Skip to comments.Frank Rich on the National Circus: Why Democrats Face a Rout in November
Posted on 03/13/2014 2:34:50 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Every week, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich talks with contributor Eric Benson about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week: The GOP's victory a Florida special election, Rand Paul's emergence as the big winner at CPAC, and conservative critiques of Obama's appearance on "Between Two Ferns."
Earlier this week, Republican David Jolly beat Democrat Alex Sink in a hotly contested special election for the congressional seat in Florida's 13th district. Republicans are playing up the win as evidence that the Democrats are doomed in November. Democrats are dismissing the results as indicative only of one election in one district. Who is more right?
This race was a bellwether to be sure not of whats going to happen in November, but of the true idiocy of our political culture. A ludicrous $12 million in campaign spending was poured into this single district in which fewer than 200,000 people voted. Much of the bloviocracy hyped the race before and after as a battle akin to Ali-Frazier or, perhaps given the Florida setting, Bush vs. Gore, and as a decisive verdict on the political valence of Obamacare. And now both sides are overreading meaning into an election decided by less than 2 percent of the vote (under 4,000 votes) in a race where a third-party Libertarian candidate received almost 5 percent of the vote.
Garin-Hart-Yang polls conducted in the district throughout the campaign found that the Affordable Care Act was more of a lift than a drag on the losing Democrat, Alex Sink, rather than the elections most decisive factor. Whatever. The Democrats are in deep trouble this fall, but not because of any reading of the tea leaves in this single district, and not because the entire country hates Obamacare. The fundamentals are far more basic. As in 2010, the year of the Democrats shellacking, older white voters are more likely to go to the polls than young and minority voters. Part of that is structural: Theres not the excitement of a presidential race (let alone one with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket) to motivate Democrats to show up. And it gets worse: The new Wall Street JournalNBC News poll this week finds that not only is Obamas approval rating at a new low (41 percent), but that his disapproval rating among Democrats is up to 20 percent. Thus, Democrats may be even less motivated to go to the polls than they were in 2010. And Republicans who do hate Obamacare, or, to put a finer point on it, hate Obama are highly motivated. Theres a lot of talk among Democrats about what message they might come up with to reverse these fundamentals, but I have my doubts theres any panacea. Perhaps the most optimistic way for a Democrat to look at 2014 is that if its a rout, it sets up the Republicans to indulge in overconfidence and other forms of self-destructive hubris in 2016, just as they did in 2012 after their success of 2010.
Rand Paul was the big winner at the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend, drawing 31 percent of the vote in the presidential straw poll. (Ted Cruz and neurosurgeon Ben Carson were a distant second and third with 11 and 9 percent, respectively.) What do you make of that result, especially coupled with what some saw as a Tea Party defeat in the Texas GOP primaries last week?
The CPAC presidential straw poll results are also meaningless, but I remain convinced that Rand Paul is the man to beat in the Republican race, for all the reasons I have outlined previously, and also because he persists as an outlier in his party on foreign policy. Many on the right have noted after CPAC that Ted Cruz has now manufactured a distinction between himself and Paul by coming out for a more truculent foreign policy, closer to the neo-conservative John McCain-Lindsey Graham party norm than Pauls far-less-interventionist stand. But that actually works to Pauls benefit in a national race: In the same new WSJ-NBC poll I mentioned above, Democrats and Republicans agree about exactly one issue: They dont want America to act on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. They really dont want it only 5 percent are in favor of unilateral American intervention. As for the Tea Partys demise in Texas (or anywhere else), again I must repeat myself: The Tea Partys obituaries continue to be laughably premature. Whatever the waxing and waning of individual organizations that use the Tea Party rubric, the Tea Party ideology is alive and well in the Republican base. Tea Party ideology is the base. And Texas observers have rightfully had a lot of fun in mocking Eastern Corridor coverage of the Texas GOP primaries, as manifest in a Politico pronouncement (The Texas tea partys best days may be behind it) and a Times headline (Texas GOP Beats Back Challengers From Right). Yes, the incumbent Republican Senator John Cornyn easily beat a crackpot far-right challenger, Steve Stockman, but in the most closely contested race for arguably the most powerful office in Texas, Lieutenant Governor, the Republican incumbent, the very conservative David Dewhurst, received only 28 percent of the vote, losing to the very far right Tea Party darling, State Senator Dan Patrick, who received 42 percent. (A runoff is yet to come). As goes Texas, so goes the GOP. The notion that the radicals in the party are going gently into the good night is a fantasy not only for liberals, but for mainstream conservative op-ed pundits who keep wanting to believe that the GOP is the party of Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, and (the pre-scandal) Chris Christie. Its the same crowd that thought Rudy Giuliani was a sure thing in 2008. (Jeb Bush fantasists, by the way, should check out a new Washington PostABC News poll finding that 48 percent of Americans would definitely not vote for him, a figure that dwarfs the negativity for both Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul by double digits.)
A number of prominent conservatives have spoken out against President Obama's Affordable Care Actpromoting appearance on Zach Galifianakis's mock talk show, "Between Two Ferns." Rush Limbaugh called it "devastating to the office." Texas Representative Randy Weber tweeted that it was a distraction from "finding answers re: #Benghazi." And Bill O'Reilly contended that "Abe Lincoln would not have done it." Is this what Obamacare opposition has come to?
I love, I must say, that Bill OReilly has now become a go-to source on Lincoln because he co-wrote a book about his assassination that, among other things, featured references to the Oval Office in an era when the Oval Office didnt yet exist. But never mind. Whatever one thinks of the presidents Between Two Ferns appearance and its not, in my view, in the top Funny-or-Die tier these humorless responses to it are nothing if not hilarious. To cite another new poll, from Pew, it turns out that Obamas landslide victories in 2008 and 2012 among voters ages 18 to 29 (the ones who will not show up in the midterms) are no fluke. Pew found that 50 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 33) either identify as Democratic or lean Democratic (vs. 34 percent who either are or lean Republican). Not only does the GOP shoo away young Americans with its hostility to same-sex marriage, abortion rights, blacks, Hispanics, and legalized marijuana (Rand Paul perhaps excepted), but its gatekeepers continue to regard pop culture as either a foreign language or, as this example proves yet again, a blight on the Republic. You are never going to win over young voters as long as you keep behaving like Mr. Wilson kicking Dennis the Menace off the lawn.
Like after the GOP win in 1994, Gingrich conspired to have the lame-duck Congress pass the Mexican bailout.
Frank Rich used to be the drama critic for the Times...The Dems are definitely facing DRAMA in November
Obama's delays will not affect this.
As for David Jolly's election. Ever notice how the liberal press never mentions him being outspend 4 to 1, having a bleed off candidate against him, and the campaigning of both Bill Clinton and the president? Noooo....! They don't want to mention those things.
These are unusual times. The Universe is a cold and unmerciful place, and there is reason to believe that karma is a very real force.
For years, individuals and even whole societies may roll along merrily, wasting their moral, political and financial capital, and no immediate harm is noticed. But like the second or third sweep of a blizzard across the plains, the snow load on the sheltering edifices builds up beyond the limits of the structure to bear the additional burden, with sudden and catastrophic failure, and its collateral damage.
Some 95% of the personal woe in this world is self-induced.
How will voting for Republicans help?
When Basil II died in 1025, they were the most powerful country in Europe and the Middle East. But they neglected their defenses, and fifty years later, they had lost the battle of Manzikert to the Turks, and with it, most of Asia Minor and their empire.
They did make a partial comeback in the 12th century under the Comneni, however.
Now I'll stop being like Michael Barone.
What scandal has Christie been involved in? I'm not for Christie being the Republican nominee in 2016, but I don't know of anything scandalous he has done...only only of a trivial make-believe scandal involving a couple of his subordinates.
They will be voting AGAINST the Democrats. Hardly anyone votes FOR anyone these days.
The main advantage of. Republican rout in November is the ability to stop a Marxist replacement for any of the four conservatives on SCOTUS. Slim comfort.
Do you think they would veto anyone Obama nominated? I don’t.
Uh, okay ...
It depends who gets into leadership positions and it’s certain that the democrats will rubber stamp anyone he nominates.
They obviously don’r care about that.
Since at least the 90s, the Republicans have had an agreement to rubber stamp any Dem SCOTUS nominee. Remember Orrin Hatch explaining that.