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Monday, February 07, 2011

Doubling Down on Stupid

It is amazing how often you see political activists and politicians from both parties doubling down on stupid. One definition of insanity is to keep repeating the same mistake and expecting different results. It may not be insane to do that but it sure is stupid. Since both sides of the political aisle are guilty of this, let's first pick on the Democrats. We just saw an election in which the Democrats got their worst drubbing since 1938. While a lot of factors led to this debacle, it seems fair to conclude that the voters felt that the Democrats were not listening to them. Nothing annoys the electorate more than to be ignored and it makes the voters inclined to teach politicians better manners by voting them out of office.

At the top of the list of voter complaints about not being listened to was the imposition of Obamacare on that same electorate. A clear majority of the voters have been opposed to Obamacare since day one. So what did the Democrats do? They jammed it through anyway and effectively told the voters that the Democrats didn't care whether the voters wanted it or not because they were going to pass it anyway. So why should the Democrats be so surprised when the voters sent them a message about how really annoyed they were about being treated that way? The message was as loud and clear as any message that has ever been sent to a political party.

Consider this data: out of 18 Democrats who won by less than 5% in 2008, only Jim Himes of CT-4 survived. Of the 10 Democrats who won in 2008 by more than 5 points but less than 10, 6 lost in 2010. Of the 19 Democrats with 2008 margins between 10 and 15 points, 9 lost in 2010. Ordinarily a 15 point margin in politics makes for a safe seat but in 2010, 24 Democrats lost out of 51 with that supposedly safe margin. That is a ton bricks that fell on the Democrats last November. So they got the message and straightened out, right? No, they doubled down on stupid.

The Republicans who did get the message tried to repeal Obamacare recently. So how many Democrats showed they got the message the voters sent them? Only three Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to repeal Obamacare and not one Democrat in the Senate voted to save their own skins. Apparently all but three House Democrats who survived in 2010 figure they do not need to worry about 2012. Yes, they are right to figure that the Republicans will be hard pressed to make further gains other than the ones they will pick up from reapportionment in states where the Republicans control both houses of the state legislature and the governor as well.

Still any Democrat who won by less than a 5% margin is considered vulnerable in any year and there are 20 such Democrats. So how many of those Democrats showed they did not get the message? If you guessed not one single one, you got it right. The three Democrats who did get the message are Boren (OK-2) who won by 13.05%, McIntyre (NC-7) who won by 7.36% and Ross (AR-4) who won by 17.38%. Boren and Ross had nothing to worry about but they listened anyway. McIntyre would probably have survived even not voting to repeal Obamacare but he was not taking any chances. As for the rest of the Democrat who won by less than 10% and who voted and should not have doubled down on stupid, 37 of the 38 did just that.

In the Senate, it was even worse. There are five Senate Democrats who are in real trouble in 2012. They are Nelson of Nebraska, Testor of Montana, McCaskill of Missouri, Webb of Virginia and Nelson of Florida. The first three just committed political suicide by voting against repealing Obamacare. The Republicans were already going to pick up North Dakota when Conrad retired so this doubling down on stupid just gave the Republicans control of the Senate in 2013. Nelson of Florida will lose if Jeb Bush is the Republican candidate but otherwise might survive. There are another three Democrats who should be worried, namely Manchin of West Virginia, Stabenow of Michigan and Brown of Ohio. Manchin ran ads against Obamacare and then voted to retain it. If Hoekstra runs against Stabenow, she could easily lose. If DeWine runs against Brown, he could also lose. These Democrats could have made sure that did not happen but instead they doubled down on stupid and put nine Senate seats at risk.

Now let's pick on the Republicans and the insistence of some of them on ideological purity tests. This is a center-right country, but some Republicans ignore the center part and think they can control Congress and the White House with only bone fide conservative candidates. That is not possible because there are not enough reliable red states to accomplish that. Republicans must win some seats in the purple states and a smattering in the blue states as well. The political activists in the Republican Party threw away three Senate seats in 2010 that they should have easily won by picking a right-wing candidate in purple and blue states. Sue Lowden would have beaten Reid in Nevada, Jane Norton would have beaten Bennet in Colorado and Mike Castle would have beaten Coons in Delaware. So instead of three more yes votes to repeal Obamacare, the Republicans got three no votes.

Some of the no votes they got came from moderate Republicans like Brown in Massachusetts, Collins and Snowe in Maine, Graham in South Carolina and Kirk in Illinois. So what are the right wing Republicans going to do about these RINO Republicans? You guessed it. They are going to try and defeat Snowe and Brown in 2012 by running a more conservative Republican in the primary election and throw away another two seats. That is doubling down on stupid. Didn't they learn anything in 2010? They could have had a 50-50 Senate with Biden having to cast a vote to break a tie and thereby tie Obama-Biden to every vote along party lines in the Senate.

Here is factoid for these purists: Only one Republican came closer than a 10% margin in the House in Massachusetts in 2010 and that one lost by 4.49%. Yet Scott Brown carried Massachusetts in a special election with a 4.76% margin. He will not do that well in 2012 because all the Obama voters who did not vote in the special election will vote in 2012. The only reason Brown won was because it was a special election which favors Republicans and because Scott Brown is a candidate manager's dream come true. The Republican Party had very little to do with Scott's victory because Scott did it his way. Scott may survive since he is ahead in the polls but if he has opposition in the primary, he will lose in the general. By doubling down on stupid, the Republicans can throw away another Senate seat.