Wednesday, November 03, 2010


In a post at Firedoglake (aso republished as a slideshow at the Huffington Post), Jane Hamsher lists the "Top 10 Surprise Losers of Election Night."

Here, we're told, is Loser #5:

5. Partisan Politics

The election results show that the bonds that tie voters to parties are getting ever weaker, and that the electorate understands the notion of empowering an opposition party to stop an agenda they do not believe is making things better. The idea that the GOP has redeemed themselves in the eyes of the public over the past two years since the rout of 2008 is ludicrous -- polling shows that voters have overwhelmingly negative opinions of both parties. Independent voters continue to be the fastest growing constituency in the electorate, and they swung from Democrats in 2008 to Republicans in 2010. Just as the 2008 vote was a referendum by independents against George Bush, so this one was a referendum against Obama.

Yes, all that is true, but how the hell does it translate into a big loss for "partisan politics"?

The GOP scored big victories by engaging in hyper-partisan politics. Democrats weren't just failing to deliver on the economy, the message went -- they were treasonous, evil, power-mad, communist, fascist, anti-colonial, and elitist. They're the most dangerous Americans who've ever lived. Left unchecked, they threatened to destroy America as it has existed for two centuries plus. (And oh yeah -- Republicans in recent years had been kinda disappointing as well.)

The fact that this staggeringly partisan message succeeded with quite a few swing voters, including some who voted for Obama and the Democrats in 2008, is no more a sign that partisan politics was discredited yesterday than the purging of bulimics after a binge is a sign that their calorie intake is actually pretty reasonable.

Is there going to be another pendulum swing to the Democrats sometime in the next few election cycles? Probably -- and if it's true to form, it'll involve a charismatic Democratic "post-partisan" "healer" (see: Obama '08, Clinton '92, Carter '76) who will then be relentlessly demonized by ... well, Republican partisans.

At which time we'll have another wave of relentless, angry partisanship, almost surely culminating in big congressional gains for the GOP (see: 1980, 1994, 2010) and, ultimately, a jaw-droppingly right-wing president (see: Reagan, Bush the Younger, Insert 2012 Winner Here).

The fact that swing voters ride the pendulum every time it swings may seem to Hamsher like a sign that partisanship took a hit yesterday. It doesn't look that way to me.

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