Thinking about November

Truman Doctrine

by digby

Krugman wonders if this fall might end up being 1948:

I have no idea what's going to happen in November. That graph shows quite a bit of volatility in the polls over a period of months. But I do think that we might be in for some surprises.

With that I'll give you the intro to my pal Deep Insight's report on the state of the electorate as we look to the fall:

Because he immerses himself in the issue
and understands it so well, the positions he
adopts may not be the ones that everyone
else in the caucus comes to.

Senator John Thune (R-SD) on
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN)

There is the modern Republican Party in all its twisted logic. Senator Thune, who is touted as Presidential material, is stating the obvious. If one of his fellow GOP Senators studies the facts of an issue, he may not parrot the talking points. Of course it is heresy in the GOP to admit to relying on empirical facts. Any hope for sane public policy now relies on help in the Senate from Southern conservatives like Corker and Lindsay Graham. God help the country and the world if the Republicans manage to gain power again. This is now a party where conservative Utah Senior Senator Bob Bennet is no longer pure enough. The tea party media stars, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, are the defacto leaders of the GOP. Beck’s income last year was $32 million, but he tells his clueless followers they should can fruit just like “Grandma used to do.” In his pitch toprivatize Social Security, he says that his kids might have to financially support him in his dotage. Despite the protestations of independence, the funding for this “grassroots” effort puts the political agenda squarely within the GOP.

The tea party ideology is opposition to government spending to “save America.” No surprise, one of the Republican “tea party” candidates for Congress receives $200,000 annually in “farm support” payments. Other full time “organizers” are on Social Security disability. Most of the tea baggers at the “Tax Day” rallies are seemingly unaware that 95% of them received a tax cut from the stimulus bill or that the overall tax burden is the lowest since 1950. The neo confederate elements of the tea party and the GOP areobviously quite happy together. As someone noted, they are a confused group of misled people and just what the Republicans ordered. Still, the Republicans stand an even chance of regaining a majority in the House. The generic vote for Congress gives the Democrats only a narrow lead. Given off year voting patterns and the way Democratic votes are distributed nationwide,this generic vote must be closer to double digits for the Democrats to feel comfortable.

The Democrats look likely to lose both the Hawaii and maybe the Pennsylvania special
elections this month, which will help the Republican fundraising for the fall. The President’s approval rating hovers around 50% and by historic measure if he his rating improves with the economy, the Democrats have a far better chance at holding Congress. Any more Democratic retirements, like that of liberal stalwart David Obey, will be very problematic.

A good assumption this year is that any undecided voters close to Election Day are going to vote against the incumbent. Senator Specter is likely to find this out in nex tweek’s Pennsylvania Democratic Primary. Indicative of the nation’s mood, only 43% of those polled think their own Representative should be reelected. This is the lowest figure in a generation. The Democrats could yet be saved by Republican candidates. Take Sue Lowden, the TV newsreader and chair of the Nevada GOP, who is the leading Republican in the race against Senator Harry Reid. When criticizing the recent health care bill, she brought up the concept of “bartering” with doctors like our grandparents once did. When given a chance to clarify, she discussed “bringing a chicken to the doctor or offering to paint his house.” The Arizona and Georgia Legislatures passed bills requiring the President produce a birth certificate or be banned from the 2012 ballot. Then the Arizona Legislature also produced its odious “target a Hispanic” bill. The Maine GOP just passed as its official platform a series of Rightwing talking points such as “fighting one world government.”

The economy remains the number one issue for voters. Many Americans remain angered and frustrated in the aftermath of the financial meltdown. Despite the marked improvements in the larger economic picture and specifically job creation, the unemployment rate is not falling nor is family income growing fast enough right now to benefit Democrats. By fall the economic picture should be better. Democrats and allies must successfully pose the question to voters: Do they prefer to return to the failed conservative policies responsible for driving the economy down or give the Democratic policies a chance? The GOP’s “stay the course” 1982 advertising campaign limited their losses in that off year recession election. The Democrats need to try a variation to stress an overall plan rather than issues or policies. It is an over used word but a narrative is needed.

The President needs to repeat the “car in the ditch” metaphor to describe the inherited 2009 economic situation. This recession has been brutal on construction and manufacturing jobs, and a higher percentage of college graduates are unemployed than in past recessions. White men make up half of those who have lost jobs in the past three years. The Republicans in the Senate continue to think that holding up unemployment benefits is good politics. Given the recent details of the collapse of Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers and Goldman’s, shall we say, elastic ethical treatments of “clients,” the Democrats have a strong political advantage in pressing for the financial reform bill. This legislation is just another example of an effort to save capitalism from itself. The GOP filibuster of this bill was short lived. This is not the 80s or the Internet bubble, and business leaders are no longer cultural rock stars. A stronger bill needs to come from the House/Senate conference.

While the Right will go more batty (if that is possible), the immigration bill, like financial reform, is another opportunity to do the right thing and splinter the Republican coalition. In polling, the country wants a comprehensive solution to this issue. There will be nervous Democrats but any current political difficulty will be rewarded in the long term. Whether this bill survives a filibuster under the ridiculous Senate rules is very unclear. The House is clearly going to wait on the Senate on this vote.

The climate bill offers the Democrats another important opportunity, albeit not one comprehensive enough. In a rational policy world, the ongoing disaster in the Gulf would push this bill forward. Not surprisingly, the corrupt regulators of the BushAdministration did not require BP to install the same acoustic regulator to shut down deep-sea wells that is required by Norway and Britain. Drill baby drill. If proper incentives are in place, a cleaner energy economy offers a chance for a revitalized manufacturing sector. A domestic clean energy industry would also slow the cash flow to the Saudis and Iranians. It is crazy to hand the Chinese another emerging industry. The Democrats need to force another GOP filibuster; the oil and coal industries are not very popular today.

The Catholic Church has obviously played politics since its inception. The social justice wing of the Church, evident in the 1960s and 1970s, has been marginalized by the Right wing in the Vatican. It is not an accident that the new Archbishop of Los Angeles is Hispanic and also a member of Opus Dei. As more details of the worldwide pedophile scandal and attendant cover-ups emerge, the authority of the Bishops and the hierarchy inRome will continue to erode. With their bitter opposition to the healthcare bill, the Catholic Bishops demonstrated their clear allegiance to the Republican Party. Fortunately, many nuns and Catholic hospitals challenged the Bishops. As Catholics in many of the larger states are swing voters, their switch to Democrats in 2006 and 2008 will be tested in the fall.

Though the President negotiated a nuclear drawdown with the Russians and an important treaty to try to safeguard nuclear materials, he received credit for neither accomplishment from the neo conservatives. Since combating “terrorism” is their calling card, one would hope they might drop their partisanship for a moment, but think again. As one pundit put it, their main interest is “cultural counterterrorism.”