THE COMING TSUNAMI CORRECTION
Why an Ideological Rebalancing of the Congress is almost certain….
The 60/40 senate juggernaut was formed in the 2008 “red to blue” election when eight seats changed parties from Republican to Democrat. This left the Democratic caucus – that includes independents Lieberman (Connecticut) and Sanders (Vermont) – with a filibuster-crushing 60 votes.
In this year’s election, only 16 Democratic seats are up. For purposes of this discussion, I’ll consider the 18 Republican seats to be safe.
Given current polling trends, we can reasonably expect the House to change ideology, but not necessarily party control this November. The key to my assessment is that the remaining Blue Dog contingent in the House are going to be more and more willing to defy the current leadership on behalf of their local constituents.
The populist, anti-incumbent, anti-elite mood is as intense as any current political observer can recall…and it is growing.
The race to watch is the special senate election in Massachusetts. If the Republican challenger Scott Brown defeats the shoo-in Democrat establishment nominee Martha Coakley this Tuesday, it will be the equivalent of a political tsunami. Even a cliff hanger will be a loud message: This is a growing trend, one that can upset the power grip of Democrats even in the bluest of states.
Note to liberal Democrats: You are in denial if you continue to misread the current trend as a blind reaction to the recession, because it is, at core, a knowledgeable reaction to liberal excesses. It represents the desertion of a supermajority of independents, driven by revulsion, fear and – dare I say it? – hope. The leftwing hubris of the congressional party leaders, Reid and Pelosi have created a teaching moment for the Democrats, to wit: that independent Blue Dogs are your indispensable internal check and balance against going over the cliff. The independent voters got the lesson. Democrats may need to learn it the hard way.
Note to conservative Republicans: You are on probation. Scott Brown’s surge is fueled by a populist, anti-establishment mood, to be sure, but it has moved the needle much farther in this blue state because Brown is presenting as an intelligent, good-government conservative, rock solid on the conservative issues that unite Americans, but with a lighter touch on the divisive issues, as a kinder, more gentle Rudy Giuliani, if you will.
The Massachusetts outcome aside, even a single shift in the Senate will undo the Democrat’s grip on the filibuster-choke. And that is certain to happen. For example, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will probably lose in Nevada. On balance more Democratic Senators will certainly lose their seats than will Republicans. Knowing this, the administration and Democratic congressional leaders are attempting to structure all key legislation this year such that the president and a simple senate majority can block their repeal in 2011.
So the real question becomes this: Is there a scenario in which the 2010 elections could produce an effective conservative Senate coalition, composed of independents, Blue Dog Democrats and Republicans?
Open seats held by Democrats include: the late Senator Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts (open pending the special election on Tuesday), Roland Burris’ seat in Illinois, and Ted Kaufman’s seat in Delaware.
To this short list we can now add the “preemptive retirement” seats held by Chris Dodd in Connecticut and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.
In the Democrats’ nightmare worst case, the only truly “safe” incumbent seats are Inouye of Hawaii and Schumer in New York. Realistically, however, the Democrats will likely retain nominal control of the Senate.
I say nominal control because Blue Dog Democrats will undoubtedly rediscover the political value of striking out on an independent path when Republicans regain 15-30 seats (39 would shift control).
Recall that the 11-7-09 vote for the health care “reform” bill was only 220 yes against 215 no, with 39 Democrats voting no with the Republicans. That was a five vote margin for a measure that is now polling at 55% against among likely voters.
Public opinion cannot be ignored for two years. We can reasonably predict that enough conservative and fiscally prudent Blue Dog Democrats will emerge in the November congressional elections to restore the House to its traditional center-right orientation whether or not the Democrats lose control.
On the Senate side, a new majority leader will be in play, either way, and the remaining Democrat senators (probably a greatly reduced majority) will no longer be willing to buck public opinion.
On November 6, 2012, 33 of the 100 senate seats are up and 24 of them are Democrats. It’s enough to provoke some authentic soul searching among party leaders, don’t you think?