Wednesday 3 November 2010


Congressional and State Gubernatorial elections in the USA are a complex mixture, made even more interesting this time because of the “Tea Party” candidates of the righ. It can mean only one thing for Munguin’s Republic. Yes, I bottled out of writing anything myself and asked Danny to do a "Letter from America".

The Republicans had a party Tuesday night, and the Democrats just tried to put a brave face on things, as the votes were counted in the American midterm election. Voters went to the polls to elect the 112th US Congress, along with many state offices. With a few close races remaining to be decided, the Republicans will take majority control of the 435 member House of Representatives by a sizeable margin of approximately 242/193, a swing of 64 seats away from the Democrats. With three races left to be decided among the 37 contested Senate seats, the Republicans will take five to eight seats from the Democrats, leaving a thin Democratic majority as close as 51/49, if all three remaining seats go Republican. Republicans also took key state Governorships.

By any reckoning, this spells big trouble for Barack Obama’s legislative agenda as he enters the second half of his term and looks to the presidential election of 2012. He came to the presidency with a large reservoir of personal popularity, but with the wreckage of the George W. Bush administration all about him, and the immediate crisis of an economic crash looming. Not the least of his problems was the historically fractious nature of his own Democratic Party, which made large majorities in both houses of the 111th Congress somewhat illusory. Less obvious, but just as real, was his own relative political inexperience, and what would prove to be a largely ineffective White House political operation in dealing with a resurgent Republican Party, especially its so-called “Tea Party” faction determined to drive the party to the political right.

Nevertheless, Obama and the Congressional Democrats achieved the passage of major legislation to shore up the weakened economy and re-regulate Wall Street. Most important of all was the passage of his landmark health care reform bill, the signature political issue of his 2008 campaign, and a fitting contribution to the historic legacy of progressive Democratic social legislation stretching back to FDR.

All of this was accomplished in the face of implacable Republican opposition. Facing White House political ineptitude and divisions in the Democratic Congressional caucuses, the Republicans only had to become the “party of ‘No’” to achieve success. Their political tactic was as effective as it was transparently obvious. They would oppose everything, put forward no alternatives, watch things go to hell in a hand basket, and then blame Obama when the next election came around. This cynical political tactic was rewarded in spades with the counting of the votes Tuesday night.

A major political subtext of the midterm campaign was the success of many Tea Party-backed candidates over mainstream Republicans in the party primaries. But the general election results were more mixed for the Tea Party faction. Tea Party Republicans won high profile Senate races in Florida, Kentucky, and at least eight other states. The three Senate races left to be decided involve Tea Party candidates in Alaska, Colorado, and Washington State. On the other hand, the disastrous candidacy of Tea Party Republican Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Senate race cost the Republicans an almost certain Senate seat, as did the candidacy of Sharron Angle in Nevada, which saved the seat of Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader. The Senate race in Alaska remains to be decided, but involves the candidacy of popular incumbent Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who mounted a write-in campaign after losing the Republican primary to a Tea Party insurgent backed by former Governor Sarah Palin. On balance, Tea Party Republicans made a creditable showing in the midterms, and they should be able to play a significant role in Republican politics going forward.

With the end of the midterms, the 2012 presidential campaign effectively begins with speeches and fundraising in 2011, in advance of the state primaries which begin early in 2012. Their midterm successes may have positioned Tea Party Republicans to advance one of their own to run against Obama. The most prominent “unannounced” Tea Party candidate is Sarah Palin, the current media darling who ran for Vice President on John McCain’s Republican ticket in 2008. Famously, it was then discovered that she doesn’t read newspapers, and frankly seems not to be all that bright. She does have a cutesy wink and a few political punch lines that are catnip to the right wing nut cases of the Tea Party. If she receives the Republican nomination, Obama should be able to make mincemeat of her. Surely she’s unlikely to be elected president. But then strange things do happen “only in America.”


  1. This only confirms the USA is a fading superpower in fact only a military superpower.The American people are voting for the past with the tea Party
    they are unable to face up to the reality(Great Britain was the same).

    They choose the loony tunes to follow who will in the end precipitate a faster fall of the American Empire

    America not a slumbering giant anymore just a lumbering Giant the Chinese and the Indian will in a few more years see him off....

  2. I wouldn't be inclined to argue with your assessment at all. I do think it remains to be seen whether or not today's strident Tea Party protesters are much more than the current incarnation of America's more or less permanent far right minority. There seems to be some elements of Tea Party attitudes that parallel the American Know Nothing movement of the mid nineteenth century. I believe that some of their attitudes toward Obama reflect racist attitudes more than genuine political differences.

  3. Danny,

    Excellent piece. But I'd like to disagree with some of your conclusions if I may.

    You seem to hold that tonight was a 'good' [not great, but alright] night for the teabaggers. I'd disagree - tonight can provide some relief to the GOP establishment surely. None of the Teabagger insurgents were these leading female 'Palin babes'; surely then this can be read in light of a 2012 nominee situation? The GOP now has reason to block a Palin nomination for the presidency - after all the high profile failures on the night [like Harry Reid race] reflect badly on her personally.

    She was out there ratcheting up rhetoric for these failed extremist 'Palin Babes' ...

    Addtionally, the Democrats did well to hold the Senate, 51/49 or not! This is the first time since 1914 that the House flipped but the Senate did not, the Democrats defying US election tradition and holding on!

    Conclusion: GRIDLOCK and Triangulation. Back the future with Hilary instead of Bill Clinton and a Democrat Whitehouse ...

  4. Danny

    I have to say(With apologies) the Republican right wing and The Tea partyers are not 'Going to be outniggered again' in 2012

  5. Dean. You make excellent points on all counts. The failure of the "crazy ladies" O'Donnell in Delaware and Angle in Nevada should give pause to the GOP when considering a Palin candidacy for the presidency. Karl Rove has certainly not been shy in expressing his views about the wackier elements of the Tea Party Republicans, which surely cost the GOP at least two Senate seats and possible control of the Senate itself. But as for the presidency, the over weighted importance of the first two or three elements of the nominating process might argue in Palin's favor. She would be likely to make a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses. Then on to the New Hampshire primary where just about anything can happen with the independent minded New Englanders. Early success brings contributions and serious media attention, as the early losers drop out. She might be able to continue and do well in South Carolina, and then who knows? A relatively few people in a few states have a lot to say about who becomes a serious presidential contender. Karl Rove and other GOP big wigs may have had a few nightmares about the possible state primary scenarios.

    Of course, for the broader interests of the Tea Party as an influence on the Republican Party, all eyes will be on the high profile new Senators, especially Marco Rubio from Florida and Rand Paul (son of Ron Paul) from Kentucky, whose very successful campaigns attracted wide national attention.

    Gridlock in Washington for sure! A good thing or a bad thing depending on your view of Washington perhaps. The three separately elected and constitutionally distinct political powers that comprise the federal government can barely cooperate to pass legislation when a single party (especially the famously fractious Democrats) controls the White House and the two bodies of Congress. Throw in two party control and gridlock usually occurs.

    This morning, everyone was talking cooperation and compromise. My guess is that this attitude will evaporate in January as soon as the gavels come down to convene the 112th Congress.

    PS Dean, are you aware of how Palin threw the Alaska Republicans into turmoil? There would now be another Republican safely headed to the Senate from Alaska, except for the fact that Palin did not like the sitting Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski. So Palin backed another wacky Teabagger, Joe Miller, in the Republican primary. And he took the Republican nomination away from the sitting incumbent Murkowski. So Murkowski mounted a write-in campaign. The Republican Miller came in second last night, about five percentage points behind write-in ballots. Now Alaska must sort out all the write-ins to see if Murkowski or Miller has been elected. Honest to God, Palin could screw up a two person parade.

  6. Danny,

    That is exactly it, Palin has been badly discredited by these mid terms. Looking forward, I can see her missing out [or even not running] for the nominations.

    The GOP bigwigs have enough ammunition to resist the teabaggers I reckon. Especially once these fools [like Rand Paul] = they will very quickly find they need to compromise to get anything done...

    All in all, the US voted indecisively. And it should give all sides enough room to maintain the statu-quo that the teabaggers hate so much.

  7. I agree Dean. It is surely good that the Tea Party will have some representatives within the system who will be called upon to help make it work.

    There has been some media chatter about the GOP big wigs' concern about Palin's possible ambitions. All very hush hush though until the midterms were over and the Republican right wing votes had been cast. No desire to do anything that might annoy your base until you simply have to.....LOL.

  8. Dean Danny

    Maybe a President Palin would finally finish any idea that the UK had any sort of "special relationship" with the USA. Even Cameron might find Palin a bit much.

    The though of these nuclear subs in Scotland with Palins finger on the trigger should concentrate the minds of everyone about the dangers to Scotland of storing American nuclear weapons in our country. Oh I forgot that is another union benefit that Scotland gets.

  9. Yes Dubbieside, I doubt that hardly any aspect of our international relations could survive a Palin presidency. It would likely do wonders though for the reputation of George W. Bush who would suddenly be regarded as a great statesman by comparison....LOL.

  10. It will be interesting to see just what the teabag nut jobs do when, instead of criticising from the sidelines (which is so easy to do), they actually have work to do.

    I heard last night, or this morning, someone say that the reason he stood was to deny Ms Pelosi her job.

    That's fine tonight and for the next few weeks while the Republican's celebrate their victory.
    It may be a little different in January when the spotlight falls on them.

  11. How quickly have the USA voters forgotten George W Bush? Surely they are not looking for "more of the same please"?

  12. Dubbieside,

    Oh totally. If Palin gets to presidency [Which I doubt], then the transatlantic alliance should be brought to an end.

    She is mad, bad and dangerous and I want nothing to do with her, or her teabagger nutters.

  13. Dean

    If America can elect George W Bush not once but twice anything can and probably will happen.

    Will you still support nuclear weapons on the Clyde with Palins finger on the trigger?

    Remember USA says when they can be fired, and now if reports are correct when and how they are maintained, what do we get? oh yes we get to pay for them. Another union benefit.

  14. Message from America

    the labour and Unionist parties in Scotland only had to become the “parties of ‘No’” to achieve success. Their political tactic was as effective as it was transparently obvious. They would oppose everything, put forward no alternatives, watch things go to hell in a hand basket, and then blame the Scottish National Party when the next election came around.

  15. If that fruitcake Palin gets elected as President then I am going to emigrate to Mars!

  16. Anon,

    That isn't exactly true for all unionist parties in Scotland! Annabel Goldie's Tories voted for every SNP budget bill for example after reaching a negotiated common ground.

    I do agree with you vis-a-vis Labour however. But I rather think the SNP did well out of the Tories and vis-versa frankly.

  17. Tris....
    Yes, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, with her so-called "San Francisco values", became a favorite target of right wing hate. I suppose this was because she was one of the principal players in the Congressional leadership which secured the passage of Obama's hated liberal legislative agenda. Pelosi was in some ways an easier target than Obama, who remained personally popular in the country.

    Of particular note was Pelosi's high profile efforts to achieve House passage of the health care reform act. The landmark health bill is especially hated, and its repeal is nothing less than a holy crusade by the far right. The Republican leadership of both houses has promised their lunatic base that they will work for repeal. It's likely, as a purely symbolic act, that the new Speaker John Boehner and the Republican House will now pass a repeal bill. Of course Harry Reid and the Democrats will never let such a bill see the light of day in the Senate. It's doubtful that given the famous Senate filibuster, it could ever be brought up, even in a Republican controlled Senate. And would be subject to Obama's veto in any case. So the health bill is secure. But there will be symbolic action in the House to placate the Tea Party crowd who are furious about federal law providing health care for Americans who cannot otherwise afford it.

    To the politicians it's all politics of course. But some of the Tea Party crazies take this stuff seriously. I suppose they are less evil than simply deranged in some inexplicable way. But they are surely passionate, and certain to vote Republican. So the politicians will pander to them in every possible way......just as George W. Bush and Karl Rove did in years past.

  18. Munguin....Thinking of President Palin, I have considered asking Tris to look into Scottish immigration law on my behalf. But thinking of her finger on the nuclear button, I think you're right. Mars would be a much better option.

  19. Brownlie....I think that the memory of George W. Bush's administration is one of the things that will make a Palin presidency unlikely. Even Republican Party leaders at long last finally came to their senses about DubYa.

  20. I wonder Danny, if the memory of dubYa will have faded by the year 2016?

    I also wonder if you think that Obama should simply stand down in 2012, his health care bill hopefully in tact, and leave mrs Clinton a straight fight for the White House.

    Obama could do so much more now that he has been president, and he'll not get much more done as president.

  21. Why do we assume the memory of Bush will be harmful to Palin and her chances?

    She represents the teabaggers - who are a conservative [fiscally] revolt against Bush era Republican establishment!!

    Palin may actually prove a danger precisely because the risk is she could energise the Republican base by drawing out the fact she is the anthesis of Bush era conservative politics.

  22. Tris....
    I think that it will take a long time for the memory of Bush to fade. Today, when the disaster of his administration is mentioned, Republicans of every stripe are quite happy to throw him under the bus. And I think they're generally sincere about hating his memory.

    I doubt that logical as it might seem, he will step down in 2012. Presidents just do not voluntarily leave the so-called "splendid misery" of the American presidency. And a commentator recently speculated that Obama is certainly not going to let someone else enjoy the fruits of his administration's labors in a future era of an expanding economy, increasing tax revenues, and a declining deficit. (At least that might be his rosy image of the second term future.)

    But of course as you note, Presidents never really get much done in a second term.

    There continues to be speculation about Hillary of course. A while back, the White House shot down speculation that she would replace Biden as VP in a second Obama term in order to perfectly position her for the Democratic nomination in 2016. She will stay at State where she is doing a wonderful job the White House said....LOL.

  23. I'd love Obama to get lost and give Hilary the Whitehouse ... but then I have always been a HUGE Hilary fan ...

    After all the first term has been good for her, it has been her successes not Obama's... HER healthcare reform ... her foreign policy energy leading to some tangible movement ...

  24. Dean....

    I was a Hillary fan too. I was at first put off by the rock star hysteria that was part of the political emergence of Obama. It was disappoining for me to see Hillary lose the Democratic nomination after having come so close.

    You make a great point about Bush. It's just routine here that Republican conservatives now point with horror at the fiscal disaster that was the Bush administration. More than happy to throw him under the bus, as I mentioned to Tris above.

  25. Danny,

    Yes, I was put off by Obama's rockstar stuff too.

    Seemed to me to be empty platitudes --- I think I was right, which is why he pulled in Hilary in the Whitehouse and HER healthcare policy.

    I have always been one of those kind of political minds who would [had I been born in the US] have been a Republican Liberal ... not many of them left now however ...

  26. Dean, Danny and i hav had interesting discussions about the difference between the Democrats of the North and South... and of course the Republicans too. It would be ridiculous to expect in a vast country covering deserts, mountains, swamps, plains, tropical islands and arctic tundra that a single political philosphy would suit all...

    After all, our Labour and Tory parties are very different beasts from the South of England and the Midlands of Scotland... and our union is tiny by comparison.

    Fascinating subject.

  27. Very true Dean, the era of the liberal wing of the Republican party....the party of Theodore Roosevelt and Nelson a thing of the past. It was a watershed moment for the GOP when Rockefeller stood before the 1964 nominating convention at San Francisco, on the eve of Barry Goldwater's nomination (Goldwater an Arizona conservative), and tried to speak. Rockefeller could hardly make himself heard above the booing.

    Today, the Republican Party is little represented in the northeast, the spiritual home of the Roosevelt/Rockefeller party.

  28. In the north-east its birthplace!!

    Sigh. I have to face it, despite my HUGE problems with the Democrats, it seems to me that I simply cannot support the Republicans if the teabaggers succeed in pushing it to the right [though I am still not convinced the mid terms make that a certainty or probability].

  29. Dean....I applaud your unfavorable view of the rightward march of the modern Republicans. Historically, this began with the nomination of the western conservative Goldwater (and the booing of the New Yorker Rockefeller) at San Francisco in 1964. Goldwater went on to be slaughtered in the landslide for Lyndon Johnson that year, but Goldwater is in some ways the beginning of modern Republican conservatism.

    Of course the historic birthplace home of the GOP is in Wisconsin and Michigan in the upper Midwest....a fitting place for a party founded by people who opposed the Kansas-Nebraska act and the expansion of slavery into the new western territories. And the spiritual father of the party, Abraham Lincoln, came from the Midwestern "Prairie State" of Illinois.

    But after the civil war, when slavery was no longer an issue, the Republicans morphed into the pro-business party of rapidly industrializing, post-civil war America. At this point, the spiritual "home" of the party moved to the corporate board rooms of New York City and the industrial northeast. And it was here in the New York party that the modern progressive (liberal) wing of the GOP was born in the person of Theodore Roosevelt. And this was also the home of the the GOP progressive Nelson Rockefeller, who served 14 years as Governor of New York State. (An office that had also been held by both Theodore Roosevelt and Teddy's cousin FDR.....same progressive spirit, but different political party. They all served in the New York state house.)

    Then most recently, the geographic home of the new socially conservative GOP has really moved from the northeast to the old South, which had been the post-civil war home of the famously conservative "Southern Democrats." But the long political journey of the GOP to the right had really begun in the west in 1964, with the nomination of Arizona's Barry Goldwater, when Nelson Rockefeller, who had been Vice President of the United States, was booed off the stage of the San Francisco convention by the conservative Republicans.

    So the antics of today's Tea Party crowd have a considerable historical tradition in the conservative GOP. I share your view of them Dean.

  30. PS Dean....I failed to specifically respond to the excellent point you made about Bush and Palin. I had suggested that the bitter memory of the Bush administration might make a Palin administration less likely....(Bush and Palin both being Republicans and having comparably tiny intellectual resources.) But your point to the contrary is definitely more likely. The Tea Party conservatives despise the free spending Bush....who was in no way a fiscal conservative. So they might be very successful in running a campaign which points out the ways in which they are so very different from Bush and the old GOP.

  31. Danny,

    Totally, I can see Palin as although an unlikely nominee; if she got it could cause the Obama crew real problems. There is a very effective narrative for her to write if given the opportunity and platform.

    I just hope that the GOP establishment block her; and in doing so arrest the rightward march being driven today by the teabaggers.

    Also thanks for that piece of history, I suffer from a republican-liberal obsessionism. I tend to convieniently 'forget' the historic place in the GOP that these rightie nuts have ...

  32. Lol Dean. I'm sure Doctor Danny will be able to cure that....

    Keep taking the tablets!

  33. Dean....By simply KNOWING that there was a liberal/progressive GOP, you're miles ahead of many young Americans who cannot think beyond the current idea of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.

    As one who considers myself a liberal Democrat, and disdains the rightward course of the GOP since Goldwater, I do try to take the broader historical view. Who could not admire the abolitionist Republican Party of Lincoln or the progressive party of Theodore Roosevelt's time?

    But by 1932, the old GOP seemed frozen in place as it faced the realities of the great depression. Then it was the political (not intellectual) genius of FDR which managed to cobble together into a working political coalition a disparate coalition of urban and rural interests, labor unions, small businesses, ethnic groups, academic intellectuals, and the old southern Democrats.

    What is left of FDR's coalition still exists in the liberal spirit of the Democratic Party today. But it's hard to know what a liberal minded Republican should do on election day in the US. That branch of the party seems to have withered away. Only the shouts of the Tea Party protesters can be heard.

    Sorry, another dose of history. No more I promise...LOL. But thanks Dean for your interest and comments.

  34. PS.....but to be more accurate....of course there IS a so-called "mainstream" GOP today which does not share the far right views of the Tea Party faction. And it will be the struggle of these groups for control of the party that will be so interesting to watch, as it plays out in the 2012 campaign season.