Terrance Heath

The GOP's Pyrrhic Victory: Why It Won't Work, Pt. 1

Filed By Terrance Heath | November 09, 2010 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: GOP, mid-term elections, Pyrrhic victory, Republican majority

First, let’s just face it. For the next couple of years, at least, this is the end of any progress on jobs or the economy. Whatever legitimate gripes progressives had with the outgoing Democratic Congress, they got a lot done. More, in fact, than most others. Ezra Klein called it a pyrrhus.jpg“Do-Something Congress.”

That this has been the most “do-something” Congress we’ve seen in 40 years hasn’t made much of an impression on the public. Multiple polls have found that only a minority of voters know that the 111th Congress got more done than most congresses. That’s true even among Democrats. Nor has their productivity made the 111th Congress popular. But if they failed as politicians, they succeeded as legislators. And legislating is, at least in theory, what they came to Washington to do.

Interestingly enough, the Washington Post dubbed the 110th Congress a “Do-Something Congress”, when the Democrats took over in 2007, in hopes it would get more done than the outgoing Congress.

WHEN DEMOCRATS take over the House next year, the regular workweek will stretch to a backbreaking five days — up from the now-customary Tuesday-through-Thursday arrangement. Members of the House and Senate — no doubt reeling from the two weeks they’ve worked since the election — will have a mere four weeks off after they leave town Friday. Hard to believe, but the new leadership actually expects them to come to work on Jan. 4 rather than enjoy the usual elongated holiday break as they wait around for the president to deliver his State of the Union address in late January. In the Senate, the weeklong March break is being eliminated and the two-week April vacation cut in half.

…It would be quite a change. The 109th Congress will have been in session for a grand total of 103 days this year, which, as Lyndsey Layton pointed out in yesterday’s Post, is seven days fewer than the “Do-Nothing Congress” of 1948. An ordinary full-time worker with a generous four weeks of vacation would have clocked 240 days of work during that same period.

With the GOP taking over the House, the likelihood is that we’re faced with another “Do-Nothing” Congress, at least in term of creating jobs, fixing the economy, etc. As Bill pointed out before election day, the country is about to be saddled with a Congress that not only doesn’t work, but one determined not to let the President work either.

That’s not just because of gridlock, though there will be gridlock. It’s because conservative philosophy basically holds that a “Do-Nothing Congress” is exactly as it should be. And that’s exactly the GOP’s victory may be a Pyrrhic victory. Hemmed in by by a base that wants one thing, major (though anonymous) donors that want another, and an American voters angry that not enough been done to ease their economic pain -- and who want more done -- Republicans won’t be able to make it work without abandoning their base, their donors, the basic tenets of conservatism, or Americans demanding solutions the GOP just doesn’t have.

It won’t work. That’s what we face for the next two years. The best chance Democrats have for 2012 is to give voters a clear choice that does work, by offering solutions founded in progressive values, making the case for them, and fighting for them.

It Didn’t Work.’

The election results made clear what progressive have been saying for years: Democrats’ nearly pathological pursuit of bipartisanship was doomed to fail because the other party was never interested in bipartisanship, and in the end voters didn’t reward them for it either.

From health care reform, to financial reform and the climate-bill-that-never-was, allowing Blue Dog Democrats to dominate policy negotiations came at a huge cost. First, it served to strengthen the obstructionist strategy the GOP announced even as Obama was sworn in. The White House and Democrats in Congress have spent two years scaling back progressive policies they ran on -- and won -- and often bartered away the very change that their supporters voted for and that the country needed, in a pursuit of bipartisanship.

It didn’t’ work, because the other party was never interested in bipartisanship in the first place.

Indeed, even before Obama’s inauguration, the conservatives started down the path of obstruction, when the conservative movement’s spokesperson Rush Limbaugh said he hoped the president failed -- even given what that would mean for the country. From there, the GOP set out to make Limbaugh’s dream come true by obstructing every effort to enact the kind of change Americans voted for when they put Obama in the White House with approximately 53% of the popular vote (compared to Bush’s 47.9% in 2000 and 50.7% in 2004) and gave Democrats gains of 21 seats in the House and 8 in the Senate. (Republicans lost 5 seats in the House and gained none in the Senate in 2008, by the way.)

The list of bills that were obstructed by the 123 closure motions filed in the Senate is a litany of change that the country needed, Americans demanded, and congressional Republicans obstructed.

  • FDA Food Safety Modernization Act
  • Paycheck Fairness Act
  • Promoting Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles Act of 2010
  • Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act
  • Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010
  • Restoring American Financial Stability
  • American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010
  • Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
  • Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2009
  • Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act
  • District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009
  • American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
  • Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

The GOP’s only regret? That they didn’t obstruct more. Their plans for the next congress? No compromise. More obstruction. Who can blame them? It worked. For them.

It turns out that all that bending-over-backwards for the sake of “bipartisanship” didn’t profit the Blue Dog Democrats or the party as a whole. The Blue Dogs -- who worked hard to whittle down health care reform, put the brakes on climate change legislation, etc. -- lost half their caucus in this election.

Not only did conservative voters not reward them for acting like Republicans, the Democratic base -- the coalition that helped sweep Obama and the Democrats into office -- was abandoned and alienated to the point of not even showing up at the polls.

By comparing these 2008 national exit polls and these from yesterday, both from CNN and asking essentially identical questions, we learn some useful things.

…Here, as far as I can see, are the three big top-line differences:

1. The 2008 electorate was 74% white, plus 13% black and 9% Latino. The 2010 numbers were 78, 10 and 8. So it was a considerably whiter electorate.

2. In 2008, 18-to-29-year-olds made up 18% and those 65-plus made up 16%. Young people actually outvoted old people. This year, the young cohort was down to 11%, and the seniors were up to a whopping 23% of the electorate. That’s a 24-point flip.

3. The liberal-moderate-conservative numbers in 2008 were 22%, 44% and 34%. Those numbers for yesterday were 20%, 39% and 41%. A big conservative jump, but in all likelihood because liberals didn’t vote in big numbers.

Add to these figures the fact that overall turnout was down by about a third, or more, from nearly 130 million to about 82.5 million. That’s at least 45 million no-shows, and the exits tell us the bulk of them were liberal, young, black, Latino. If 25 million of these no-shows had voted, Democratic losses would pretty obviously have been in the normal range, and they’d still control the House.

Voters didn’t “reward” Republicans for their obstruction in this election. Democrats effectively benched their base after 2008, and the based stayed firmly planted on that bench despite 11th hour calls to finally get in the game.

The result? The other side won by forfeit, with an worn out playbook of old ideas that haven’t worked in the past, and shouldn’t have won they day for them.


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I feel the Democrats did a poor job of to stating their case to the American people. The Republicans and Tea Party people stole the talking points in this election and the Democrats never really got their message heard. The flood gates of special interest money being opened by the Supreme Court for political action committees without anyone being able to account for where it come from served the Republican and Tea Party interests well. We will likely see little useful done in the next two years. The battle has already started for 2012 like it or not and I am about sure Congress will not see much moved through it of value and both parties will use that fact as a point to run on in two years.

Actually, here where I'm at the ballot was kind of vacant. For some of the races there was only 1 person running. I am an independant, I don't like any of the parties nowdays. I voted for those people who I've met and talked with and have shown that they support my needs and are willing to fight for them.
All Dem's this time. One person was running for state senate and he was a Republican but I had to put in a write in vote aginst him simply because he's a jerk.

There were only Republicans on the ballot here in many spots as well. I voted for the blank spaces in that case.

The Dems did a lousy job of marketing.
If you save a lot of money for the taxpayer's you have a huge check made up, like when you win the lottery or the PCH sweepstakes. Then you hold a press conference and toot your horn. Look at this huge check. Now your kids can stay on your health insurance until they are 26 yo. You know, sell, sell, sell.

What do they think we are going absorb all the good works of the 111th congress by osmosis? Apperently so.

Oh well, nothing is going to get done for the next two years. Rachel Maddow will have tons of material! But Rachel Maddow will always have tons of material.

I know this is a series - and I've had the luxury of reading ahead as I proofread and scheduled the posts for this week.

The readers have no idea what's in store for them. This series is just that damn good.

How do you market retention of DADT and DOMA, ignoring ENDA, hundreds of dead GIs and thousands more dead civilians in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

How do you market 15,000,000 long term unemployed, mass homelessness and imposed austerity including cuts in programs to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.

How do you market TARP, and the trillions in handouts to AIG, GM and Chrysler, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to insurance companies under the guise of health care reform.

How do you market the deaths of so many workers on the job and the fact that no one from BP, Massey mining or Haliburton will ever spend a day in jail for manslaughter.

The answer is you don't. If that's your record you just get clobbered. Next time the Republicans will get smacked down and soon the lesser evil two party system will get trashed.

I hope your Crystal Ball is working correctly two years out. I was sick to death of the Bush Era, and while very disappointed in the first two years of Obama's Presidency, I certainly did not vote for any Republicans this time at the poll. Apparently I am the minority in that one however.

The Republicans won, it seems, not because Democrats voted for them but because former Obama supporters including many independents, women, people of color, antiwar activists and youth expressed their disgust with the Obama administration and Congress by staying home.

Like Democrats, Republicans have no mandate and no solutions for the Depression, unemployment, the wars or rampant bigotry. They'll just make it worse.

Twenty nine million of Obamas voters voted left, stayed home or stupidly voted Republican. That's as wrong as voting for Obama or Biden.

I believe there is no easy fix for the economic problems which in my opinion are the result of forcing "Globalization" too quickly and without full consideration of the problems. I do not think the Democrats or the Republicans will fix that only time and a good deal of change in the lifestyle that most know in America. I disagree however about governments role in discrimination. Laws will change attitudes over time. It is not an instant fix but at least it is a step down the path toward it. So far we as a country, have not really taken too many steps as far as LGBT rights in my opinion.

If what Krugman and the others are saying is true, and if the international economy follows the American economy into the dust, there are no economic solutions at all.

There are political solutions but they won't come from the Democrats or Republicans, who are as politically bankrupt as Lehman Brothers was and BoA will soon be.

The political answers will come from the left, from socialists, trade unions and the other struggle movements or from the ultra right. The economic policies of centrists like Palin (or whoever) and Obama are DOA.

Civil rights laws did nothing to curb the real effects of racism which at its core is an economic institution for extracting extra profits by underpaying and overcharging people of color. chimera

Tepid laws like ENDA, especially Barney Franks gutted version will have the same chimerical non-effect on homohating which at its core is an economic institution for extracting extra profits by underpaying and overcharging LGBT folks.' Reform' legislation in the context of societies based on institutional racism, homohating and misogyny don't change things with the exception of demonstrating the ineffectiveness or reforms and reformers.