I Care What People Say. And Peter Should Not Gloat.

 

shutterstock_112011077I’m writing this before the polls have opened, but — by the close of the day — either Republicans will control Congress or the entire modern polling enterprise will be understood to be a complete fraud from top to bottom. I’m pretty sure it will be the first, though the second would certainly be interesting.

My interpretation of this putative victory — and I don’t think this is controversial — is that we’ve got a nation of disgusted, fed-up Americans on our hands, not an electorate that’s suddenly enamored of gloating Republicans. In other words: we’ve got one shot at this. If we screw it up, it’s the last shot, and not just for us.

I spoke this morning to an American, Uncle M., whose judgment about life and politics is sound. I said — cautiously — that perhaps there might be some movement after the election toward solving a particular absurdity in US tax code, though we’d been alluding to a wide range of problems. Uncle M. said, in his calm way (he is not prone to drama), “Nope.”

“You don’t think anything will change if Republicans win?”

“Nope.”

“Even though pretty much everyone agrees that things are going in the wrong direction?”

“Nothing will change.”

I was surprised to hear him say this quite so categorically, as he is careful in his speech. “So you’re saying, in effect, that democracy is broken.”

“Guess so.”

“It doesn’t work. Democracy doesn’t work. That’s what you’re saying.” There was silence for a moment on the phone line. “If that’s true, you sure sound awfully calm about it.”

“Nothing will change.”

He didn’t budge.

I strongly suspect that many Americans feel just what Uncle M. feels.

There is something worse — quite a bit worse — than Republicans failing to take over the Senate today. It’s their taking it over, then confirming Uncle M.’s judgment: they’re all the same, the whole lot of them; just a bunch of power-tripping fools; nothing’s going to change, and democracy’s broken.

If Republicans can’t deliver quickly, with maturity, and without gloating — or if they fail to realize just how much is at stake — then liberal democracy is at the end of the line. That’s not hysteria, I don’t think: it’s just the way it is. It’s a lot to hope that a bunch freshly-minted and inexperienced congressmen will fully appreciate this. But it’s true, so they’d better grow up fast.

Nothing about this makes me feel like gloating. I would hope, if I were a politician, that I’d say “I’m grateful to the electorate for giving me a chance. I know that if I screw it up, it will be the last chance: for me and for a lot of people who are hoping, against all odds and expectations, that I can get something done. Thank you. I’ll skip the celebration party. I’m heading straight to the office. I’ll let you know when I’ve achieved something, and I won’t leave that office until I do.”

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  1. user_157053 Member
    user_157053
    @DavidKnights

    Uncle M is right, for two reasons.

    1. Control of the House and Senate does nothing to change the situation.  Bills can now be passed, but they will be vetoed.  President Obama is no President Clinton.  He is a true believer and won’t change course.  President Clinton was a realist and a politician, not a zealot.  Much of what he is now remembered for got done when he changed course once the Republicans controlled Congress.

    2. The political system is broken.  The biggest difference between a Republican and a Democrat in Washington is the (letter) behind their name.  They represent themselves and Washington.  They are a political class.  All of them.  Only term limits had any hope of fixing that, and the Supreme Court messed that one up.

    We are screwed.

    • #1
  2. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Republican control of the Senate will slow the rate of decline. Republicans winning the White House in 2016 will slow it further.

    But Claire’s uncle is essentially correct in his analysis.

    Three alternatives

    • Most likely (50% probability):  continued decline into an authoritarian state. Slower descent under Republicans. Rocket-powered descent under Democrats.
    • Wild card (50% probability): Something like an Iranian nuke explodes somewhere high over the Eastern seaboard between Washington and New York (no precision delivery required) and the EMP sends us back to the mid 1800s. Post apocalyptic hijinks ensue.
    • Hail Mary (probability too small to be mathematically expressed):  Michael Farris succeeds in organizing an Article V Convention of States and enough salubrious changes are made in the Constitution that a recovery of some kind is at least possible.

    I wanted to assign a lower probability to the Wild Card, but after some reflection I decided I would bet at least a lunch on it (although it will be a lunch of stale MREs after the fact) because the complete lack of seriousness of (or some might say because of the evident intent to actively screw up) our foreign policy and defense readiness by the Left makes the odds of it happening pretty good.

    • #2
  3. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    Claire: I hope your uncle is wrong. I fear your uncle is right.

    • #3
  4. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    As a conservative, I think your uncle is right. When we lose elections, we lose elections. When we win, still still lose. Not one thing has ever been rolled back. The only conservative victory we have in the greater culture is gun rights, and those are one vote from being destroyed on the SCOTUS.

    How is control of Congress going to help? It did not help under Clinton.

    • #4
  5. Fredösphere Inactive
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    I can’t agree. The electorate decided their top priority was to give the First Black President a two-term presidency. They got it, good and hard. No matter what happens, the current congestion will clear after the 2016 election.

    I don’t think things are (quite) as bad, structurally, as they were in the 70s. Back then, the alternative to Nixonfordcarter was . . . one man. Now, the GOP has quite a few leaders ready to stand athwart malaise.

    • #5
  6. Owen Findy Member
    Owen Findy
    @OwenFindy

    we’ve got a nation of disgusted, fed-up Americans on our hands, not an electorate that’s suddenly enamored of gloating Republicans.

    Absolutely correct.

    • #6
  7. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    “Nothing will change.”

    What do you want? A revolution?  That’s the other party’s scam. What we want is to undo their change, in many areas though not all.

    • #7
  8. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    I have a lot of faith in  the reformicons,  Mike Lee, Marco Rubio,  Ted Cruz and that crowd.  They have sensible ideas and they all play different roles.  Lee is calm and reasonable, Rubio has a golden tongue and Cruz is a firecracker, but very, very smart.  They’re going to get some allies with the new senators.  They are actually pretty good at working across the aisle too.  Obama has been terrible for bipartisanship, but now he’s a lame duck that Dems have little reason to support since it will make them harder to re-elect.  I think your uncle is waaaaay to pessimistic.  The parties are not the same and there is life in the old girl yet.

    • #8
  9. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Meh, I’m not lamenting “democracy.” It’s not all that. At some point it’s just mob rule.

    It’s the culture that’s gone, and the politics just a sorry reflection of that fact. No politician or political party can fix the culture.

    I would modify Uncle M.’s statement only slightly:

    Nothing will improve. The culture will continue its death spiral and the politics will join it on its journey down the drain.

    Have a nice day. Go Team!

    • #9
  10. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    So Uncle M. is a libertarian. Welcome to the club!

    Mild snark aside, I would like to remind everyone that the Libertarian Party is the largest third party in the United States, and while it’s obviously not made a dent at the national level, it certainly has at every level below that. If you’re serious about your frustration with seeing no essential progress in returning to the founding principles of the United States—as I was, post-Reagan—then I firmly believe your options are essentially the Libertarian Party or the Constitution Party. This is especially true if you consider yourself a Paulite Republican. There are only two Pauls in Congress. No one else even gets close. But essentially everything they say is foundational to libertarianism. So c’mon—take the plunge. Voting for the lesser of two evils hasn’t worked and doesn’t work. Shore up your principles; find out who actually believes and acts on them most consistently, and vote accordingly. No more of this “a vote for a third party is a vote for the Democrats” ridiculousness, or at least, if you truly believe that, it just means you need to convince 3-5 people close to you to follow the same course.

    Changing hearts and minds is hard. But it is the only way.

    • #10
  11. user_521942 Member
    user_521942
    @ChrisWilliamson

    Things can change. They did in 1994. It’s a long hard slog to get past the hysteria, identity politics, and biased media. But the younger crowd of incoming pols will have the power that goes with their persuasion.

    • #11
  12. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Chris Williamson:Things can change. They did in 1994. It’s a long hard slog to get past the hysteria, identity politics, and biased media. But the younger crowd of incoming pols will have the power that goes with their persuasion.

    Chris is right.  History is surprising.  Think of the weird things people found convincing in the past. The left seems to have the devil by the tail right now, which is appropriate since they sleep with him, but this too shall pass.  Lies can’t sustain government or culture.

    • #12
  13. hawk@haakondahl.com Inactive
    hawk@haakondahl.com
    @BallDiamondBall

    Claire Berlinski: There is something worse — quite a bit worse — than Republicans failing to take over the Senate today. It’s their taking it over, then confirming Uncle M.’s judgment: they’re all the same, the whole lot of them; just a bunch of power-tripping fools; nothing’s going to change, and democracy’s broken.

    Careful, you crazed Tea Party wingnut.

    I would hope, if I were a politician, that I’d say “I’m grateful to the electorate for giving me a chance. I know that if I screw it up, it will be the last chance: for me and for a lot of people who are hoping, against all odds and expectations, that I can get something done. Thank you. I’ll skip the celebration party. I’m heading straight to the office. I’ll let you know when I’ve achieved something, and I won’t leave that office until I do.”

    See speeches from January 2011.

    • #13
  14. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Listening Harry Shearer talk about Nixon’s politics on the Podcast last week gave me some heart.  Nixon a Republican President was in favor of a whole slew of policies that would never past muster in today’s Republican Party.  We have made tremendous strides in the culture on a lot of economic topics.  Socialism and Communism are extreme fringe ideologies and people are now more comfortable with free labor, trade, and consumer markets than ever.  What we need now is to convince the electorate that larger government is an impediment to effective government.  Republicans should be focused less on taxes and more on eliminating regulation and bureaucratic attitudes.

    • #14
  15. user_30416 Member
    user_30416
    @LeslieWatkins

    It isn’t just the parties, though they are decadent to the core. It’s the law. It’s become nothing but procedure and precedent requiring a cadre of priests and popes known as attorneys and judges to intercede in and direct virtually every situation, making the rest of us less and less happy–and forget about justice; it’s merely a crap shoot. I would not be voting today if North Carolina did not have an important constitutional amendment on the ballot and the state wasn’t very important in the drive to turn the Senate over to the Republicans. But, like your uncle, this thought gives me very little joy. Nothing will change but the names in front of the mics. I’m tired of having to be involved in electoral politics at all. I don’t want to go off the grid, but I sure do want to get off this wacky hayride of a political system.

    • #15
  16. user_2967 Inactive
    user_2967
    @MatthewGilley

    I say we follow the proverbial Zen Master’s prediction: “We’ll see.” In the meantime, if this turns out the way we suspect, I guarantee you that the reason is not that millions rose up so Mitch McConnell can swap desks with Harry Reid. I think Claire is right on the money that people are disgusted. That disgust comes from a suspicion that far too many politicians of both parties approach elections as perilous events to be managed, not opportunities to be seized. They will cater to what we want to hear and say it for us, but only so we won’t bother them for another two, four, or six years. I like to think that folks of our stripe have turned to the Republicans over time because we see them as the best hope for keeping the government away from us. We’re disgusted, in my opinion, that too many of those same people act as if they need us to keep away after they’re elected. Hence my white-hot anger at the treatment Ted Cruz has received from contributors on this very site, for instance.

    • #16
  17. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Democracy doesn’t “work”. Republics can, if people running things don’t become too stupid. Even monarchies are better than “democracy”.

    • #17
  18. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    I would feel a lot better if the Republicans had a Contract with America. That is what moved the Clinton dial. And people knew what Republicans stood for.

    • #18
  19. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Claire Berlinski: “So you’re saying, in effect, that democracy is broken.” “Guess so.”

    I’d say the opposite.

    “Democracy” (by which I assume you mean the US political system, and not “democracy)…works so well that it prevents either side from making any radical changes, except in rare occasions.

    That’s the point of the US political system.

    The fact that the policies of the US government keep drifting towards largess and the Left isn’t a reflection of Democratic Party success, but of general shifts in everyone’s mentality towards that (and of course organizational biases themselves which usually lead to such outcomes).

    • #19
  20. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    iWc:I would feel a lot better if the Republicans had a Contract with America. That is what moved the Clinton dial. And people knew what Republicans stood for.

    Yes, even with a large victory, it will be hard for Republicans to claim a mandate. Because the GOP ran race-by-race campaigns, Democrats will be able to claim (with some justification) that any meaningful initiatives (e.g., Obamacare repeal) are not what the voters were promised.

    • #20
  21. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    I know a lot of Uncle M s.  As long as it’s a Republican Victory it’s not important, nothing will change, they’re all thieves anyway.

    It is important, it does change the crucial balance of power in DC, and they aren’t all thieves.  The party that will be losing power has become anti-free enterprise, anti-constitutional law, anti-heterosexual marriage, anti-America, and anti-Israel.  If I got hold of Uncle M and sat on his chest and explained this to him I’m sure I could make some progress with him.

    It is always hard to know when to admit defeat.  It is even harder sometimes to admit Victory.

    …it is the end of the beginning…only justice grimly reclaiming her rights.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #21
  22. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar
    @NoCaesar

    Yesterday I spoke with several political independents in NH who echoed your uncle’s view.  This is anecdotal, not scientific, your mileage may vary, etc. etc., but they all slammed the Democrats running for re-election with variations of:

    – The Democrats are corrupt, and this terrible economy is their fault.

    – Shaheen plays favorites and is hiding a lot of scandals, including profiting off the stimulus.

    – Hassan (the governor) is an idiot, useless, and an empty suit.

    – Kuster spends all her time hiding from voters, while getting rich on insider info.

    So this means that the GOP has NH sewn up, right?  Wrong!  Following are a distillation of their comments on Republicans:

    – The Republicans are ignoring the middle class and just want the Dems’ rich donors for themselves.  They will let amnesty happen and regular people’s wages will get further killed.  Don’t think they’ll really replace Obamacare (which is uniformly seen as awful).

    – Scott Brown is not as bad as Shaheen.  He’s good and likeable, but he’s probably hiding something.  Anyway beating the Shaheen machine is going to be hard.

    – Havenstein looks better than Hassan, may try him.  He doesn’t seem like a regular politician, even though he lied about his residency.  He did that to screw the IRS which is everyone’s patriotic duty.

    – Marilinda seems nice.  She sure works hard, but Concord (the capital and a dark blue town with all the bureaucrats) and Hanover (Dartmouth) are in her district, and will make it hard for her to win.

    My friend, Jennifer Horn, the GOP chair for the state has done an excellent job with what she has available to her.  If anyone can bridge the Tea-Party – Establishment gap it is her.  To the extent we win in NH she deserves a lot of credit.  But the failure of Washington GOPers to nationalize the race have left all the heavy lifting to the individual states, weakening the argument to just vote against Obama by voting Republican, no matter what.  The conflicting messages on Amnesty by the GOP congressional leadership over the past year have severely damaged intra-party and GOP-independent trust.  The sotte voce whispers by certain Republicans that repealing Obamacare is too hard are likewise demoralizing.

    NH has a large number of Independents.  They are deeply affronted by corruption and see the Democrats as corrupt liars.  However, they see the current Republican party as a pale copy of the Democrats.  They are natural Republican voters, fiscally conservative and muscularly libertarian on militarily/foreign affairs (more socially liberal, they are uncomfortable with culture wars in general).  But they are demoralized and the national GOP has done nothing to win their trust and excitement.

    If we lose in NH it’s because they didn’t bother to vote.  The Dems lost them, but the Republicans have not won enough of them.

    • #22
  23. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    No Caesar: But the failure of Washington GOPers to nationalize the race have left all the heavy lifting to the individual states, weakening the argument to just vote against Obama by voting Republican, no matter what.  The conflicting messages on Amnesty by the GOP congressional leadership over the past year have severely damaged intra-party and GOP-independent trust.  The sotte voce whispers by certain Republicans that repealing Obamacare is too hard are likewise demoralizing.

    Oh, boy. That’s the post-mortem on any Republican loss or run-off, fer sure.

    I really don’t know where the GOP had its collective head when it set the strategy for 2014, but I suspect it was dark and … unpleasant. It’s the only reason Mary Landrieu is going to have to lose in a run-off. She wouldn’t get near a Republican who had pointed out that it doesn’t matter if Landrieu supports the Keystone XL pipeline or drilling in the Gulf. As a Democrat in a Democrat majority, the country would get the Democrat’s energy policy. Duh.

    • #23
  24. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    Fredösphere:I can’t agree. The electorate decided their top priority was to give the First Black President a two-term presidency. They got it, good and hard. No matter what happens, the current congestion will clear after the 2016 election.

    I don’t think things are (quite) as bad, structurally, as they were in the 70s. Back then, the alternative to Nixonfordcarter was . . . one man. Now, the GOP has quite a few leaders ready to stand athwart malaise.

    Man I hope you are right.  I fear not.

    • #24
  25. user_333118 Inactive
    user_333118
    @BarbaraKidder

    No Caesar:Yesterday I spoke with several political independents in NH who echoed your uncle’s view. This is anecdotal, not scientific, your mileage may vary, etc. etc., but they all slammed the Democrats running for re-election with variations of:

    – The Democrats are corrupt, and this terrible economy is their fault.

    – Shaheen plays favorites and is hiding a lot of scandals, including profiting off the stimulus.

    – Hassan (the governor) is an idiot, useless, and an empty suit.

    – Kuster spends all her time hiding from voters, while getting rich on insider info.

    So this means that the GOP has NH sewn up, right? Wrong! Following are a distillation of their comments on Republicans:

    – The Republicans are ignoring the middle class and just want the Dems’ rich donors for themselves. They will let amnesty happen and regular people’s wages will get further killed. Don’t think they’ll really replace Obamacare (which is uniformly seen as awful).

    – Scott Brown is not as bad as Shaheen. He’s good and likeable, but he’s probably hiding something. Anyway beating the Shaheen machine is going to be hard.

    – Havenstein looks better than Hassan, may try him. He doesn’t seem like a regular politician, even though he lied about his residency. He did that to screw the IRS which is everyone’s patriotic duty.

    – Marilinda seems nice. She sure works hard, but Concord (the capital and a dark blue town with all the bureaucrats) and Hanover (Dartmouth) are in her district, and will make it hard for her to win.

    My friend, Jennifer Horn, the GOP chair for the state has done an excellent job with what she has available to her. If anyone can bridge the Tea-Party – Establishment gap it is her. To the extent we win in NH she deserves a lot of credit. But the failure of Washington GOPers to nationalize the race have left all the heavy lifting to the individual states, weakening the argument to just vote against Obama by voting Republican, no matter what. The conflicting messages on Amnesty by the GOP congressional leadership over the past year have severely damaged intra-party and GOP-independent trust. The sotte voce whispers by certain Republicans that repealing Obamacare is too hard are likewise demoralizing.

    NH has a large number of Independents. They are deeply affronted by corruption and see the Democrats as corrupt liars. However, they see the current Republican party as a pale copy of the Democrats. They are natural Republican voters, fiscally conservative and muscularly libertarian on militarily/foreign affairs (more socially liberal, they are uncomfortable with culture wars in general). But they are demoralized and the national GOP has done nothing to win their trust and excitement.

    If we lose in NH it’s because they didn’t bother to vote. The Dems lost them, but the Republicans have not won enough of them.

    For a crystal-clear analysis of the New Hampshire Republican Party’s prostitution of its own political platform, read Mark Steyn’s column, ‘Election Day’ (Nov. 4, 2014).

    Independents were not the only segment of the electorate that were unmoved by the Republican message.

    • #25
  26. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    Barbara Kidder: For a crystal-clear analysis of the New Hampshire Republican Party’s prostitution of its own political platform, read Mark Steyn’s column, ‘Election Day’ (Nov. 4, 2014). Independents were not the only segment of the electorate that were unmoved by the Republican message.

    http://www.steynonline.com/6645/election-day

    • #26
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