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The midterms were a referendum on Obama from the D base, and that's why the Ds lost

Exit polling from CBS:

The Democratic Base Stayed Home
Core Democratic groups stayed away in droves Tuesday, costing Democratic House candidates dearly at the polls.

Hispanics, African Americans, union members and young people were among the many core Democratic groups that turned out in large numbers in the 2008 elections, propelling Mr. Obama and Democratic House candidates to sizable victories. In 2010, turnout among these groups dropped off substantially, even below their previous midterm levels.

In short, everybody that Obama threw under the bus. Hispanics? No immigration reform and increased deportations. African Americans? Horrific unemployment and continued jailing under the War on Drugs. Union members? No card check and the HCR sellout. Young people? Horrific unemployment again, along with the big "Fuck you" on issues like gays and marijuana legalization. The numbers:

Voters under the age of 30 comprised 18 percent of the electorate in 2008 and nearly 13 percent in 2006 but only made up 11 percent of the electorate in 2010. The share of voters from union households dropped from 23 percent in 2006 and 21 percent in 2008 to 17 percent in 2010. African Americans made up 13 percent of the electorate in 2008 but fell to 10 percent in 2010. Such apathy likely cost the Democrats House seats as voters in each of these groups cast ballots for Democratic House candidates by at least 15 point margins.

Ian's right: "The left must be seen to repudiate Obama, and they must be seen to take him down. " What this election shows is that the votes are there to do that.

Adding... I'm not taking account of Obama losing independents, so I'm not sure the referendum is national, or that there was a single referendum. But in the D party, there surely was a referendum, and Obama and his faction lost. Badly.

NOTE CBS, it's not "apathy." It's protest. See here for more. Via The Confluence.

UPDATE The Blue Dogs lose, too.

UPDATE Anglachel:

Yes. It is Obama's fault. He is the leader of the party and he has squandered the best political opportunity the Democrats have had probably since LBJ. He is a complete, abject failure as a strategist, his administration is in the pocket of Wall Street, and he has managed to get his pathetic, milquetoast bit of Republican economics branded "Socialism".

I half expect him to switch parties to show how bi-partisan and cooperative he can be.

Ouch. Unless Obama's an R mole. If all you had to go by was behavior...

UPDATE Krugman:

What actually happened, of course, was that Obama failed to do enough to boost the economy, plus totally failing to tap into populist outrage at Wall Street. And now we’re in the trap I worried about from the beginning: by failing to do enough when he had political capital, he lost that capital, and now we’re stuck.

But he did have help in getting it wrong: at every stage there was a faction of Democrats standing in the way of strong action, demanding that Obama do less, avoid spending money, and so on. In so doing, they shot themselves in the face: half of the Blue Dogs lost their seats.

And what are those who are left demanding? Why, that Obama move to the center.

UPDATE Kevin Drum:

Lots of Democrats, including me, have been pointing out that structural factors alone predicted a 45-seat loss in the House this year. In other words, the bulk of the expected Democratic losses weren't due to healthcare reform or Obama's remoteness or liberal overreach or anything like that. It was baked into the cake all along.

But the model I wrote about, which comes from Douglas Hibbs, only predicted a 45-seat loss, and it looks like Dems are likely to lose at least 60 seats. That means Democrats underperformed the Hibbs model by 15 seats or so, which is a record for them. (See chart below.) They've underperformed by ten seats a couple of times in the postwar era, but never by more than that. So at the same time that it's correct to blame most of their losses on structural factors, it's also correct that this was something of a historically bad result. I think it might be fair to say that the economy is so epically bad that Hibbs's model might not account for it entirely, but that's mostly special pleading. It really does look like there's a fair amount of scope to place a lot of the blame for tonight's Democratic debacle on both tactical and policy missteps.

UPDATE Athenae:

You had majorities. And I KNOW, okay, but all America sees is that you had majorities and you wasted them. Because that's what the GOP told them, and you said, "buh buh buh" and couldn't point to anything you did right, not even with the unwashed hippies holding your arm up for you. You had majorities, and you had Harry Reid, refusing to be mean to Republicans by shoving stuff through. You had majorities, and you had Barack Obama acting like he was already an ex-president and could be gracious and social with these pricks. You had majorities, used them to do some stuff, and then sat back and acted like we should be grateful when we can fucking count.

We can fucking count, out here. We know what 51 means. We know what 257 means. We're not morons. And all the procedural whatsit you argue today, about ConservaDems and Blue Dogs, doesn't mean shit. You had it, and we worked hard to give it to you, and we see you calling things impossible which are just very hard, and we get fucking annoyed, because we don't get to get away with that shit. Not at our jobs and not in our lives. ...

You had majorities. You had power and you told us you were powerless. Why would anyone reward that with more power? Why would anyone think that's a good idea?

UPDATE Glenn Greenwald:

The number of Obama followers writing to me on Twitter and elsewhere telling me that left-wing critics of the President are the primary cause of last night's outcome -- rather than massive economic suffering and the actions of their Leader -- is even more than I expected. Bizarrely, they actually seem to have convinced themselves of this; I suppose one who is desperate to cling to their leader-love will find any theory that shields him from responsibility. Behold the supreme power of the Professional Left!!

Well... That would make the left power-brokers, right? That's bad why?

UPDATE Lord Eschaton weighs in:

One can spread blame around a lot, but it has been distressing to watch failures of both policy and politics. The policy failure was about the economy and the foreclosure crisis, and the politics was the failure to recognize how deeply this mattered. No matter what people say in polls, nobody cares about the deficit or "spending," they care about whether they have any money. Foreclosures are devastating individuals and communities, and whatever the merits, speeding up small business investment depreciation just doesn't provide an adequate message. Obama said he wants to turn the economy around to fix the foreclosure crisis, but he has many more tools at his disposal to deal with the foreclosure crisis than he does for the economy generally, absent help from Congress.

I don't know how politicians lacked the self-preservation skills to recognize that if they failed to deliver on the economy they would fail, but that's what happened.

K Street awaits!

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wiggles's picture
Submitted by wiggles on

Oddly, lambert, Anglachel, Krugman, Drum, Athenae, Greenwald, and Eschaton forgot to mention them too. Despite the fact that women make up the largest block of progressive voters and have had several of their rights chipped away in recent years and in HCR.

Submitted by lambert on

It's easy to miss what's staringly obvious when in reactive mode, and a lot of blogging is reactive. So, if CBS suppresses something, we react to what they write, and not to what they don't write, and don't step back and say "Wait a minute...." Sorry.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

In WA state there were three important ballot measures. One was to require 2/3 vote to raise any taxes (this is a HUGE reason CA is so fucked); one was the privatize public pensions; and the last was to tax incomes over $200,000 to pay for things like schools. Two of the three went the wrong way: the 2/3 vote and 1098, the increase in taxes of the wealthy. That bodes really, really poorly for WA state.

My off the cuff, having paid little attention to the minutia of the campaigns...

No one wants to give state pensions over to Wall Street--not even conservatives these days--so its no surprise that one failed handily. I'll note that the commercial against this had AIG all over it so it seems to have been pretty effective. I think its pretty safe to say that its going to be a hard sell to privatize S.S. here in WA state.

The 2/3 vote for taxes is nothing new, in WA state. It was passed a few years ago and then repealed. I don't think people understand how much this can fuck up a state. I don't recall seeing *any* commercials on this or hearing anybody talk about it. On the surface it sounds good, but there are about 30% of people who will be against any tax, even a penny to save the lives of little old ladies. What happens all the time in CA is that the GOP stymies the budget process by a single vote even though Dems have 60%, but not 66%. In CA we tried to get the supermajority vote down to 55% instead of 2/3 but we lost that battle and CA ended up fucked. (If you remember any of my comments and posts in the past you'll know that I blame Dems for the problems in CA very much.)

The one that worries me most, however is 1098. This one is failing miserably, almost 2 to 1. I know that 66% of the people in WA state *do not* make over $200,000 so a lot of people who would not be affected voted against it. Why? Are we headed down a dangerous, conservative era? Maybe. It might also be lack of information and/or the general anti-D/anti-O sentiment, or perhaps a general lack of faith in government. I saw a commercial saying that this measure could create a state income tax for everyone in the future. Since WA doesn't currently have a state income tax, I can see how that would be scary. I know people who are in their mid-30s making less money at their new jobs (since they previously got laid off) now than they did when they were 20. Maybe its just general fear of having to part with their much smaller income, an income that can barely sustain. I don't know, but this is troubling.

michaelwb's picture
Submitted by michaelwb on

The one that worries me most, however is 1098. This one is failing miserably, almost 2 to 1. I know that 66% of the people in WA state *do not* make over $200,000 so a lot of people who would not be affected voted against it.

I see what you're saying, but look at this way.

The population of Washington State is 6,664,195

The measure had 940,970 voting against

That's just 14%.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

Not all WA residents are of legal voting age so the 6.6 million is a bogus number. The 2008 estimate for voting age people in WA is more like 5 million. The number of registered voters is closer to 3.6 million. I'm of the view that registered voters overall are a good sample of the population as a whole, definitely much better than actual and likely voters. So I think you can about double your 14% number when it comes to registered voters, which as I mentioned is a reasonable approximation of the population as a whole. (Keep in mind that many ballots still need to be cast.) Still, as you suggest, not necessarily the worst result

What's troubling is that Patty Murray outperforms 1098 by about 230,000 votes. As of now (votes will still be counted over the next couple weeks given WA state voting procedures) more people voted on 1098 than they did for the state wide Senate race (as of now, by about 4,000). So over 30% of Democrat Patty Murray's voters voted against 1098. No downplaying of the participation levels hides that. Now, as I mentioned initially, this could be a result of a lot of ignorance rather than some conservative trend, but we can't downplay the numbers on this.

NOTE: I can easily link to the source sites for my numbers above, but I think people need to learn how to use Google better, as using the total population number indicates...

jjmtacoma's picture
Submitted by jjmtacoma on

http://vote.wa.gov/Elections/WEI/VoterTu...

The turnout yesterday was just over 40% of registered voters so far - mail-in ballots could still be showing up.

The totally unscientific feedback I received on 1098 was fear of having the bottom dollar amount lowered to include everyone in the income tax in 2 years time. (I put my "plan" out on TC...)

I don't agree, I think having an income tax for the state is the best way to ensure the poor are not carrying an unfair tax burden. I would also vote for an initiative that would lower our sales tax and implement an income tax for everyone - if that option had been on the ballot.

Tony Wikrent's picture
Submitted by Tony Wikrent on

Simon Johnson explains:

The White House Needs Elizabeth Warren, Now More Than Ever

The White House today is under pressure, with insiders asking: After the strong showing of the Republicans in the midterm elections, should the president move to the right or to the left?

This is entirely the wrong way to think about the problem – the administration needs to get beyond its mental framework of early 2009, which led it sadly astray with regard to the financial sector. . . .  

The premise – and central mistake – of the Obama administration in 2009-10 can be summed up in what the president said to leading bankers on that fateful day, March 27, 2009: "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks".

The organizing notion then, provided by Larry Summers and presumably Tim Geithner, was that the "responsible" administration would protect global megabanks from "dangerous" populists, in return for cooperation and better behavior.  This kid gloves strategy turned out to be a very bad bet – not only is it far from best practice with regard to handling failed financial systems (there must be consequences for executives and shareholders, at the very least), but it also allowed banks and their close allies to bounce back to profitability and use that cash (underwritten by the taxpayer) to oppose the administration on financial reform and, according to credible public reports, to funnel large amounts of money into various "populist" anti-administration midterm campaigns.

Compare this Presidential mid-term election with that of Franklin Roosevelt's in 1934. In the Senate, Democrats WON nine MORE seats, giving them MORE control of the Senate. In the House, Democrats WON nine seats, net.   The Republican Party also lost seats to the Progressive Party, and were reduced to holding less than one-fourth of the House for the first time since the GOP was created in the 1850s.

What was the difference between Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama?

Obama saved the financial system, not understanding that the financial system is a predatory burden on the real economy, and that to save the real economy - i.e., create jobs for average Americans - the crooks and psychopaths who run the financial system need to be jailed as quickly as possible.

By contrast, Roosevelt reformed the financial system so completely, that the bastards on Wall Street attempted to put together a military coup.

Back in March, James Galbraith further explained the political dynamic that was inevitable once it became clear that the Obama administration was not only unwilling to oppose the financial predators running the U.S. financial system, but giving them complete political and economic legitimacy:

As things stand, the crucial act of denial in the banking sector, in my view, is that it has not come to grips with the extent of fraud, abuse, and failures of documentation that underlay the crisis in the first place. We know from the evidence that we’ve seen so far that there were massively fraudulent practices in mortgage origination—that these practices were abetted by the underwriters and by the ratings agencies, which declined and even refused to look at the underlying loan documentation.  And I think the failure to confront that problem—which was covered over by the "stress tests" and the revision of market-to-market accounting rules—remains an unresolved issue.

I think it’s fair to say that so far, what we’re looking at here is a failure of the rule of law.  We have lots of reasons to believe that a serious investigation, criminal and civil, would lead to a very large-scale prosecutorial response.  That’d be the case in the largely now-defunct industry of mortgage originators; it would be the case with respect to some of the ratings activity; it would be the case with respect to the accounting behavior of some of the largest investment banks.  Fraud begets fraud. . . .  

And the consequence of that is a second wave of political upheaval in which—this was predictable a year ago, and I wrote something to this effect—every snake-oil salesman in the country would start having a field day.  That’s an understandable reaction.  The first thing that you try, which was based upon sensible principles, but not applied with sufficient force, doesn’t do the full job, then people start cropping up from every corner saying you should have done it my way.  "You should have eliminated the government, you should have cut spending, you should have cut taxes."  And, of course, you’re going to find an audience for any well-organized and well-funded and media-boosted cacophony of that kind.  And that’s what you’re getting, that’s what the Tea Party movement is, for example.

. . . You cannot have a situation in which the broader public, which is not stupid, is getting new information every month—sometimes more frequently than that—which indicates to it that massive wrongdoing was protected and covered up, and continues to be.

skippybkroo's picture
Submitted by skippybkroo on

best round up of truth i've seen today.

i hope you don't mind if i link extravagantly to this piece and its sources.

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