The Meaning of the Midterms

by Brad Nelson   11/5/14

I have by no means absorbed all the results and listened to all the pundits. But it would seem that the Republicans gained some victories.

Being naturally cynical about these things, I have to ask: What kind of Republicans won? Were they truly conservative or were they Democrats Lite? And if majorities are gained here and there, can we expect anything but a holding action — a sort of de facto consolidation of Leftist victories — until the next Democrat majority when the agenda is pushed Left again?

What’s your view? By all means, be happy as a lark. You need not share my pessimism. I mean, Praise Jesus, apparently Charlie Crist didn’t win. There may indeed be a god in heaven. But what other good news is there? How do you parse the results?

Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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34 Responses to The Meaning of the Midterms

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I thought it was interesting and amusing that “The Editors” at NRO found so early a way to muddle things: The Governing Trap.

    Knock me over with a feather. The Establishment GOP found yet another way to say “It’s too controversial and politically risky to try to do something.” Governance in now a “trap.”

    Oh, and allow me one more “I told you so.” It is also automatic that the Establishment GOP will say “It’s too controversial and politically risky to do anything now. We must marshall our resources for the next election.” And I’m not making this up. Here’s a direct quote from the article:

    Which brings us to the alternative course: building the case for Republican governance after 2016.

    For the GOP Establishment, there is always an excuse to do nothing. The muddled thinking at NRO continues. However, one poster, DougA, managed to think clearly and succinctly on the subject. He wrote:

    Bill No. 1: Keystone.

    Bill No 2: Obamacare repeal and replacement.

    Bill No. 3: Open up Federal lands and offshore for oil/gas extraction.

    Bill No. 4: Two part immigration reform. Part 1, border and other provisions to prevent illegal immigration; Part 2 (to become effective only when Part 1 is certified to be effective by some objective metric), permanent residency status but no path to citizenship for law abiding illegal immigrants already in-country as of the Bill’s effective date.

    Bill No. 5: Increase Defense Dept funding to pre-Obama levels.

    Does it matter that the “braintrust” of the GOP is so muddled? Yes, I believe it does. One might not agree with all of Doug’s points. But it is an agenda.

    Oh, and although I’ve said this before, let me lay out another “I told you so”: Even if the GOP remains completely non-controversial and somehow retains both the House and the Senate while gaining the presidency in 2016, they will not forward an agenda. They will simply revert to a version of Option A: “It’s too controversial and politically risky to do anything now. We must marshall our resources for the next election so that we maintain our majority in the midterms.”

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Bill No. 3: Open up Federal lands and offshore for oil/gas extraction.

      I believe it is far more important to get pipelines installed around the various new oil fields in the USA, particularly the Bakken Shale in North Dakota.

      This would enable the oil to get to refineries much more cheaply than now. I recently heard your good friend Warren Buffet is charging something like $20/bbl for transporting oil by train to refineries. Even if this number is high, it is absolutely clear that transportation costs of oil by train are extremely high and the method of carriage is inefficient.

      I believe if they were to get the Keystone pipeline going, connecting pipelines could be easily be build in order to take advantage of it. Of course, Uncle Warren and some of the others making a killing off of moving this oil would not be happy. You will recall that the routing in Nebraska was the last excuse for holding up approval.

      Just a note on oil prices in general. The Saudi’s have now decided to go after shale oil production and oil sands oil production in the USA and Canada. The oil price has been on a steep downward trend for a couple of months now. It seems that they are trying to take it down to $70/bbl or less in the hope of making new shale oil production unprofitable. This is another reason to insure pipelines are built to move oil from Canada and the Bakken. If transport prices are $20/bbl, it means the price the producers get is only $50/bbl. This is pretty low.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I would say that the government of Texas moved somewhat to the right. Now we will see how they actual govern as the next congressional session is due early next year.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Rush is parsing this election as “Stop the Democrats.” He’s also in line with the idea that Republicans weren’t elected to actually govern. That’s an interesting idea with deep implications. The implication is that the American electorate is like a drunk who has woken up the next morning and said, “Never again.”

      But that drunk soon feels better and is right back on the bottle. There really is no “stopping the Democrats” unless and until you repeal their agenda…or try to. And there is no “stopping the Democrats” until you make the case to the electorate why drinking that bathtub gin is so harmful in the first place.

      So, in practice, this election will be about exactly what I noted before. The Democrats move the nation hard left (or at least as hard and as far as the can). The public gets a little bored with them for whatever reason (as fascinating as shiny things are, even toddlers eventually move onto something else). They take a break (sort of like checking into a worthless rehab mill where they get you off the booze but hook you on pills). But they will still eventually venture into some sleazy bar again and hook up with the Democrats. And it is beneath this particular commentator’s even marginal grip on political reality to try to pretend there is anything else going on but this somewhat senseless cycle.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        What Rush meant was that there was no particular GOP agenda that they ran on, so that the election was won on the simple basis of saying “NO!” to the Obama agenda. The initial GOP agenda can be very simple: dismantle the Obama apparatus, and invert his policy decisions. That should be enough for a start.


          That is my view also, Tim. I would say that whether they pass a repeal of Obamacare is less important (since Obama will veto it) than whether they cripple it through funding cuts.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          so that the election was won on the simple basis of saying “NO!” to the Obama agenda.

          We need to create a little counter on the home page that notes every bill passed in the Senate and House that either defunds something (using some of the techniques that Nik mentioned) or is a good bill passed but (presumably) later vetoed.

          I suspect that counter will remain very still. I suspect that the only lesson Boehner and McConnell will have learned is that there is majority-building power in simply sitting on the fence, playing it safe, etc. This is what the Establishment Republicans have always believed. Even if it is true that “no” was on the electorate’s mind (and I contest that notion as commonly defined), the GOP is going to run with what they already believe. Their non-controversial “centrism” has been ratified as far as they are concerned.

          But I could be wrong. Therefore, prepare lots of words for me to eat, such as when they turn down an obviously leftist Supreme Court nomination (if there is one). Provide some nice condiments and snacks to go along with eating my paragraphs if, instead of forwarding “immigration reform,” the GOP actually takes steps to fix the problem. Stuff the words right down my thoat if the GOP defunds Obamacare in places that they can. Make an appetizer out of my pessimism if the GOP actually opposes the Democrats, declares that the public has repudiated the Dem policies, and doesn’t “reach across the aisle.”

          I’ve been on a diet this entire summer. I don’t want to gain that weight back. And words, such as the cynical ones I’ve been saying, are high-calorie. But I don’t suspect I will have to eat a one of them.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This is worth reading. It would be even more worthwhile for elected Republicans to read it. Will they take Leon Wolf’s advice? Almost certainly not. But one can always dream: Dear Republicans: No One Elected You to Work with Democrats

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Slimy Harry Wormwood Reid is calling for bipartisanship. Someone suggested that McConnell should offer that to the Demagogues — provided they junk Reid entirely (no leadership role of any sort). Humiliating him might be worth such a deal.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Erick Erickson states something interesting:

    There is no issue the GOP rallied around other than being the anti-Obama party. It paid off. Voters, once they taste socialism, reject it in America. They have rejected it. More than 25 of the Senators who voted for Obamacare have now been thrown out by the voters since 2010. The GOP should remember that. They should also remember that the voters clearly believe government itself is the problem and not just Democrats in charge of it. If the GOP wants to lock in gains, they need to show the American people that freeing them from the shackles of government is a winner.

    I very very very very very very much doubt that “once they taste socialism, America rejects it.” How long have we had Social Security? What Americans want is someone to manage it better. The infant has indeed given out a blood-chilling bout of crying. But it doesn’t want its bottle changed. It just wants it warmed up a little so that it goes down better. Still, I could be wrong. It’s not likely but is indeed possible.

    Erickson says something else quite interesting:

    Fourth, it turns out social issues are not killers for the GOP after all. Abortion Barbie went down in Texas. Sandra Fluke went down to defeat in California. But the pro-life Amendment 1 won in Tennessee. The default against social issues among rich GOP donors is not the default among the public. Republicans do not need to run on social issues, but they sure as hell do not need to run away from them.

    “Social issues” is a bit of a misnomer, for most policies — left or right — are “social issues” and have social implications.


    Basically I see the election the way you do, Brad – I wouldn’t call it “pessimistic” exactly, but we need to be realistic about what just happened.

    Basically, Republicans ran the table, winning everything they could be expected to and pulling out every close race except Scott Brown’s loss in New Hampshire (which was predictable) and Ed Gillespie’s in Virginia (which is still in doubt but which Republicans expected to lose). In short, Republicans did better than could be expected.

    But as I pointed out in my pre-election piece, Republicans didn’t really attack the Democrats, much less present anything like a vision for the country. The magnitude of their victory is the measure of the public’s discontent with the ruling party, the Democrats, and nothing else. (75% of the country believes we’re heading in the wrong direction).

    What should the Republicans do?
    1. Fight against the Obama amnesty. All of us here at ST understand why this fight is important. Use the power of the purse since it’s all you have, but Obama cannot be allowed to simply immunize 11-30 million lawbreakers.

    2. Cripple Obamacare by any of several possible means (removing mandates, defunding the IRS, pulling out the insurance company bailout, etc.). This is vital not because people are going to start loving Obamacare, as that idiot John Kasich in Ohio suggested (providing Lefty bloggers everywhere with valuable talking points) but because Obamacare’s primary method of taking over is to undercut and destroy private insurance, and industries are more easily destroyed than rebuilt. Put these measure in bills that Obama must sign. Actually, Obama would probably rather let the country burn than sign any such measures, so we’re going to have a fight on our hands.

    3. Punish the IRS and cripple its ability to attack Conservatives: this is just about as important as crippling Obamacare. We can’t allow the Democrats to get away with what they’ve done. Write a law that overturns the IRS regulations that have allowed them to single out tea party groups, make it a felony to use the IRS to harass political opponents, and attach the measure to the funding of the IRS. If Obama wants the IRS funded at all, he’ll have to swallow the new rules.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      That sounds like a good start. I will note that a few Republican candidates (including Gillespie, which may explain something) did try to present an agenda, and so did Reince Priebus. In any case, they can now use Congress to make their case to the public for conservative reforms.

  6. GHG says:

    Establishment GOP has earned our distrust. I don’t have faith in them to stand against the liberal agenda. I’m expecting the GOP to be compromising in every possible way in order to avoid being called the “do nothing congress”, which, of course, won’t matter because the liberal media is going to call them that anyway in the lead up to the 2016 elections.

    That said, gridlock from a GOP controlled congress is FAR more favorable than full speed ahead with the liberal agenda had the Dems taken control.

    Some good news – Scott Walker winning re-election as Governor of Wisconsin against everything the liberal power structure could throw at him. I don’t know if he’s a solid conservative on every issue, but he took on the unions and won, several times, and the state of Wisconsin is in much better economic shape because of his fortitude to stick to his principles.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Lesser. That’s great analysis. Perhaps we will be pleasantly surprised…but doubt it. And I count self-delusion among the deadly sins…or at least the politic sins. We have every reason to be a realist about this.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        We are all small wheels in a very large machine, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get the machine moving in the direction we like.

        As I have long said, they are all politicians so we should not invest too much emotion in any of them. That being said, all of us can get involved in trying to influence our rulers. Call your representatives and senators. Write letters to local publications. Get involved at the local level in politics. Email your state Republican chairman.

        There are many ways a person can work to move government in the right direction. While there is no guarantee one’s efforts will bear fruit, it is certainly guaranteed that one will have zero influence by sitting back an bitching.

        Expect the worst and, if anything better happens, you will be pleased.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    According to Jeffery Lord in Conservative Leaders Challenge GOP Congress:

    Yet no later than the day after the election did soon-to-be Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announce that “there will be no government shutdown and no default on the national debt.” In other words, the very first thing McConnell did was take one of Republicans most potent weapons — the power of the purse — off the table.

    Words eaten today by yours truly: zero

    • GHG says:

      Pathetic, but not unexpected. The GOP leadership are afraid of their own shadow. It’s mind boggling that they still think the US Senate is a deliberative body – it’s only deliberative when the GOP is in control and then only in as much as the Dems can get the GOP to compromise. It is not mutually cordial and respectful, it is only that for the GOP, it is a blood sport for the Dems. The GOP leadership are living in the disillusioned past where they think everyone plays fair. Consequently the American people are not served regardless who is in control.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      We shall see. There is a case to be made for sounding nice and cooperative (which even Barry the Fanatic pretends to be) while quietly rejecting everything the Obama Gang proposes (nominations as well as policy proposals) except in the very rare occasion when they come up with something good. But it would be best to avoid pre-emptively disarming.

      • GHG says:

        The senators are all colleagues and hence a collegial decorum is maintained where thoughtful and respectful deliberations and debate take place to reach true compromise in the service of the American people.

        B A L O N E Y !

  8. Jerry Richardson says:

    Moving on past the analysis, where do both parties look for fresh talent?

    There is at least some evidence that former congress-members do not generally make very good Presidents. Look at the one we have just had. Here’s a recent list of Senators who made the jump:

    Harry S. Truman
    Senator, 1935-1945
    President, 1945-1953
    John F. Kennedy
    Senator, 1953-1960
    President, 1961-1963
    Lyndon B. Johnson
    Senator, 1949-1961
    President, 1963-1969
    Richard M. Nixon
    Senator, 1950-1953
    President, 1969-1974
    Barack Obama
    Senator, 2005-2008
    President, 2009- present

    There is a least some reason to argue that former Governors make better Presidents because they, at least, have some experience in executive governance. Here’s a list of the ones who made the jump:

    Governors to President:

    Thomas Jefferson, Governor of Virginia, 1779-81
    James Monroe, Governor of Virginia, 1799-1802
    Andrew Jackson, Governor of the Florida Territory, 1821
    Martin Van Buren, Governor of New York, 1829
    William Henry Harrison, Territorial Governor of Indiana, 1801-13
    John Tyler, Governor of Virginia, 1825-26
    James Knox Polk, Governor of Tennessee, 1839-41
    Andrew Johnson, Governor of Tennessee, 1853-57, Military Governor of Tennessee, 1862-65
    Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Governor of Ohio, 1868-72, Governor of Ohio, 1876-77
    Grover Cleveland, Governor of New York, 1883-85
    William McKinley, Governor of Ohio, 1892-96
    Theodore Roosevelt, Governor of New York, 1898-1900
    William Howard Taft, Governor of the Philippines, 1901-04
    Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New Jersey, 1911-13
    Calvin Coolidge, Governor of Massachusetts, 1919-20
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Governor of New York, 1929-33
    James Earl Carter, Jr., Governor of Georgia, 1971-75
    Ronald Wilson Reagan, Governor of California, 1967-75
    William Jefferson Clinton, Governor of Arkansas, 1978-80, 1982-92
    George Walker Bush, Governor of Texas, 1995-2000

    Is there any such ingredient that rates the label “best experience for a future President”?

    If you like the former Governor idea, the question is who? The problem for the Democrats would seem to be that they don’t have any viable Governor on the radar. Do they?

    The problem for the Republicans seems to be that we don’t have any “immaculate” offerings available. Do we?

    So where’s the talent?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Apparently a number of Democrats thought either O’Malley (MD) or Patrick (MA) might be good choices, but their successors lost (badly in Maryland), which doesn’t help their cases. Andrew Cuomo is unpopular with unions and with those who favor honest government. Jerry Brown is long past his sell-by date. Their gubernatorial bench is very thin.

  9. Jerry Richardson says:

    Mark Levin: Govs. ‘Stupid’ to Say They Alone Make Good Presidents

    Being a governor is not a prerequisite for the presidency, contrary to what some Republican governors who are potential candidates for the nomination are saying, according to conservative radio personality Mark Levin.

    Levin thinks the governors “hope to re-define the qualifications for the presidency to exclude all other competition. That’s really stupid,” he wrote on a Facebook post, Breitbart reported.
    Levin argued that excellent presidents such as Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower were not governors, and that some atrocious presidents, including Andrew Johnson and Jimmy Carter, were. He acknowledged that Ronald Reagan, who was California governor before moving to the White House, was a great president.

    “The point is that Republican governors are going to have to do much better than expect all of us to accept their self-serving definition of presidential qualifications,” wrote Levin.

    What matters, he concluded, is that the Republican nominee oppose big government.

    Mark’s primary qualification for President is to oppose big government. Who does that include in the tent?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There is ideology, and there is competence. Executive experience provides a strong basis for judging competence. Of course, this doesn’t require being a governor; Washington, Grant (not such a success, though much of the corruption predated his presidency) and Eisenhower had both been successful commanders at a high level. Business success can also be useful, though it often seems to be incompatible with being an adept politician. Ideology is another matter; we can find good candidates everywhere. (Most of us here would be good as far as ideology goes; competence at running the presidency is another matter, though I’m sure we would be better than Barack Screwtape Obama.)

      Lincoln was unusual in lacking such a record, but the government wasn’t as large then, and he chose a large array of experienced rivals to run the various departments.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      It’s hard to argue with The Great One. But Gov. Perry makes a good point:

      Texas Gov. Rick Perry told Breitbart, “If you’re in the Senate or if you’re in the House, you can give a speech and then go home. Governors can’t. We have to govern.

  10. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Thomas Sowell asks a very fundamental question about Obama and this past election in What Happened Last Week?

    People who are increasingly questioning Barack Obama’s competence are continuing to ignore the alternative possibility that his fundamental values and imperatives are different from theirs. You cannot tell whether someone is failing or succeeding without knowing what they are trying to do.

    When Obama made a brief public statement about Americans being beheaded by terrorists, and then went on out to play golf, that was seen as a sign of political ineptness, rather than a stark revelation of what kind of man he is, underneath the smooth image and lofty rhetoric.

    The president’s refusal to protect the American people by quarantining people coming from Ebola-infected areas — as was done by Britain and a number of African nations — is by no means a sign of incompetence. It is a sacrifice of Americans’ interests for the sake of other people’s interests, as is an assisted invasion of illegal immigrants across our southern borders.

    Such actions are perfectly consistent with Obama’s citizen of the world vision that has led to such statements of his in 2008: “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times… and then just expect that every other country’s going to say okay.”

    I often hear from conservatives about how Obama is incompetent. He is hardly that once you understand his aims.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I think he is genuinely incompetent, but it’s also true that he doesn’t care what that incompetence does to America. However, he does care when it hurts his record or his political position.

  11. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    How Did Texas Republicans Win Over Hispanic Voter?

    Okay, I’m going to cheat and give you a hint: It was by playing to identity politics — sanitized via RINOism and called “reaching out.”

    This works if you happen to be married to a hispanic (or are a hispanic). But what if you’re a white Republican and all you have to run on are your ideas? Is there any “reaching out” to the hispanic community without the “comfort” providing by “looking like one of us”?

    Yes, it’s great the the GOP made some gains among hispanics. But it’s also a shame that so-called conservative writers can’t see the obvious reality underlying this: In order to “appeal to hispanics” one must be one or have married one. Race trumps ideas. But this aspect will be laundered and cleansed by calling it “reaching out.”

    GOP: Adopting the Left’s assumptions is not a good long-range plan.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      According to what I read, Abbott ran strongly in favor of border security. I will admit that having a Hispanic wife helped him get away with it, as did facing an opponent who wasn’t popular among Hispanics. But outreach doesn’t require racial pandering (though that certainly is one way to do it). It can simply mean making your case and winning the support of more voters than you would have gotten otherwise. Many blacks call themselves conservative (about a third in the few polls I’ve seen on the subject); at least some of them no doubt could be persuaded to vote Republican, to the devastation of the Democrats, just by appealing to their conservative views. (Note that blacks have tended to vote heavily against homosexual marriage.)

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      From what I could see here in Texas, the Texas Republican party got smart and did the obvious thing required to get people to vote for you, i.e. go out to where they live and talk to them. There is nothing very fancy about this, but it is something which has been neglected by the Republican party for some time.

      People, be they red, yellow, black or white, like to feel they are valued. This is especially the case if you want something from them. So it is just common sense to get out into the various communities and let them know you are there and interested in their opinions and votes.

      I would not be surprised if the Republicans picked up 5-10% of the Latino vote simply because they showed up in the neighborhood and asked for it.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        We must become community organizers.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Well, maybe, but do you think you could come up with a better term for it? (Of course, “community organizer” really means agitator, which is all Slick Barry ever has been or will be — unless maybe he becomes a professional extortionist or some other sort of gangster. He certainly has plenty of working experience in the field.)

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