Last night was a pretty good night for television despite the absence of a World Series game. Sitting in my hotel room outside LAX, I found myself constantly flipping between the premier of “V” on ABC, and the election results on MSNBC. Personally, I think Virginia Governor-Elect, Bob McDonnell, might in fact be a “visitor”.
Now that the elections are over and both the Virginia and New Jersey statehouses have been reclaimed by Republicans, there is much debate over what this means for the Democrats, and more specifically, President Obama. Does this signal the resurgence of the Republican party and death to Democrats? Hardly, though it should be a stern wake up call for the President.
To be honest, I truly expected the Democrats to lose in Virginia and my childhood state of New Jersey. The Democratic candidates in both states were just awful compared to their Republican counterparts. In Virginia, Creigh Deeds had a very difficult time connecting with voters, was not the best public speaker, and gave Democrats little to be hopeful for when he said he would opt out of Harry Reid’s public health plan option. Hammering his opponent, Bob McDonnell, on his graduate school thesis proved to be a non-issue with this electorate; an electorate that was nothing like that in 2008. This time around, African-Americans, and young voters decided to sit this one out. Maybe they were too busy setting up “V” watch parties.
In New Jersey, Gov. Corzine flat-out deserved to be ousted. I believe he lost the election when he got caught having a NJ State Trooper drive him at 90 mph while not wearing a seat belt. In my opinion, it became the classic example of the divide between the rich and powerful and the rest of us schlubs. Throw in the highest property taxes in the nation, sprinkle in some pretty hefty corruption, add some ties to the corporate greed on Wall Street, and voila – you’re out of a job! And it’s not like Chris Christie was the awe-inspiring candidate that Obama was last year. Hardly. In fact, Christie never really articulated a firm position on any substantive issue and constantly gave vague answers about his plans as governor. He’s gonna fight corruption and lower taxes. To quote the great Dana Carvey, well isn’t that special? Christie won for not being Jon Corzine. The Republicans could have put up ANYONE and they were pretty much assured victory.
So the Republicans were feeling pretty darn good about these big victories, until the grossly overexposed results in the NY-23 Congressional election came in, and for the first time since 1872, a Democrat is going to represent that district. And as Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, the WHIG party has represented NY-23 more recently than a Democrat! So what happened in this reliably conservative district? The Republicans self-destructed and clearly showed why these 2009 elections should not give them a sense of hope for the 2010 mid-terms and beyond. As the more extreme right-wing of the party rejected the official Republican nominee, Dede Scozzafava, in favor of Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, I believe the people of NY-23 took a longer look at what was happening in their district and got spooked. For one thing, this Hoffman guy couldn’t explain nor understood any of the local issues that voters in that district might be concerned about. Add the fact, that prominent national Republicans, such as Dick Armey suggested that local issues didn’t matter in that election. Throw in the fact that Hoffman claims that Glenn Beck is his mentor, and that’s one scary candidate – even for a conservative district like NY-23.
So what’s the lesson in all of this? I believe it’s that voters continue to demonstrate that they like their politicians in the center. They like them to be a bit liberal on the social side, and more conservative on the fiscal side. They don’t like extreme candidates on either side of the spectrum and in an off year election are more likely to stay home if the candidate of their party is terrible.
Next year, we face huge mid-term elections in which all 435 House seats are up for grabs along with 1/3 of the Senate. If the Democrats want to remain in power they have got to do two things – PASS healthcare THIS YEAR and pray and hope that jobs start coming back. President Obama needs to stop trying to get bi-partisan consensus and start whipping his party into shape. He needs to be putting pressure on lunatics like Joe Lieberman, who, for one of the few times in history, is threatening to filibuster with the opposition. He literally needs to smack Harry Reid upside the head and tell him that healthcare must pass THIS YEAR.
So, I will let the Republicans enjoy their victories tonight. To their credit, they ran better campaigns in Virginia and New Jersey than the Democrats. But if the Democrats are smart, and god I hope they are, they will see this as an opportunity to come together and get things done, otherwise they might as well be a bunch of lizards in disguise.