I know that everyone is waiting breathlessly for my reaction to the elections, so without further ado, here it is, Roman-Emperor-At-The-Arena style.
Republicans Take the House: Thumbs Up. Divided government generally means smaller and less powerful government. Time spent squabbling generally means less time spent finding inventive ways to spend our money or micromanage our lives. The strong Republican victory in the House means that the the growth of government and government spending of the last two years (and, for that matter, the last 10 years) will slow. Good.
Republicans Fail To Take the Senate: Meh. Taking the House was enough to derail the current administration's agenda. Giving them the Senate as well would probably have just encouraged Republicans to wallow in power rather than work to cut back government.
Chances of the Republicans "Getting It" About Small Economic-Sector Government: Thumbs Up. The conventional wisdom everyone is spouting is that Republicans understand this is not a mandate but a "second chance", a message about voters wanting smaller government. I'm not sure voters can be said to want that, or anything other than spleen-venting. But there's a decent chance that the Republicans will see this as an opportunity to reform the bad habits they displayed for the last ten years. I see three possibilities. Possibility One: Republicans will work effectively and sincerely towards lower spending and smaller government, and will even ease up on the hog-at-the-trough earmarks. In other words, Republicans will take parts of the Tea Party message to heart, and the Tea Party elements, once in government, will actually live up to their rhetoric. Result: some reduction in the growth of spending and government power in the economic sector. Possibility Two: a bloody internecine fight among traditional Republicans and Tea Party Republicans. Result: more public discourse about cutting government, plus tremendous pass-the-popcorn schadenfreude entertainment. Possibility Three: Republicans, old-school and Tea Party, act like politicians always have and head straight to the trough and grow government to promote their own power. Result: more voter upheaval, depending upon the economy.
Chance of the Republicans "Getting It" About Small Non-Economic-Sector Government: Thumbs Down. There is no good indication that Republicans, whether traditional or Tea Party, grasp — or care — that military adventurism, the post-9/11 Security State, the War on Drugs, or government enforcement of conservative social agendas all tend to grow government power and cost lost of money. You dumb, hypocritical motherfuckers.
Chance of Democrats "Getting It": Don't make me laugh.
Impact on Obama: Meh. Obama will be less able to pursue a bigger-government, bigger-spending agenda. That's good. On the other hand, he'll be even more likely to be driven by feckless reactions to Fox News narratives rather than actually governing. That's bad to the extent I like some elements of his agenda in the social realm.
Chance of Civility and Bipartisan Cooperation: Meh: By specifically targeting moderate and conservative Democrats, Republicans have effectively trained Democrats not to move right or cooperate with Republicans. Or they would have, if Democrats were susceptible to training. On the other hand, cooperation is overrated. Cooperation on growth of government is a bad thing.
Impact on 2012: Meh. Too early to tell. I don't know. And neither do you.
Refutation of Stunt Nominating: Thumbs Up O'Donnell, Angle, and (maybe) Miller lost. Look, I understand the notion of nominating freaks to send the message "you people in power are so awful that we're going to send you a big 'fuck you' with this crazy idjit, and we're still going to win." But quality matters. O'Donnell, Angle, and Miller were not quality. It's not because they were Tea Partiers or small-government advocates. It's because they had questionable backgrounds and couldn't tell the difference between candor and Tourette Syndrome. The Republicans would likely have the Senate now if they had been able to dig up small-government advocates who didn't exude crazy.
Defeat of California Proposition 19: Thumbs Down. Bummer. The War on Drugs is a failure, and the criminalization of marijuana is one of its most ludicrously wasteful fronts. The continuation of mindless "Just Say No" by both parties demonstrates that most small government advocates are actually better described as "small government of the type I don't like, big government of the type I like" advocates. Moreover, the defeat serves to embolden Holden and the central government to continue to meddle in local issues. But let's look in context: it would have been unimaginable a generation ago for a general decriminalization initiative to come this close to winning. The tide is turning. Plus, this initiative was a lousy vehicle thanks to its ham-fisted attempt to turn stoners into a protected class. Decriminalization should not involve telling businesses that they have to tolerate impaired people on the job unless they are willing to spend hundreds of thousands to navigate our failed legal system in order to fire Smokey McBudfan.
California Bucks The Trend: Thumbs Down. Jerry Brown? Barbara Boxer for six more years? Gross. At least, as of this writing there's a chance that the loathsome Steve Cooley will lose his bid for Attorney General.
Gay Panic: Thumbs Down. Iowans, please.
Safety From Sharia Law: Thumbs Down. Oklahomans took a strong stand against having Sharia law imposed upon them. As far as I can figure, the only way you can have Sharia law imposed on you is if at some point you consented contractually to having it imposed on you. Meanwhile, my plaintiff-side clients still routinely get binding arbitration imposed on them, which makes Sharia law look like an appearance before Judge Harry of Night Court. Maybe the idea is you can contract away your right to anything resembling due process only if it's in front of irritable retired judges in really expensive office suits, not if it involves weird robes and ululating and stuff.
Defeat of Russ Feingold: I totally understand how people can dislike Feingold for being a tax-and-spend liberal. I totally understand why people can dislike him for his cooperation with McCain to violate the First Amendment by suppressing political speech. But, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, I like my beer cold, my Tivo loud, and my Democrats FLAMING. Democrats ought to distinguish themselves from Republicans by supporting the rights of the accused, opposing military adventurism, and resisting the encroachment of the post-9/11 security state. If they don't, they are just shitty second-rate Republicans with less of a pretense of fiscal responsibility. In sharp contrast to most Democrats — who have pretty much uselessly pandered to "tough on crime" rhetoric for a generation, rolled over on war issues, and trampled each other to look Tougher On Terrorism — Feingold actually stood up for (non-First-Amendment) civil liberties. It's a shame that he loses while faux-Democrats like Boxer remain.
Edited to add: Diversity: Thumbs Up. More women governors. And congratulations to the first person of color to be Speaker of the House.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017