The 2010 midterm elections are still four months away, but the drama has already kicked into high gear. The seemingly settled conventional wisdom would have us believe the Democrats are running for their lives, a perception that is reinforced by any number of polls indicating there are enough seats in play for the GOP to potentially retake majority control in the House. The Senate appears safe for the Democrats, according to these polls, but four months is a long time.
The idea that the GOP could take back the House was underscored on Sunday by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, who went on "Meet The Press" and said, yeah, it could happen. House Democrats rose up in high dudgeon after Gibbs' remarks, not so much to say he was wrong but to say, hey guy, you're really not helping.
Before getting into how ridiculous it is that the Democrats could be in position to lose the House, it needs to be said that I don't believe it is going to happen. The Republican Party has become a preposterous farce, dominated by the likes of Sarah Palin and Michael Steele. The Tea Party movement is basically nothing more than a Trojan Horse filled with hard-core GOP base members whose views on everything from religion to the constitution to freedom of choice is not shared by roughly 75% of the general population.
They are the Taliban of American Christianity, and the only reason they have gotten so much ink is because the national press corps likes to take the easy way out whenever possible. Add to this the fact that the Tea Party has shot the GOP in the foot several times already by running off electable Republicans and nominating the cast from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.
I genuinely believe the House and Senate are safe for the Democrats, if only marginally so, but I've been wrong before, and if the loss of majority control does indeed come to pass, it will stand in my mind as one of the grander indictments against the American voter to come down the pike in a long, long while. Is it that easy to forget what it was like when these yahoos were running the show? It wasn't so long ago, and it was so unbelievably bad that you'd think the memory would linger.
If people need a reminder, one is readily available. We are, of course, in the middle of a gut-twisting recession that a lot of smart people believe is about to get worse again. The response of the GOP and the far right, of course, is to offer up a repackaged version of trickle-down Reaganomics that would, if enacted, char the economy to cinders. Not to worry, because the very rich would get theirs, but the rest of us would wind up standing in soup lines and selling apples to stay alive.
If people need a specific reminder, they can look to the obnoxious drama that has been unfolding in congress over the last several weeks. Democrats in the Senate have been trying to extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans who desperately need help. Senate Republicans have filibustered the extension of these benefits at every turn, insisting that these benefits be paid for by either tax hikes or spending cuts. This view is shared by virtually every Republican in the Senate.
But wait, there's a solution right in front of them: the bloated, unaffordable Bush-era tax cuts for rich people are about to expire, and the GOP is in a tizzy. Democrats want to keep those tax cuts in place only for people making up to $200,000-$250,000 a year, and dump the tax cuts for anyone making more. This would generate billions in revenue that could pay for, among other things, extending unemployment benefits for Americans who have been screwed out of their jobs and homes by Bush-era economic policies.
But no, says the GOP, we have to keep those tax cuts as they are. Their desire to make sure unemployment benefits are paid for does not extend to making sure these Bushian tax cuts are paid for. If Senate Republicans get their way, the unemployed will get screwed and the super-wealthy will keep getting pornographically huge slices of revenue we absolutely cannot afford to give them. As it stands, the GOP's filibuster of these benefits is already screwing the people, and if the Republicans were in the majority, well, we've read this script before.
It is an often-heard lament from the Left and a lot of Independents that "Both parties are the same!" In too many instances, the sentiment is all too accurate. Quite often, however, that complaint is a shortcut around actual thinking, and this situation makes that self-evident. One party wants to extend unemployment benefits and the other wants to thwart them. One wants to tax the rich and the other wants to give away the store, again.
I'm no Kool-Aid-drinking Democrat booster, but this couldn't be more clear. If the American people allow the GOP back into power despite all the evidence of how dangerous and dumb they are, I'm going to have to think seriously about giving up on politics. If the beyond-terrible GOP option seems valid to a majority of people after everything we’ve been through, if voters who know better can’t find the motivation to pull the lever and keep the worst from happening, well, then Mencken was right: we get what we deserve.