The facts and figures in this piece are largely from two places: “Twenty ways the 2010 election made history“, (posted at San Francisco Chronicle) and posts and links from “Endgame” daily roundup) and other articles at the Daily Politics blog.
Yesterday, I discovered that the overall affect that this election had on me was…giddiness.
Even though I am not enrolled in the Green Party anymore, I am still a green activist and a third party cheerleader. So, I was thrilled that the Green Party of New York State received the 50,000 plus votes they needed in the Governor’s race to retain ballot status.
On the Wednesday after election day, I had to drop things off at the home of a friend who is mostly Democrat-inclined. I asked him how he felt about the election, partly to be polite and make what might pass as useful conversation between people working on social change together. He was feeling the sting of all the national losses, and was somewhat overcome with disappointment. But, all I could do was gush about the state Green Party winning back automatic ballot status. The Green Party got more than the 50,o00 votes they needed! The Green Party will be on the voter registration forms again! I had to leave his home quick, because my excited giggles were not what he needed the day after the Democrats sent their cause back to 1946.
1946 you say? Yes. Because an article at the San Fransico Chronicle notes that in the House of Representatives, the Democratic Party “will have their smallest number of members since they had 188 after the 1946 election.” Imagine that. The Democratic Party had a President, a majority in the House of Representatives, and a majority in the Senate. They held power at all levels of government for two years. And, they could not help the country, nor capture the imagination of Americans, enough to keep their own heads above water.
My belief in why the Democrats lost may be different than yours. So, I should explain myself, or my delight in the statistics will seem morbid, anti-justice, and pro-Republican. I believe that the Democrats lost because they did not do enough to help the poor and middle class. I believe they lost because they did not go far enough with a health care plan that could help Americans and put the insurance companies in their place. And, I believe the Democrats lost because they did not stop the foreign wars of aggression.
I realize that my analysis is not the same as most Democratic politicians, Republican politicians, and corporate media types put forward. They want us to believe the same old Bill Clinton lie. They want us to think that the Democrats did not go “right” enough. So, now — when the fact is that the Democrats lost by failing the poor and ignoring their left/progressive flank — the whole system will be brainwashing the poor public (and that poor, left flank) that the Democrats are being forced by the election results to go further to the right. It’s enough to make one’s head spin.
Well, the Democrats failed. They did it while bailing out banks, catering to insurance companies, and pouring money into war. And, with their failures, and that of the Democratic President who aided and abetted them, they will now have the smallest number of Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives since 1946. And, they have had “the biggest setback for a president in a midterm election since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Democrats lost 72 seats in 1938.”
Maybe it is time to rethink the course. And, rethink it honestly. The Democratic electeds need to sincerely turn away from Republican Party-esque, corporate welfare, pro-war attitudes. They need to sincerely fix health care in ways that help Americans, and put insurance companies in check. They need to sincerely end the foreign wars — not make fake deadlines, switch to paid mercenaries, or make excuses to stay at war.
Daily Politics notes that Nancy Pelosi lost her tenure as Speaker of the House. Well, Ms. Pelosi, I hope you learned a lesson from that. Listen when progressives ask you to help stop war. Listen when Cindy Sheehan takes the time to write a memo or run an election campaign against you.
Separating from my distaste for the corporate Democrat politicians and the corporate Republican politicians, I want to reflect on the wider political landscape. Where are we now? What should we watch for?
Well, some interesting things have happened.
“Susana Martinez made history. She’s the first Hispanic woman ever elected governor of any state.” (Though, be careful of what you wish for. It appears that Susana Martinez is rather right wing.)
“There will be more Republican women in Congress than any other time in American history.” (Let’ have some women and feminists start working on them! There are studies that say that having more women in a legislative body makes it more progressive. Maybe we have a new group to appeal to?)
“Nikki Haley became the first Indian-American woman elected governor in U.S. history.” A step towards tolerance and more genuinely representative democracy. Though, eek! Nikki Haley is a Tea Party candidate, and was endorsed by Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin.
There are a few more historical factoids like these in the Twenty Ways article. And, then there is the Tea Party news…
I am someone who refuses to entirely dismiss or vilify the Tea Party. I see the Tea Party as the natural “other” or the “minority report” in response to the 2008 taking of the government by the Democratic Party. Some threads of the Tea Party movement include simple ideas about conservative economics, small government, or freedom/Libertarian thinking which could actually help the public discourse. Though, I confess, I have also seen racist threads in the Tea Party. And, I understand that the energy and message have been at times financially supported and co-opted by darker forces, and right-wing organizations. So, I do want to be watchful of politicians who identify with the Tea Party. I am glad that Christine O’Donnell, a high-profile Tea Party Senate candidate in Delaware lost.
ABC News has — an albeit mainstream — roundup of Tea Party wins, losses, and bios: here. The Twenty Ways article gives their own list of Tea Party winners in the Senate. Progressives: Let’s make sure we keep an eye on bills these elected officials present. Let’s try to run some good folks against them in the next election. The list of newly elected Senators, who won with Tea Party ideas and support are:
Rand Paul of Kentucky
Mario Rubio of Florida
Ron Johnson of Wisconsin
Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania
Mike Lee of Utah
I think Rand Paul is a little scary of a political figure. He opposes birthright citizenship for the children of immigrants. Rand’s piercingly intolerant views are a little shocking, because his father, Representative Ron Paul of Texas, is a hero on so many issues concerning anti-corporatism, third parties, and government reform. Although, both father and son believe that the government should take away a woman’s right to choose.
Though, I try not to get too frightened by what Republican politicians might do to me. Just when I become worried that if I don’t play ball with the Democratic Leadership Council, I will lose my right to reproductive freedom, I always remember that Democrats have been complicit in appointing pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. And, truly, Democratic leaders of late have been complicit in Wall Street bailouts, war, and even torture.
Because I know that both sides of the duopoly tend to do the things I hate, I really do believe that the change in the House of Representatives will be good at some level. Change for the sake of change is good, when a system is as bad and as top-heavy as the current United States government. So, I do believe that at this point, kicking out any incumbent can only help things. If anyone was good enough to deserve to stay in our Congress, than you would hear from that person all the time shouting peace on the radio, or making a scene on the floor of the legislature. I am glad that one house of Congress changed hands. And, I hope it taught the incumbents — and the parties they belong to — a lesson.
Besides, I truly believe that major party elected officials enjoy having someone to blame things on. The Democratic Party had the US Presidency and a majority in both houses for two years. And, they have done little to genuinely improve things. Now, President Obama will have the excuse of a Republican-controlled Senate. He probably enjoys the excuse at a time when his favorability isn’t at its highest.
Both articles I have been quoting from mention failed Governor of California candidate Meg Whitman. Whitman, a billionaire, spent $160 million dollars on her own campaign. The most of any other person in American history. And, she lost. That is amazing. On one hand, I am sickened by the amount of money she spent on trying to buy votes. On the other hand, I see it as some small sign of victory for democracy and free thought that she lost anyway. The Daily News has a more full story about Meg Whitman and her failed bid for Governor of California: here.
There is another money narrative from the 2010 election. This was the first general election where Americans saw the results of the “Citizens United” Supreme Court decision, which gives corporations more power to make less accountable donations to the political discourse. Did that decision have a result on this election? I think it probably did. It may account for some of the Republican wins. Senator Russ Feingold claims it is the reason for his surprise loss. (Though, Feingold is a Democrat who has made a few conspicuous compromises with Republicans, thus taking the polish off him as a hero to the liberals and progressives who might otherwise rally around him.) There is an article about the Citizens United decision at The Seatte Times, here and an article about Citizens United with a mention of Russ Feingold, here.
I believe that Citizens United is wrong-headed. The decision claims to be a logical extension of the right to Free Speech. The problem is that corporations should not have the rights of citizens, of people. Citizens United will only give the rich and powerful more influence in our elections.
And, back to my experiences, and to New York State politics specifically…
A most discouraging thought: I reside in Congressional District 3. Peter King is in my district. I feel personally thwarted to realize that Peter King has won re-election, and that he will now be the Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, because the Republicans won control of the House. (A story: here) I can only say that unfair ballot access laws, supported by nasty and partisan Democratic-loyalist liberals, made it impossible to even consider a third party challenge to Peter King this time around. All that was offered was a little known Democratic candidate who everyone knew couldn’t win. It really stinks. With full body, x-ray scanners at airports, and all the other oppressive security measures in our country, it is hard to believe things could get worse. But, with right-wing, anti-Muslim Peter King as Chair of that committee, there is a possibility it could…
(Again, a happy thought: With the Green Party’s automatic ballot status, there is some chance for an at least ballot-status, third party campaign against Peter King.)
What were my favorite parts of this election season? One was being part of the Green Party entourage allowed onto the floor of the inclusive, Hofstra NY Governor debates. It was a welcome relief that third parties were invited. I was glad to hear important messages and solutions from the Green Party, Libertarian, and Freedom Party candidates. And, it was very fun to be in the crowd when Jimmy McMillan got us all to say “The rent is too damn high.” I am glad that Jimmy McMillan received good attention for his cause, and tens of thousands of votes for Governor. (Though, I am somewhat relieved that he did not reach the 50,o00 mark, and suddenly become the leader of a political party without much infrastructure yet in place.)
Another great moment for me happened the day after the election. I was in an e-mail circle where Green Party US Senate candidate Colia Clark graciously thanked me (and a few dozen others) for my help. It is nice when candidates acknowledge the efforts of volunteers.
Overall, New York voters were not very radical this year. With all the outrage over the shenanigans in Albany, there was not much of a revolution. New Yorkers voted in a conservative Democrat as Governor, who is the ultimate insider, the son of a former Governor. And, if you told me months ago, during the NY State Senate Coup, that New Yorkers would have a lovefest with their legislators again, I would have thought you were crazy or morosely pessimistic. Though, guess what? There are 212 seats in the NY State Legislature, and they were all up for election this year. LoHud notes that, even with the races currently too close to call, the best case scenario is that only 11 incumbents may have been kicked out of the NY legislature. That is less than seven percent of the body. Some revolution!
With all the disappointments and setbacks, I am glad that I still have my New York State Green Party news. The Green Party in New York State regained ballot status. The Green Party can now more easily run candidates in local races (Hmmmm…maybe I will run again?). The word “Green” will be put back on voter registration forms (Time to go the Board of Elections, nudge them to print new forms. Then, help get the new forms get into circulation at libraries).
Seeing the national losses for the Democratic Party, I can only hope that it will change the course of the Democratic leadership to the left/anti-war side, or be a big enough lesson to cause Democrats at the grassroots level to finally give up on their party. Maybe hoards of disaffected Democrats will finally leave the party and join a third party or the independent revolution. At least in New York, if any of them finally get up the gumption to leave, they will have shiny, new voter registration forms with the words “Green Party” on them. As of now, I am registered blank. It might be time to reconsider…
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