Things are looking up

It’s the day after several primaries, plus a bonus election, and for the first time in a while thoughtful Democrats should have a spring in their step looking to November.

The media narratives will remain focused on the Republican’t noise machine according to which anything and everything is representative of “liberal” failure and is bad for Democrats and Obama, but the facts speak for themselves.  Democrats had a good night, a very good night.  And it’s a particularly rewarding night for the netroots who saw preferred candidate perform well against establishment candidates.

In fact, we see something at Politico that is seldom seen these days:  “Republicans failed spectacularly.”  We’ll come back to that.

First off, Arkansas is the gift that keeps giving.  Blanche Lincoln needed to come in over 50% to avoid a run off.  She didn’t make it.  Lincoln is among the more brazen of the DINO conservadems and is owned by special interests.  She’s not particularly popular in Arkansas and reelection would be a challenge even without a primary.  In other words, she’s a prime target and Bill Halter forced her to speak to Democrats for a change.  Addy Stan observes:

When, during an appearance on “The Rachel Maddow Show” in the midst of the health-care debate, FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher threatened Sen. Blanche Lincoln with a primary challenge, people though Hamsher was either full of bluster, nuts, or both. Tonight, nobody’s laughing.

How you feeling about that public option now Blanche?

Just having a primary challenger still made a meaningful difference.  Trying to bolster her progressive credentials she went gung ho in the Senate on derivatives reform under the current financial legislation.  Thing is, Lincoln never was serious about derivatives reform, it was all for show and amendments to weaken the proposals were to have been introduced as soon as polls closed in Arkansas.  Inconveniently, Lincoln’s problems didn’t end when the polls closed and the tougher language will have to be retained, for now.  TPM reports:

A far-reaching proposal to regulate derivative trading will not be scaled back in Wall Street reform legislation, at least for now, multiple Senate aides confirm. The development comes as welcome news to an unusual mix of progressives, financial officials, and at least one conservative Democrat: Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).

Lincoln is the author of the derivatives title in the Senate’s financial regulation bill, and for weeks has faced opposition from Wall Street, the White House, and members of her own party over a provision to force financial firms to spin off their derivatives trading desks into stand-alone entities.

It will be interesting to see what happens in two weeks, but typically supporters of the incumbent are less motivated to come out yet again for a special election.  Stay tuned.

Pennsylvania gave us a twofer.   Sestak’s victory over GOP defector Arlen Specter is something of a surprise given Specter’s support from the Democratic machine, but he simply ran a better campaign, and benefits from being a real Democratic instead of an opportunistic moderate who was caught on camera being very honest about changing parties primarily to avoid a spanking in the GOP primary.

The real news of course is PA-12.  The GOP was hell bent on winning this seat and it seemed very doable for them.  This district is not Obama friendly, and stimulus and healthcare reform don’t poll well.  In short, the race looked to be a very good opportunity for the GOP to nationalize the race, create a referendum on Obama’s s term, and establish momentum going in to the midterms.  Except for one pesky detail; (Yglesias)

Mark Critz’s win in the PA-12 House election is just straight-up embarrassing for Republicans. The Democratic strategy was straight out of the 2006/2008 playbook. Find a moderately conservative House district and run a somewhat heterodox Democrat. You don’t win every race, but you win a bunch. You can’t count on those guys’ votes on all the key issues, but each of them is with you sometimes. Add up a shifting coalition of such members to the big block of solid House liberals, and Nancy Pelosi can put an effective governing agenda together.

This was supposed to stop working in 2010. The end of the Bush backlash and the rise of anti-Obama sentiment, combined with the reality of the legislation coming out of the Pelosi-era House is supposed to get Republicans back to baseline at least. To see a Democrat win an open seat in a district that went for John McCain will be a welcome sign to a large number of House Democrat incumbents from red districts.

Critz isn’t a liberal, but a Democratic win here is great news for Democratic prospects nationwide and major egg on the face of the GOP establishment.

Kentucky also deserves some mention.   Jack Conway will be fine as a candidate, but the real story is the victory of Rand Paul, a teabagging son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul.  Spend some time listening to the son and you’ll think the father is sane.  Thing is, Paul ran on a platform that is pretty standard GOP fare, so it’s hard to know just how strong the tea will brew for the general.  But this is a best case scenario for the Democrats.  Paul can be beaten, and Conway is the strongest candidate on the Democratic side.

All in all, a very respectable evening for Democrats.  There is a lot of voter anger, how much will that translate into anti incumbent vs. anti establishment? T hat remains to be seen.  The votes against Specter and Lincoln, as well as against Kentucky’s GOP favored candidate Grayson can  be seen as defeats for the party machinery and traditionalists, but with the exception of Lincoln, the anti incumbent spirit is less clear.  There is no incumbent in Kentucky, and Specter was not elected to his seat as a Democrat.

Similarly, wishes for a viable third party ring hollow.  Being “not Democrat and not Republican” is not the same thing as a vision for governance and a platform to campaign on.  The Independence Party of Minnesota is finding this challenge.  A left over from the Jesse Ventura days, they manage to attract a hard core following, but never reach critical mass to elect anyone to office – other than stealing enough DFL votes to keep sending Michele Bachmann to Congress, alas.  But that’s all they have going for them is being “other.”  Some times their candidates are liberal, some times they are conservative.  There’s no cohesive vision for voters to support.  Even among the various incarnations of the Tea Party, there are few common threads around which to build a platform.

Minnesota primaries are in August.  Then onward to November.

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