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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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As tea boils over, Democrats could actually win by losing Senate & White House–but probably won’t

Posted by James McPherson on August 15, 2011

So, the Tea Party-Grover Norquist-Koch brothers “Axis of No Taxes” has managed to downgrade the country’s credit rating–though caring about Standard & Poor’s poor standards is as stupid as the whole phony debt ceiling “crisis” in which the “compromise” gave Republicans “98 percent of what we want.”

One result? Barack Obama’s approval ratings are the lowest ever, and talking heads are acting as if Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann might be our next president. If that were true, it might not be all bad, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. But I think a Perry or Bachmann presidency is only slightly more likely than the possibility that PUMAs will push Hillary Clinton into a primary campaign against Obama.

For one thing, while Obama ratings are low, he still fares far better than Congress and everyone else involved in the debt ceiling debacle, and his numbers are pretty close to those of both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan at the same point in their presidencies (and still higher than the low points for either of those two-term presidents).

Who else is down? In fact, the Tea Party is also at a new low, well below the president in popularity.

Despite that, Tea Party-esque candidates Bachmann and Perry seem to be gaining traction (though I don’t discount the fact that they’re just getting lots of attention because they’re entertaining). And in a crazy primary system in which extremist nuts can fare better than more reasoned candidates–but also boring, compromising, capable-of-actually-governing candidates–perhaps a Bachmann or Perry could win.

Maybe we’ll even see a Perry-Bachmann ticket. Though I’d prefer a PerryPalin “secession ticket,” assuming Palin isn’t busy running for John Kyl’s Senate seat. Or perhaps Perry and Bachmann will split the conservative evangelical vote, ultimately giving the GOP candidacy to serial flip-flopper but perceived moderate Mitt Romney.

I think Romney is the one Republican who might beat Obama, who probably doesn’t deserve to be re-elected but whose primary advantage seems to be the weakness of the GOP. But let’s assume Obama loses. Further, let’s assume that Republicans hold the House, and even win the Senate. Scary, huh?

Well, maybe not. In fact, such an outcome might be bad for the country–but maybe not, in the long run (and as a historian, I like looking at the long run). GOP control of Congress and the White House might even help Democrats in the long run.

Because even if the Republicans win EVERY open Senate seat, they still cannot gain the 60-seat majority that current Senate Republicans have shown us is necessary to get anything through the Senate. And if it can’t get through the Senate, we’ve found that the Republican House voted  doesn’t matter. And if a bill doesn’t get through the Senate, a Republican president can’t sign it.

Do you really think that seriously outnumbered Democrats are going to be more agreeable than slightly outnumbered Republicans have been? Or that Americans are going to understand in 2016 why the GOP couldn’t manage to do anything positive, despite controlling the White House and both houses of Congress?

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5 Responses to “As tea boils over, Democrats could actually win by losing Senate & White House–but probably won’t”

  1. reuel said

    Interesting.
    I see one of two things happening in the Perry camp. Burnout or gaining more traction as he steals the show with “Swagger” as the left love to call people from Texas. I have 2 Brothers in Texas they to have “Swagger”. It must be something in the water. LBJ was also one that could be tagged with that. We all know how that turned out for him. Palin is not going to jump in unless all the others look to be failing, or she could do a end around and go rogue as a third party and never be welcome in the Republican party ever again. If she did the latter of the two Obama would keep his job.
    Then we have Obama pull the female out of the closet trick to replace Biden. That could be either Hillary or Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz. This I think will happen and be a placement of a female ready to run in 2016 for the left. The Left would love to see Hillary and justify this with all they say she did in the State Department. What was that exactly? I am sure it will be a laundry list of accomplishments that never made the news because “It the spending stupid”. Please note the “stupid” is not intended for any individual, just a play on words from the 1992 Clinton rise to power.
    As for the Tea Party, yes the left has connived their base that these people are “terrorist” and are the ones that caused the down grade by S & P. See I see it different of course. First the down grade has zero meaning due to these were the same people that gave triple A ratings for Freddy and Fannie and many other institutions that were in fact in 2008 in total melt down mode. I still blame both sides for our down grade at which I said means nothing and should be good reason to rethink how all sides of this government and how it work should be reconstructed. We all know that the waste in government spending is uncontrollable and is always discussed but never really fixed. I have been on several government projects including just south of you at a well know waste site. They are spending 2 billion dollars a year at that one site to clean up and the cost of items are much higher than all private sector storage of similar waste. Also they spent billions to prepare this waste for a final destination at which was closed. So now they have to spend billions more to just decide what to do and re package the waste for what ever that plan calls for. I could go on but my point is the downgrade was long in coming do to the mismanagement of the government and it wasteful spending of our tax dollars they already receive. So give them more “Revenue” is like giving a drug addict more drugs, they both will be a waste.

    The blame is all of ours and until we hold our government responsible and make them spend our money wisely all of us will be paying the price.

  2. […] though I’ve made fun of Tea Party folks a time or two or three, I’ve also supported their efforts — while pointing out that the […]

  3. You wrote,
    “Because even if the Republicans win EVERY open Senate seat, they still cannot gain the 60-seat majority that current Senate Republicans have shown us is necessary to get anything through the Senate. And if it can’t get through the Senate, we’ve found that the Republican House voted doesn’t matter. And if a bill doesn’t get through the Senate, a Republican president can’t sign it.”

    Are you saying that gridlock in Congress is NOT a good thing?
    Gridlock limits the amount of damage Congress can do.

    Any political group with single digit approval ratings should be disbanded and restarted from scratch.
    CBS-NYT poll Oct. 25, 2011: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20125482-503544/congressional-approval-at-all-time-low-of-9-according-to-new-cbs-news-new-york-times-poll/
    Congress fares a little better (13%) in Gallup polls; Zogby, I don’t know.
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/150728/Congress-Job-Approval-Entrenched-Record-Low.aspx

  4. James McPherson said

    The Founding Fathers were genius in making it difficult for enact legislation (two houses of Congress, separation of powers, etc.). But they didn’t mean to make it impossible, and the fact that Republicans have so abused the filibuster process makes gridlock inevitable. Even if EVERY member of the House and 59 of the 100 Senators agree that something should be done, it won’t.

    And under that system, Congress is guaranteed low approval ratings–which frankly doesn’t matter much to them, since corporations and interest groups provide their funding, and as long as a member of Congress can appeal to folks in a stacked, gerrymandered district, he has little chance of losing.

    Thanks for your comment.

  5. […] have alluded previously to the fact that I thought Obama would win handily in 2012, whether he deserves to or not. I […]

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