Without more job creation, more incumbent politicians will lose theirs

by: Mike Lux

Mon May 10, 2010 at 18:25

A lot of big stories percolating out there. The oil spill continues to be an unmitigated disaster. Elena Kagan is Obama's Supreme Court nominee, and the Republicans are upset that she is against slavery (you gotta love these guys' historical consistency, not to mention their political bravery. I mean, who else has the guts these days to be pro-slavery). The financial reform bill goes into its second week of debate, with tons of interesting amendment fights yet to come. No one can figure out if the Greek/Euro crisis is really beginning to be solved or whether the contagion will start spreading. The war in Afghanistan is back in the news with  big talks scheduled for the next couple of days.

With all this going on, no one is noticing the political goings-on in the quiet little state of Utah over the weekend. Trust me, though: it's big news. Robert Bennett won't be on the Republican primary ballot. And Jim Matheson will be having a primary. Incumbents of all parties, all political persuasions, all  regions and states are in trouble.

Even a lot of people who follow politics closely haven't heard of these two incumbent elected officials from Utah. Neither one of them is especially visible outside of their small, out-of-the-way state. Neither of them is in a major leadership role in Congress, or has played a central role on the biggest issues in recent years. Neither has been on the national political radar screen for being in a competitive re-election race in recent years.

One of them is a conservative Republican Senator, one is a moderate Democratic House member. They both got very unpleasant news via their parties' respective weekend conventions. Bennett, after voting as a loyal conservative Republican Senator for 18 years, got summarily dumped from the primary ballot. He not only wasn't popular enough among Republican activists to get first place in the voting, he wasn't popular enough to get second place, either, so he's out. Keep in mind when pondering this that Bennett is as solidly and loyally conservative a Senator as there is. He didn't hug Barack Obama, or support him- or even flirt with supporting him- on the stimulus bill, the health care bill, or anything else. Bennett is a 98%, true to the bone conservative. But that wasn't enough to protect him from the insurgent uprising in his party.

Matheson is more of a moderate. He has taken more votes to upset the liberal base, but in Utah that base isn't so huge, and he has never had anyone threaten a primary before. To the entire party establishment's great surprise, he failed to get 60% of his convention vote and now finds himself in a primary fight.

One of them is a conservative Republican  who has done nothing serious to tick off his base. One of them is a moderate Democrat in a state where there aren't that many progressive base Democrats to tick off. But they both find themselves in trouble. Just like Gov. Crist starting his campaign for Senate as the overwhelming favorite and now is bounced out of the Republican primary, just as Arlen Specter- who has been Senator for a very long time and whose party switching act won him the fervent support of Obama, Biden, Gov. Rendell, and every other establishment politician- is suddenly trailing insurgent challenger Joe Sestak in the polls. Just as Chuck Grassley in Iowa has had a 75% approval rating for the last 30 years, and is now in the 40s

Incumbents in both parties are in trouble for one simple reason: the jobs aren't coming back and the perception among voters is that the incumbents aren't doing anything about it. While there are some encouraging signs on the economy, the official unemployment rate went up to 9.9% last week, and if you add in everything that you should (including farm and self-employed workers, those too discouraged to look for jobs, those who are part-time by necessity not choice) the real unemployment rate is 18.9% and went up by .2% last month. As long as the jobs picture is that weak, the economy overall is very weak too. Very few people are feeling the effects of the GDP growth that has elites proclaiming an improving economy. Check out this new ad by a coalition of unemployed workers organized by the Machinists Union: it isn't supporting or opposing any particular politician or party, it just makes clear that those without jobs are pissed.

Most working families in this country are still hurting, and are still scared there are more economic problems yet to come. They don't think either party cares about them or is fighting for them. As long as that is the case, incumbents of both parties are going to keep getting into political trouble.

Mike Lux :: Without more job creation, more incumbent politicians will lose theirs

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I don't ordinarily quote Churchill, (4.00 / 1)
but what he said about this not being the end, nor the beginning of the end, but perhaps the end of the beginning, seems applicable here. I think you're right, Mike, that there are signs of genuine political pressure building not only around issues of economic inequality, but other issues as well. We're definitely seeing early signs of new coalitions, with new ways of talking about the dilemmas that progressives have long since identified as priorities.

What might come of it is surely still in doubt, but like you, I have the sense that this time, such coalitions won't be so easily co-opted. As events overtake the power brokers of both parties, it may be that they're finally beginning to realize the extent to which they've overestimated their own invulnerability. Certainly they're beginning to sound a bit incoherent, even to people who don't read the political tea leaves as closely as we do.

I say, let's scare the SOBs a little more. Who knows, there may actually come a day when they're willing to sit down and talk to us, rather than standing on a dais backed by a thousand American flags and lying to us through their thousand-watt bullhorns.

Lincoln ended slavery (4.00 / 1)
you gotta love these guys' historical consistency, not to mention their political bravery. I mean, who else has the guts these days to be pro-slavery

The Republican party was founded to end slavery, while Democratic doughface presidents capitulated to southern slave interests.

I think it's sad that a political party, born in the thoughtful, articulate morality of Abraham Lincoln, and advancing at times honest progressive causes, has to die in the shrieking demagoguery of Glenn Beck.  

I guess after the autopsy is finished, we can decide as a nation whether they contributed more than they corrupted.

Pace of change (4.00 / 1)
We've already changed out 14 Senate seats since the last election and the primaries aren't over.  Some of the seats have changed twice (e.g. Kennedy to Kirk to Scott Brown, Biden to Kaufman to Open; all shown as one turnover).  By my count, since election 2008, the Senate will be getting less experienced with 260 years of service departing led by Teddy Kennedy's 46 years and Joe Biden's 36.  House departures are around 40 and still growing.  That's 10-12 higher than the last two cycles.

The elite won't deal with the reality of the situation.  Ever since Reagan changed the unemployment figures, the US substantially under counts unemployment.  What makes this worse, of course, is that some of it is long term.  When unemployment lasts a year or even two or three all he** breaks lose.  Houses start sliding into foreclosure.  Maintenance goes down the tubes.  

Ian Welsh has been predicting that this is as good as it gets and come the last quarter of the year we are heading to another downturn.  It makes sense.  The ripple effect from state and local government cutbacks will be hitting.  The stimulus money lasted two years but it will be coming to an end.  No Census.  Business has been reluctant to spend and this little surge is driven by consumers.

As you say, Mike, this is not good enough.  A week or two ago I saw a headline saying that government policymakers are worried about inflation.  WTF.  The stock market looks rigged.  The housing market is static at best.  During the 1930s, we got Social Security, unemployment insurance, regulation of the banks and Wall Street, infrastructure construction, FDIC and substantial job creation.  Real unemployment in 1933 was 24.9% and by 1934 it fell to 21.7%.  There is no such improvement this year.  There is no such urgency about anyone but the elite.

You hit the nail on the head, Mike.


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