Monday, November 08, 2010


Headlines right now:

Drive to Repeal 'Don't Ask' Policy All but Lost for Now (Wall Street Journal)

GOP Takeover In The House May Spell Doom For Obama's Environmental Policies (Talking Points Memo)

And, from The Economist (hat tip: Balloon Juice), I see that the rejection of federal funding for high-speed rail by current and soon-to-be Republican governors is going to put that funding back in the pool for other states ... unless it doesn't:

It will be interesting to see whether the Obama administration can convince the lame-duck Democratic congress to reassign the money -- or whether the GOP-run House will try to cancel the spending entirely next year.

On the eve of the midterms, Rachel Maddow made a powerful argument for Democrats, listing a lot of achievements. But this was her point:

The Democratic Party has had control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives for the last 21 months.... When they won those last two elections and they took control of the two branches of government that are subject to partisan control in our country, they could have governed in a way that was about accumulating political capital with the primary goal of winning the next election. They could have governed in constant campaign mode. Or they could have governed in a way that was about using their political capital, not accumulating more of it, about spending the political capital they had to get a legislative agenda done, to tackle big, complex, longstanding problems that had languished. The record of legislative achievement of the last 21 months was not designed to win the midterm elections and it will not win the midterm elections. The pendulum will swing back toward the Republicans and we'll go back to divided government again. The legislative agenda of the last 21 months was policy, not politics. It was designed to get stuff done for the country. And in that sense, it's an investment in long-term political reward, not short-term political reward, as Democrats expect after a list of accomplishments like this to be judged as the party that took on problems when it had the chance, even if they had to pay a short-term political price.

But it's not about them paying a political price. It's about us paying the price as a country.

Right now, even the moderate, incremental ambitions of the White House and congressional Democrats are going to be stymied for two years. And then, given the strong probability that the economy is going to be as bad as it is now or even worse (partly because of Republican intransigence), we as a nation are going to punish the president's party again and elect an all-GOP federal government. Now, since we're probably in a lost economic decade, that president will probably be deemed a failure, too. But he or she will control policy until January 20, 2017, and will hold the veto pen until that date even if we have another party-switching wave election in 2014.

And he or she will be, among other things, a homophobe and a climate-change denialist. No one who isn't will be able to win the Republican nomination in 2012.

So, yeah, DADT repeal is off the table -- until 2017 at the earliest. A change to our environmental approach is off the table -- until 2017 at the earliest. High-speed rail is off the table -- until 2017 at the earliest.

This is why Democrats shouldn't have spent all their political capital. This is why they shouldn't have assumed they didn't need to build up more. This is why even just seeming to feel America's economic pain was necessary, instead of a year-long monomaniacal pursuit of health care reform.

Because all that tackling of big, complex, longstanding problems? It's over -- for the next six years.

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