Why the Republicans Won

I may as well throw my oar in on why the Republicans did so well yesterday. I think there are basically three reasons. First, better candidates. Here in Illinois is a perfect example. Even Pat Quinn’s supporters wouldn’t characterize him as the best of all possible candidates. We didn’t have a general repudiation of the Democratic Party and the president remains pretty popular here in Illinois. And Rauner didn’t run a great campaign although he did wage a more cheerful one. More people thought Rauner would make a good governor than thought Quinn should remain governor. Simple as that.

Second, local conditions. In the states that mattered the president is a lot less popular than he is in California, New York, or Illinois. Running against him was a good strategy in those states and the president stepped in it in his insistence on nationalizing the election.

Third, the Democrats have taken their eyes off the ball. It’s still the economy, stupid. It’s the issue that matters most to most people. It’s the most important issue among women. It’s the most important issue among Hispanics. The heavily Wall Street oriented recovery isn’t cutting it for most people. Focusing their attention on healthcare reform, immigration, access to birth control, or anything other than the economy was a strategic error.

You may be able to eke out a victory in a general election by cobbling together voters from marginalized groups using wedge issues but that doesn’t work nearly as well in a midterm when voters in those groups don’t show up at the polls.

Update

Daniel Henninger summarizes it pretty succinctly:

The party of economic despair will always lose.

25 comments… add one
  • CStanley

    Obama, in a show of gracelessness, chose to highlight the low turnout in his remarks yesterday. The voters who didn’t show up were saying something- and the obvious message is that they don’t believe in him enough to bother to support his agenda with Congressional members of his party. Or, (hat tip to a commenter named Curious George at Althouse), the message was “Mr President, if you like your Senate you can keep it.” Heh.

    He can pretend that they were sending some other message, but surely he doesn’t really believe his own spin.

  • Andy

    Good summary. It will be interesting to see what the President does when the Senate is no longer there to protect him from vetoing.

  • PD Shaw

    CStanley, I also thought it sounded like he was claiming a mandate of the non-voters.

  • Modulo Myself

    Well, a focus on economic issues would have helped Obama with his base. Not the stupid emphasis on ‘punishing’ bankers, as if shooting Lloyd Blankfein would stop 300 hundred more Lloyd Blankfeins from being Lloyd Blankfein. No: debt relief for students, a national living wage, guaranteed minimum income, prison reform, single-payer health insurance, free education. Basically, a pipe-dream as out there as the visions that dance through Ted Cruz’s head, but from the other side.

    And yet Obama intervened on the SEPTA strike, the federal government created none of the jobs that Bush II did, the FIRE sector is booming, we have little inflation, the economy on paper grows.

    So what was the result? Republicans were reelected in a huge wave, due to, allegedly, the idea that the poor economy and its unfairness drove them to despise Obama. But who did they elect except people who want to do more of what Obama was doing? If you show up to vote against the status quo every two years: you are part of the status quo.

    Also, I fault Obama for many things, but I don’t fault him for being ironic about the role he has played in all of this. He’s an establishment guy, who is resented by people who have incredibly good reasons to question whether they should be included in the establishment. This discontent is now woven into the fabric of American society. In a certain way, what people hate about Obama is that he’s not so desperate to be liked and admired and yet he ended up where he is. Hence all of the remarks about his arrogance.

  • Guarneri

    I like the nod to simplicity. I’d amp that up: Obama, largely in concert with Pelosi and Reid , simply overplayed his hand on policy while being ineffectual on execution.

    It started with the ObamaCare ram job, which required total control to pass but was ill thought out and is still in the midst of being poorly administered. It continued with ineffectual economic policies, unless your goal is equity gains to rich traders and those with fat bank accounts but crumbs of food stamps and part time work for the rest. It was exacerbated by the grand goal of letting in legions of perceived future voters at the cost of downward wage pressure for average Americans. And all against the trust destroying backdrop of feigned ignorance of malfeasance and childlike finger pointing in the face of serial failures.

    They were just full of themselves and their prescriptions, without justification. The people took notice.

    From my vantage point it continued yesterday in Obamas presser. I hope the republicans do better, and don’t follow the prescription in a quip made by noted political philosopher Keith Richards before going on stage one night – “I’m going to fuck up, and then you all join in.”

  • Andy

    “But who did they elect except people who want to do more of what Obama was doing? If you show up to vote against the status quo every two years: you are part of the status quo.”

    That’s why I rarely vote for a major party candidate. Both are the status quo, but the reality of our system is that we are stuck with these two establishment political parties.

  • Modulo Myself

    Guarneri,
    I love that–downward wage pressure because of immigrants. Funny how the Trans-Pacific Partnership escapes all scrutiny or mention but Mexicans are a force screwing over honest American workers.

    It’s one of those things where you hope that the idea is being conveyed out of cynicism or nativism, because the the alternatives are far more depressing.

  • Guarneri

    Nice red herring. Smoked?

  • You know, Magnus Carlsen hates fish.

    /non-sequitur

  • TastyBits


    … unless your goal is equity gains to rich traders and those with fat bank accounts but crumbs of food stamps and part time work for the rest. …

    If conservatives lead with this instead of bashing food stamps and unemployment, they may get a little further with poor people. They should explain that they do not have a problem with people making lots of money, but they do have a problem with people using the government to make a lot of money.

    Furthermore, this usually hurts the people at the bottom the most, and this results in food stamps, part time work, and unemployment.

    If conservatives started by cleaning house at the top, they would get a lot more people to listen to the rest of what they have to say.

  • jan

    One comment coalescing around the democratic failures in the midterm elections is focused on Obama himself — specifically his inflexible personality and one-dimensional type of leadership. Such a governing temperament has been more and more frequently ascribed as a “party of one” style, mainly because of how exclusively he stays within the bubble of his own self-appointed consultants who are lockstep in agreement with the mind set of his own head. This administrative viewpoint is augmented by how consistently Obama has isolated himself from even cultivating trusted ties between himself and members of his own party, let alone the disparaging verbal finger articulated towards those on the opposite side of the political aisle. Diversity of opinion and/or options is soundly rejected. Thus, collegial, productive collaboration with Congress has been relatively non-existent.

    Furthermore, in Obama’s world, the mandate apparently carried into the WH was to fundamentally change the country, uprooting it from socially passe values, religious principles, Constitutional law (in his estimation), and forcing citizens on a wild ride through socially progressive territory. It seems not to matter to him if people disagree with him. He seems not to care about those injured or upset by his policies, and simply harbors ill will and disdain towards those not joining the political band wagon of what he envisions to be right and wrong. Consequently, when viewing the debris pile of this recent election, he seems more conciliatory and attentive to those not voting, than those who did! What a clever rationale to completely nullify the results of an election!

    So, IMO, one of the primary reasons people railed against the democratic party was because of it’s tone deafness towards the people’s negative feedback in how the country was faring under social progressive policies — both domestic and the ones underway overseas. And, the take-away from yesterday’s press conference there is no hope to change said deafness.

  • jan

    If conservatives lead with this instead of bashing food stamps and unemployment, they may get a little further with poor people.

    Hasn’t that already been part of the argument extended by the ‘other’ side — to provide more empowering job opportunities rather than programs encouraging government dependency? Food stamp commentary I’ve heard has mainly focused on it’s steep growth under this administration, along with anecdotal stories of how abuse has also grown along with the numbers.

    They should explain that they do not have a problem with people making lots of money, but they do have a problem with people using the government to make a lot of money.

    Yep. Government should not be the main power broker on deciding people’s financial fate. Their role is honest/fair oversight, rather than choosing what has become a popular slogan of “winners and losers.” This even flows into the flaws of Dodd-Frank, where it helps the big banks more while crippling community and little institutions with regulatory zeal.

  • Guarneri

    TB

    Capitalizing on the QE driven financial asset valuation bubble is not using govt. But that makes it no less bad policy. The most prominent examples of the better off using govt to make money are things like Tesla or Solyndra, or the GM bailout. Plus myriad examples of regulatory capture and corporate welfare. Hardly conservative values. It’s fairly tenuous to say even that drives people to food stamps. As jan noted, food stamps are more lamented as a sign of policy/economic failure than of people failure.

  • TastyBits

    @jan & @Drew

    I was trying to help you, but unless you end fiat money and fractional lending, conservatives are using government food stamps every time he or she spends “their” money. US money is worthless currency, and it only has any value because of the US government.

    While most conservatives have no idea of what any of that means, @Drew knows, or should know, exactly what it means. Anybody with a background in the financial industry knows that the economy expands because of credit expansion, and this is only possible because of fiat money.

    The easiest way to end the liberal welfare state is with a hard currency, but I have yet to hear any conservative propose this.

    Well?

  • Guarneri

    “I was trying to help you, but unless you end fiat money and fractional lending, conservatives are using government food stamps every time he or she spends “their” money. US money is worthless currency, and it only has any value because of the US government.”

    Tasty – WADR this is dried goods and water in the bomb shelter stuff. There is a reason we stopped using gold coins, and it does not follow logically that all “money” must be held underneath the mattress.

  • jan

    …and it does not follow logically that all “money” must be held underneath the mattress.

    More and more people are actually ‘hiding’ money! Their reasons span from the ‘nothing’ interest rate banks offer, distrust of the banks, to cash withdrawal hassles for larger amounts of money.

  • TastyBits

    @Drew

    You cannot have it both ways. In a fiat money system, the government created your money. Your PE is the product of the government. You know it. I know it, and a few others here know it. The others listen to the political operatives.

    You want to live in a Keynesian world, but you do not want to pay the Keynesian dues.

  • Guarneri

    TB

    My account at the bank does not increase by the multiplier just because the bank makes loans using my deposit as reserves. The person obtaining the loan based upon my reserves has a liability with interest, not a transfer payment. And the governments role is simply to attempt to prevent bank runs by throttling the reserve ratio, not write me a check or payment in kind.

    I don’t know who got to you, but you are confused.

  • TastyBits

    @Drew

    Your bank makes loans based upon its capital requirements not its reserves, and you know it. You may banter about this to the other idiots called conservatives who do not have a clue as to how the financial system works, or you are one of those idiots. In that case, I assure you the higher ups knew exactly what I am talking about, and you were kept around as the fall guy.

    Wall Street, financial institutions, and PE investors need as much credit creation as possible. Without the government pushing homeowners into mortgages, there is no capital for investments. We are six years into multipliers and stimulus, and none of them work. Trashing Dodd-Frank and lower lending standards will get the party started again.

    The dollars that you used as capital were initially created as currency through the lending process facilitated by the US government. The government was in effect giving each dollar of currency a handout by allowing it to act as a dollar of money. This is done through the Fed and accounting practices, and the trade off is regulation.

    I am probably confusing you because I do not spout the normal political stances. I am not a Keynesian, and I am not a conservative who think I am not a Keynesian. I like the survivalist play. I commend you for your originality.

    Unfortunately, you will need to include Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Carnegie among the ranks. I assume you know who they are and that they built their fortunes using hard money. Real men use hard money. (How many of today’s PE investors could compete against them?)

    Wall Street, financial institutions, and PE investors are beginning to rumble about credit creation. They will get the Keynesians (Democrats) to do the dirty work, and then, you will bemoan the Keynesian policies.

    If you are reluctant to strangle Keynesian policies, you could slow them down with Glass-Steagall, but it was the financial sector that made the deal with the liberals. It is no accident that Progressives and fiat money go hand-in-hand.

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