Hope and Change: 2014 Edition


Alex Isenstadt offered up his opinion, on Politico, this morning, that the best thing that could happen to Democrats this fall would be a GOP-led government shutdown which “could revive their [Democrats] fading hopes of capturing the House next year.”

This is not a novel thought.  Politicians and pundits have been theorizing, since last November, about what kinds of leverage are still available to congressional Republicans and how they might use them to best advantage.  The schizoid Republican internal debate has raged, quite publicly and most of the tactics that have emerged tend toward quixotic, but ideologically pure, symbolic gestures that would, for the most part, make them look worse than they already do.

Here’s how Isenstadt sees things shaping up:

As it stands now, the midterm is shaping up as a stale, status-quo election — with Democrats calling their counterparts right-wing extremists, Republicans attacking their rivals over Obamacare and neither side making much headway. That’s good for Republicans, since the party out of power in the White House almost inevitably picks up House seats in the sixth year of the presidency. Heavily-gerrymandered districts provide the GOP an extra layer of protection.

Nothing short of a powerful jolt — a moment that grabs casual voters by the lapels and makes them take notice — is likely to alter the landscape in a dramatic way.

From a purely historical perspective it’s hard to argue with Isenstadt’s premise.  Nevertheless, the paralyzed government that we are all experiencing today is ahistorical and I believe that it’s very possible that it won’t take a government shutdown or debt default to motivate Democratic voters to put Republicans out of their misery.  The numbers are there to do it [just] and I believe the will is there as well.  Nevertheless, it’s an all uphill battle all the way . . . but wasn’t that what they were all saying about Obama being re-elected not so long ago?

Ed Kilgore of The Democratic Strategist puts it this way:

While historical precedent has been a dependable factor to consider in predicting House election outcomes, there are exceptional elections that bust precedents. Also, the Republican party is more divided than it has been in many decades, and it could get a lot worse. Dems are more united than in a long time, and we can build our edge while Republicans work through their internecine squabbles.

Much was made by leading Republicans, ahead of the 2012 presidential election, about the electorate’s Obama-weariness over unkept promises, congressional gridlock and a slow economic recovery.  Those who counted heavily on those factors to grease Mitt Romney’s way to the White House seriously underestimated Obama supporters’ ability to understand the political dynamics affecting the administration’s ability to deliver on campaign promises. 

They were also completely out of touch with where Americans’ hearts truly lie on a whole lexicon of social policy issues—income inequality, marriage equality, racism, education, women’s rights and women’s health issues, youth and the elderly.  The Republican Party Platform, adopted last year, is all of the proof any voter needs to be very afraid of what the GOP might do with more power.  I blame a lot of that on epistemic closure and, with the recent RNC tantrum over the media, I don’t see any signs of that changing in the near term.  The Republican Plan for primary debates, ahead of 2016, is to limit the number of debates and sign up friendly moderators in the hope, I suppose, of preventing Republican candidates from screwing the pooch on nationwide television, as they did to such hilarious effect in 2012.  Ironically, it seems to me that off-message candidates will only be more likely to “let their hair down” in front of a friendly moderator.

Furthermore, how do we, the American people, benefit from allowing Republicans to maintain their awful hold on the government?  The Party of “No,” the party of obstruction has completely abdicated its legislative role.  The Speaker of the House won’t sit down with the President, hell, he won’t even allow things to reach a committee or allow debate on the floor.  So why are they there?  When Republicans say “no” these days they are not saying “no, we think we have a better way of doing this—here’s our plan” they just say no.  They are no longer even able to pass their own legislation.

One of the reasons that House Republicans simply cannot govern, right now, is because some of them owe their offices to a hard core of intransigent, existentially-challenged, anti-government idealogues who provided them with an electoral “wave” when there was no other way to win.  Now career politicians must either kill or be killed by the invaders and we all are forced to sit on the sidelines and wait for this unholy war to play out while our economy, infrastructure, educational system, social fabric and even national defense languish.

These are the reasons that I respectfully disagree with Alex Isenstadt.  Barack Obama ran on a promise of Hope and Change and, despite the American growing pains that his election set off, I believe that there is still a whole lot of that Hope out there.  I, like many Democrats went through a period of frustration with Obama because I wanted my Hope and Change, Now! thank you.  I’m old enough to know better.

My discussions with local Democrats lead me to believe that there is growing resolution to try, and try hard, to take back control of the situation in the House, and hold on to the Senate and give the man two good years to work on his legacy.  In other words, I feel that Democrats have been experiencing that “powerful jolt — a moment that grabs casual voters by the lapels and makes them take notice” that Mr. Isenstadt mentioned. 

I would even venture a guess that some Republicans and Independents have experienced that “powerful jolt” and might opt for a change.  The real wild card is how many Republicans will primary out a viable RINO incumbent for a less-electable extremist. 

There is something that we can do, come the fall of 2014, that could make the Republican Wave of 2010 look like a blip.

Just do it.  Just vote, people!

Posted by Bette Noir on 08/22/13 at 10:46 AM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsBarack ObamaElection '14

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Well, it is an uphill battle, but more importantly it’s a battle of hundreds of districts.  The recent bout of gerrymandering gave the GOP a House edge even though their vote total was substantially lower than that of the Democratic Party candidates.  In Virginia, Ohio, Texas, etc. we see Democratic candidates elected with 80 plus percent of the vote, and Republican candidates elected with 55 - 60 percent.  These gerrymandered districts may occasionally shift, but not as often as whole states in Pesidential elections.  And, what the Democratic Party benefitted from in 2012 was a GOP willing to shoot itself in the foot by accident, and then try to rectify the problem by taking really, really careful aim at the other foot before pulling the trigger ... and you can’t count on that in the dozens of districts where it would be necessary to change the balance in the House overall.

Yes, just vote!  And GOTV.  Anyone who sits on their hands over purity issues deserves just what we will get if the rethugs retain their headlock on the House.

Yes, please. Strategically shutting down government, like lying about opponents, should continue to be Not the Way Democrats Do it. It could also convince many cynics to stay home, which is how Republicans win.

Fading hopes?  It’s been clear that the GOP Gerrymandered the hell out of any districts that they could back in 2010.  I think the key is to stay engaged… agitate, educate, organize!

Meanwhile, small towns in Texas are losing their water supply to fracking and drought, and the aging bigots are slowly dying off.  There’s certainly hope.

Hi Bette,
I’m pleased to see that you stubbornly hang on to your optimism.  My view is that it is about 50-50.  A huge amount of charisma has gone out of the Kenyan’s balloon with the independents. At the same time I agree that a shutdown of government creates an unpredictable outcome.

Interestingly, you may remember the story or the myth of Pandora’s box. When it was opened everything that was bad for the world flew out.

All the Spites of mankind: old age, illness, insanity, lust, greed, jealousy and all the rest.

Mankind was free of all of the Spites before the box was opened, and had the box remained closed, we would never have been bothered by them and life would have been perfect.

Naturally, there was never really a chance that it could remain sealed forever.

One of the lesser-known facts about Pandora’s box was that Hope was one of the Spites. This is because Hope always lied, and, true to form, after its release it deceived mankind into believing the other spites could be overcome.

They could not be overcome, of course, but thinking that they could made it all seem more bearable.


Hi Formerly Amherst,
I’m pleased to see that you stubbornly hang on to your cynicism.


Yeah, I always base my entire worldview and voting decisions on ancient Greek mythology. 

Oh wait, maybe I don’t and I actually use logic and rational assessment of data to make my choices.  Funny what 2,000 years of human achievement will do for the species.

Out-worn heart, in a time out-worn,   
Come clear of the nets of wrong and right;   
Laugh, heart, again in the gray twilight,   
Sigh, heart, again in the dew of the morn.   
Your mother Eire is always young,       
Dew ever shining and twilight gray;   
Though hope fall from you and love decay,   
Burning in fires of a slanderous tongue.   
Come, heart, where hill is heaped upon hill:   
For there the mystical brotherhood    
Of sun and moon and hollow and wood  
And river and stream work out their will;   
And God stands winding His lonely horn,   
And time and the world are ever in flight;   
And love is less kind than the gray twilight,   
And hope is less dear than the dew of the morn.   

—Into the Twilight by W.B. Yeats, a prophet of our time

It isn’t cynicism Bette, so much as it is that superior attitude of the world-weary and time-worn, so sad that the plebs are still just rough beasts and not demi-gods such as himself.

The good are wavering, while the worst prevail.

Early draft of The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats, a Poet of a bygone time

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