressive agenda, came out hobbling.

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