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Election 2012: Referendum on Extremism

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The results of yesterday’s elections were actually cast two years ago when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that the Republicans’ priority for the next two years was to ensure that Barack Obama was a one-term president. Instead of “now we have a majority in the House of Representatives, our bargaining hand is better and we can negotiate from strength,” he said, “my way, or else, the country be damned.” And he and his counterparts in the House set about to obstruct pretty much everything on President Obama’s agenda. 

In the end, that’s what the people voted on yesterday all across this great land of ours. They voted against extremism, against the Tea Party, against hubris, against obstructionism. The Republicans believed that this would be a vote against Barack Obama; that they had been successful in weakening the administration to the point that all they had to do was say “look, America, the President and his party have done nothing to move us forward. It’s all their fault; let us back in power and we’ll save the day!” HA!

Nearly every battleground state fell to the Democrats, and not necessarily by small margins: Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire (which I think surprised a lot of people), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada. One after one, the states said “no” to the extremist agenda of the new Republicans. They said no to Todd Aiken in Missouri; they said no to Richard Mourdock in Indiana. They said “no” to Allen West in Florida. 

The  voters in many states had buyers’ remorse over the 2010 mid-terms, and when the Republicans nominated even more extremists this go-round, the people finally said “no.” Had the Republicans only not substituted the right wing Richard Mourdock for moderate Richard Lugar, they might well have held on to that Indiana senate seat. 

But even Republican “moderates” paid last night for their too frequent willingness over the past two years to forsake principle for party. To forsake the American people for the sake of toppling a president for no other reason than he’s not “one of them.” In Massachusetts, that happend to Scott Brown in his senate bid, and in my own Illinois congressional district where moderate Republican Bob Dold lost to Brad Schneider in the hotly contested 10th Congressional District, sending a Democrat to the House for the first time in 32 years.

I have a good friend who happens to be a right-leaning Independent. She sometimes votes red, sometimes blue. This was a red year for her; 2008, a blue year. She texted me last night around midnight, furious with the Republicans, furious with FOX news. “They need to have a serious re-think,” she told me, “if they don’t want to soon become irrelevant as a party.”

Take a look around you, Republicans. I know you want to take us back to the glory days of the 1950s when everything was right with the world; when women were seen and not heard, and men wore the pants in the family. When homosexuality was a subject best left in the closet and under the rug, and immigrants to this country were who your grandparents were, and not your next door neighbors. When the world was large the enemy was an obvious “them.”

The world has changed, and seemingly over night. All you have to do is look at the referenda and propositions that passed in last night’s decisive victory. Just two years ago, a marriage equality proposition was a Democrat killer on any ballot; last night, marriage equality is now a reality in several new states. Two states passed laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. And the Tea Party agenda can now (hopefully) slink off to where it belongs, as a dark and minor footnote in American history.

We are a nation of the center — center left at times, center right at others. And the Democrats seem to get that more than the Republicans do right now. The question is, will the Republicans continue to delude themselves as FOX News seemed to last night? Only time will tell. I can’t wait to hear Minority Leader McConnell’s first words. But there is nothing to suggest that he will do anything other than what he’s done the past two years: to use the filibuster as a bludgeon to obstruct and hold the will of the people — the majority — hostage. 

Whatever Senator McConnell says, Vice President Biden’s response must be to change the Senate filibuster rules on the very first day in session. Because the days of the minority holding the country hostage are over. The American people spoke last night, loudly and clearly.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • I think you nailed it. Every four years since 1980 I’ve asked my self how much further to the right can they go?

    I will be anxiously watching for dissent in the coming months.

  • The trend in recent elections has been to re-elect incumbent presidents, as was done with
    Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Bush the II. President Obama latched onto that proclivity of
    the American people to vote for stability in governance. In addition, President Obama has gotten
    us out of two big wars and the electorate did not want to take a chance in starting any new
    and costly wars. Staying out of big wars is the real key to reducing the deficit – not cutting

  • But that doesn’t explain the downticket voting and rejection of Republican extremism all over (at least the civilized parts of) the country.

  • The Republican Agenda was rejected by citizen voting on the United States Senate. The Republicans
    actually picked up seats in the House and retained a majority while losing a number of hotly contested
    Senate seats.

    The White House was retained by President Obama largely on the fact that he got us out of two wars.
    In addition, President Clinton correctly pointed out that the math just didn’t add up for tax cuts and
    increased military spending. President Obama was correct in noting that Romney was seeking to increase
    military spending in areas where the joint chiefs weren’t even asking for the money.

  • Ahhh. But even in the House, Joe Walsh lost, Allen West lost, Bob Dold was not TP, but was collateral damage. There are others as well. Obviously, the effect was greater in the Senate. Obama won because the american public believes he deserves a second term, and Romney offered nothing.

  • Someone with an opinion

    I am an ex republican that is sick of the bizzare extremism that has gripped the party. Even so, I must disagree with Barbara that this election was a mandate on extremism. True, the Dem’s (Yeah, hero’s of sane thought) did keep the president, and picked up some seats from some whacky repubs, but a mandate would have also decimated the majority in the house. This did not happen. Why? Just look at the electoral map. A good portion of the country is still drinking the Repub Tea (pun intended). I know because I talk to them, and work with them every day.

  • In the second presidential debate, the commentator asked when unemployment would get back
    down to under six percent. Neither candidate could answeer the question specifically. Voters could
    conclude that President Obama was doing the best possible job anyone could do. In addition,
    President Clinton indicated that the 2008 mess was much bigger than anything he ever faced.
    Therefore, the cleanup would take longer than 4 years. I think that voters believed this

    Back in 2008, Warren Buffet put a number on the recovery. He said that the housing
    glut would clear by 2013 or 2014. Then, the economy would gain more steam. That’s
    probably closer to the truth than anything else said so far.

  • I cannot tell you how betrayed I felt when I finally became aware that the Rep. Party had let the unemployed and wounded American suffer just so they could defeat a president they did not approve. That may go down in history as one of the most evil things ever done in the name of politics.

    Very well written but more importantly, smart!


  • pablo

    Maybe I am missing something here. I thought Obama is a republican. Now your telling me he is not? He sure acts like one.

  • Obama would be a left wing Republican if he was, but they are pretty rare right now so he is a Democrat.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Barbara –

    I cannot tell you how betrayed I felt when I finally became aware that the Rep. Party had let the unemployed and wounded American suffer just so they could defeat a president they did not approve.

    Well said! For that is precisely what they did!

  • Based on the remarks by the Rs yesterday, I think more than ever, some kind of Filibuster reform is required. I believe Harry Reid and others are planning to do just that. We cannot let this insane notion of a 60% majority go on and required for every single vote in the Senate

  • Jon Sobel

    I just heard on the BBC something I hadn’t thought about: the Democrats have won the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections. That tells you something too. Will the Republicans be willing to make an effort to get with the program this time around?

  • President Obama faces a situation akin to the one President Clinton had . That is, a partnership must
    be secured with the House in particular. The agenda is limited somewhat by the large national debt
    due to our entanglements in two huge wars. Take a look at Europe, the debt crisis there is stultifying
    governments throughout the EU. We’ll have a similar situation here unless a rational approach is
    followed to get things done.

  • Clavos

    Will the Republicans be willing to make an effort to get with the program this time around?

    Depends on the meaning of “get with the program.”

    If you’re suggesting they jump on the Democratic band wagon, I doubt they would, and in any case a single party system would not be good for the country.

  • Not jump on the Democratic band wagon. Not at all. Just engage. At all. Not obstruct at every turn. Be willing to compromise and not feel obligated to Grover Nordquist or the Tea Party or to whomever they feel obligated. They are obligated to the people who elected them, and not to sit on their hands, refusing to even seriously debate and come to some sort of compromise other than “do it my way or we don’t do it.”

  • Igor

    Meanwhile, the “Congressional Research Service”, a bunch of green-eyeshade guys who do research and report the results to congress, issued a report that says;


    “The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in
    the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.

    However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. As measured by IRS data, the share of income
    accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top 0.1% fell from over 50% in 1945 to about 25% in 2009. Tax policy could have a relation to
    how the economic pie is sliced, lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.

    In other words: trickle down doeesn’t work.

    Cutting the taxes of the rich does not improve the economy.

  • Cindy

    #9 pablo,

    Andrew Sullivan says he approximates a moderate Republican. I agree with you both.