Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NY-26 Special Election: What Does It Mean?

Updated twice on May 25

Congratulations are in order:
While votes are still being tallied, early polling data - and inside campaign sources close to both campaigns who have spoken to Buffalo Rising - have made it clear that Kathy Hochul will defeat Jane Corwin and Jack Davis in the special election to fill Chris Lee's vacant House of Representatives seat.

Kathy Hochul Defeats Jane Corwin in NY26 Special Election
Now, what does this mean? By my estimation, not a damn thing.

Most importantly, the House of Representatives is still in Republican hands.

There are already folks predicting that this will mean the death of the Congress' austerity fetish or Ryan plan of Medicare and Medicaid cuts. I don't think these people have been paying attention - either to recent American political history, to what's been going on in Congress, or what's been happening at the polls.

First, the political history. The Massachusetts special Senate election of 2008 should have been a wakeup call for Democratic congressmen that the health care bill, and their complete lack of effective action on the economy were a problem. Yet, thanks partly to the usual crowd of sycophants, they managed to ignore the lessons, and were roundly defeated in 2010. Anyone who expects the Republicans will be more attuned to the political winds than the Democrats were has more faith in the Republican leadership's intelligence than I do.

Second, the two parties plans are not polar opposites. Most coverage I've seen on the Democratic caucus seems to indicate that they are bound and determined to make cuts to Medicare and Medicaid as part of a "deal" with House Republicans:
Is it possible that Democrats will squander the political advantage on Medicare that they just regained over Republicans? It could happen.

At his weekly Capitol briefing with reporters Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) confirmed what aides in both parties have been telling reporters: Cuts to Medicare will be on the table in deficit and debt limit negotiations, led by Vice President Joe Biden.

Will Dems Give Up Their Political Advantage On Medicare In Debt Limit Fight?
And why not? The same idiots are in charge of the Democrats who lost that huge majority by not giving a crap about ordinary Americans in the first place. They even had to add a new post to keep one of them in authority. Anyone who thinks things are changing there has more faith in the Democratic leadership's intelligence than I do.

Finally, and I love being able to point this out, because there's nothing I love more than being able to say I told you so. Look at this table, courtesy of Talking Points Memo:

NY-29 District Special Election Results
Corwin (R)40,18842%
Davis (Tea)8,3009%
Hochul (D)45,29148%
Murphy (G)1,0301%
TPM Election Scoreboard: NY-26 House
[91% of precincts reporting]

See that number that's in red? That's what the Tea Party candidate tallied in that election. If the votes for the Tea Party had instead gone to the Republican candidate, she would have won. That's even true if you assume the Tea Party only managed to equal the Green Party's total, which is the number in green.

Now, who do you think is more likely to be taken seriously in the next election, the Tea Party or the Greens? If you said "Tea Party", you're smarter than a majority of the self-described liberals out there. This is why the Tea Party has power - it can decide elections. Progressives can't muster up the will to make the same true of their side, whether it's with the Greens or some other party. If the Republican leadership has even the brains I give them credit for, they will worry more about pleasing the Tea Party than about pleasing anyone else. Support that can't be counted on to stay is the support that's important in this game. Most progressives seem to be completely unaware of this truth, but Republicans clearly aren't.

So, while it's nice that the nice brunette lady won over the not-so-nice blonde lady, I really don't see much chance that anything important to us ordinary Americans will change as a result. It's going to take a lot more than the loss of one conservative district to change how the Republicans do business, and we've already observed that the Democratic leaders aren't inclined to learn much of anything.

I'd love to be proved wrong, but as I've observed many times before, that usually doesn't happen when I'm pessimistic.

UPDATE (May 25): National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Pete Sessions (TX-32), as quoted by TPM today:
"Republican Jane Corwin ran a hard-fought campaign against two well-funded Democrats, including one masquerading under the Tea Party name," Sessions said. Obviously, each side would rather win a special election than lose, but to predict the future based on the results of this unusual race is naive and risky. History shows one important fact: the results of competitive special elections from Hawaii to New York are poor indicators of broader trends or future general election outcomes. If special elections were an early warning system, they sure failed to alert the Democrats of the political tsunami that flooded their ranks in 2010."

Democrat Kathy Hochul Wins Upset In NY-26, Medicare Vote Key To Victory
Like I said, they aren't changing how they do business. No one learns anything from these elections, because they just don't want to. Any political tsunamis are 18 months down the road, and lots can happen between now and then. Anyone who can't rationalize away a setback when faced with that kind of timescale is probably far too timid to be a successful politician.

UPDATE 2: If you want more evidence that the Democrats still have Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in their cross hairs, here's an ABC video of a conversation between former President Bill Clinton and House Majority Leader Paul Ryan today:

In the context of that conversation, it's clear that what President Clinton means by "do nothing" is to not make some cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and/or Social Security. He was having that discussion at the Peter Peterson Foundation, run by the guy who has been leading the charge to have these programs eliminated. Many of his acolytes were on the Deficit Reduction Commission, also known as the catfood commission, which made the curious choice to not look at either defense spending or higher taxes on the rich as a cure for deficit spending.

The Democrats will learn nothing from this, because they won and that's what matters. If they'd lost, odds are they wouldn't have learned from it, either, but people are far more likely to learn from setbacks than from success.

(h/t Taylor Marsh)


Anonymous said...

wow, you sound like a real douchbag, no wonder you can't get out of Buffalo.

What this says is that Tea baggers are entirely willing to split the republican vote, even if it hurts both the tea party and the republican party- or to put it simply the best thing to happen to Democrats in years.

Cujo359 said...

I don't give a damn if the Democratic Party profits from this. That just means they aren't going to change their politics, which are way too conservative already.

What's good for the Democratic Party is not necessarily good for either the country or progressives. That's been clear for a long time.

BTW, douchebag is spelled with an 'e', and I am nowhere near Buffalo. If you're going to insult someone's intelligence, you might want to demonstrate that you have some of your own.

Cujo359 said...

It's been a longstanding policy of mine to delete comments that consist of nothing but pointless insults. The first comment by this same commenter above barely qualifies as having a point. The second did not, so it disappeared like the intellectual soap bubble that it is.

lawguy said...

I'd suggest for what its worth that pulling 48% of the vote in that district is fairly impressive.

Oh and Bill Clinton has always been a corporate bag man. After being attacked as an outsider he and his family have certainly made out well since he left office.

And congratulations on your very own troll.

Cujo359 said...

Yes, it was an impressive showing. Special elections typically don't have great turnouts, which usually favors more conservative candidates. If Ms. Hochul does right by her district, it seems likely she can win re-election there.

No argument about Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, he represents a substantial portion of the Democratic Party these days, particularly its leadership.