No, it was a FUCKING wave!
There, that's better. The first step on the road to recovery is acknowledging you've been beaten. And, make no mistake about it, the Democrats got beaten, but good. In fact, they got bludgeoned.
This was worse than 2010. Everyone saw the wave coming that year. Well, at least the 90 percent of us who weren't on hallucinogens. This year, few, if any, expected this. It wasn't just the Senate results, which were bad enough, but the gubernatorial and House ones, as well. In a word, it was devastating.
Let's break it down: A seven seat swing in the Senate (nine when Alaska comes in and Louisiana holds its runoff next month); a net gain of 14 House seats, increasing an already impressive majority (now the biggest since the days of Harry Truman); and all but one GOP governor surviving their reelections, resulting in a net gain of three statehouses. By any appreciable metric you care to employ, Tuesday night was a helluva night for the GOP.
So, what happened? How did we get here? It comes down to three main causes.
It was obvious from the first batch of returns that this had the makings of a brutal night for Democrats. The first sign of trouble was the easy way in which Mitch McConnell dispensed with Alison Lundergan Grimes. Most polls predicted he would win - including yours truly - but few could have predicted such a lopsided election. The race was called about 30 minutes after the polls closed.
Next up was Virginia. It was not a surprise that Ed Gillespie jumped out to an early lead here. Those who follow the state are well aware of how bifurcated it is between rural areas and the more suburban ones. What was so surprising - and shocking - was how long Gillespie held onto the lead. It wasn't until the last votes were being counted in predominantly Democratic precincts that Mark Warner - the heavy favorite going in - took the lead. Even at this point, it isn't clear who will win. A recount is almost certain to take place. No one, and I mean no one, had this race on their radar.
Next up was North Carolina. Kay Hagen had led in most of the polling going into election day. Most had her winning a close election. And for most of the night, it looked like she would survive. Then, as the night wore on, an early five point lead gradually turned into a two point deficit. A deficit Hagen never recovered from. The votes from the Democratic precincts that she was counting on, simply weren't there.
Next we travel south to Georgia. I picked this race to go to a runoff, believing that neither candidate would hit the necessary 50 percent threshold. As it turned out, David Perdue won it going away. Michelle Nunn was never really competitive in this race, even with Fulton and DeKalb Counties.
Continuing down the I-95 corridor, we come to Florida. I had Charlie Crist over Rick Scott by a comfortable margin, believing that the southern part of the state would carry him over the finish line. Well Crist had the percentages with him, but not the numbers. In Broward County, one of the most reliably Democratic counties in Florida, a total of 456, 282 people voted Tuesday. Crist got 68 percent of that vote. In the 2012 election, 751,162 people voted. Barack Obama got 67 percent of that vote. If the same number of people who voted in Broward County in 2012 had done so this election, Crist would've netted an additional 111,000 votes, or 44,000 more than Rick Scott won the whole state by. Imagine how much larger Crist's margin of victory would've been had Dade and Palm Counties followed suit.
It was that way everywhere on the map. Democratic turnout in Iowa, Kansas, Colorado and even Illinois was way down from what it was only two years ago. There's no other way around it, the Democratic base, by and large, took the day off, while the Republican base took care of business.
While Democratic turnout was a primary culprit, equally damaging was the President's popularity, or lack thereof. I have beaten this horse to death, but it bares repeating again: Obama's inability to articulate his positions clearly has been his own worst enemy. It has permitted his opponents to define him. From the disastrous rollout of the healthcare law to his handling of ISIS, the public's perception of him, fair or otherwise, was that he was not an effective leader. Even allowing for the blatant racism in the deep South, the fact remains that he was an albatross around his party's neck.
Given his list of accomplishments, that is astounding. But in politics, perception rules over policy every time. When you consider where the country was in 2009 and where it is now, it is incomprehensible that Obama's poll numbers could be so low and yet it was those numbers that gave Republicans the ammunition they needed to go after incumbent Democrats.
The strategy proved brilliant. Like the dog in the movie "UP," who kept saying "squirrel" every time he saw one, Republicans would just drop the name Obama every chance they got and that was all they needed to get out the vote. No platform, no plan, no vision, just Obama, over and over and over again in every competitive race in the country. Even Republican incumbents that many thought were vulnerable successfully employed the strategy. Witness Scott Walker's thrashing of Mary Burke in Wisconsin as a prime example.
And last, but hardly least, we come to the scab that ended up being the most infected. For the last two election cycles, Democrats had been the benefactors of Republican candidates fumbling the ball at the one-yard line. Let's see, there were Todd Akin and Richard Mourdoch's rape comments; there was Sharon Angle's second amendment remedy; and who can forget Christine O'Donnell's "I'm not a witch" ad? By all accounts, the GOP should've rested control of the Senate two years ago, but for these buffoons and others like them.
Well this time around it wasn't the GOP that fumbled the ball at the one-yard line. It was the Democrats. Indeed, given their history, it was impressive that this time around there were no major gaffs by Republican candidates. Not that they weren't extreme in their views; only that they didn't stick their foot in their mouth. But the Dems, on the other hand, had some, shall we say, colorful moments.
Like Bruce Braley's comments about Chuck Grassley being "an Iowa farmer who never went to law school." Here's a really good way to dig your own grave. Denigrate roughly two thirds of your state's population and do it while mentioning a profession (the law) people hate almost as much as politics. If you were watching the election night results, Braley didn't win a single precinct west of Des Moines. Watching this state's returns was like watching an avalanche. Way to go, Brucie!
And then there was Alison Lundergan Grimes' deer in a headlight moment during her debate with Mitch McConnell. That was the one when she wouldn't answer a simple question like who she voted for in 2012. Her response was one for the ages. "It's a matter of principle," she said. No, Alison, it's a matter of owing up. Any answer other than "Yes, I voted for Obama," makes it seem like you've got something to be ashamed of and no one votes for a candidate like that.
That, in a nutshell, was the issue for so many Democratic candidates across the country. One after another, they did their best to distance themselves from Obama; and the more they did this, the more foolish they looked to the electorate.
Granted, it was a Catch 22 for some of them. In the South there was nothing that Obama could've done that would've altered the outcomes. Hell, Bill Clinton practically moved back into Arkansas and yet it didn't help Mark Pryor one bit. Within seconds of the polls closing in that state, the networks called the race.
But in states like Colorado, Iowa, Florida and North Carolina, Obama's presence might've stirred up a listless base and gotten a few of them off their asses. Imagine what he could've done in Miami, Denver or Raleigh-Durham. Instead, Democrats in those states treated him like he was an Ebola patient coughing up blood. They wanted nothing to do with him and couldn't resist throwing him under the bus every chance they got. In essence, they boxed themselves into a corner, much to the delight of the GOP.
Basically the 2014 midterms could be summed up thusly: Republicans, "Obama!" Democrats, "Obama, who?"
The lesson here could not be clearer. Running away from the leader of your party and his accomplishments never works. In fact it backfires. To quote Benjamin Franklin, "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." An awful lot of Democrats hung themselves this year.
So now what? What happens in January? Policy wise, not a whole lot, I'm afraid. Prior to this election it took 60 votes to clear a filibuster in the Senate. Next year it will still take 60 votes. Even if Mitch McConnell does away with the filibuster altogether, Republicans will not have the votes to override a veto by Obama. In other words, they'll be in the same boat that Democrats are currently in.
The real question will be whether McConnell can control the loose cannons in his caucus like Ted Cruz. I'm betting he can't. Despite his grandiose words after his reelection, he will be in the same predicament that John Boehner is in in the House.
Already the Republican base is sounding the war drums. If you thought Darrell Issa was bad, wait until you get a load of Ron Johnson in his new position as Chairman of the Senate Oversight Committee on Government Affairs. Johnson will have the authority to call hearings and subpoena administration officials at his leisure. Can you say, "Benghazi?"
Think that's frightening? Try James Inhofe - Mr. global warming denier, himself - chairing the Committee on the Environment and Public Works; or Ted Cruz in charge of the Judiciary Committee. The late-night comics are going to have tons of material for the next two years.
And you can forget about Obama getting any of his cabinet picks or judicial nominations confirmed. And, while we're at it, let's just assume they'll be at least one more government shutdown and another near debt-ceiling default. What would Washington be without a little Russian Roulette?
This is what happens when people don't vote. You get the clown car riding into town.