- So, now that the Republicans have the House, what will they do? Beholden to the special corporate interests who poured millions into races across the country, they are pledging to shrink the size of government and cut spending. But more than that, their mandate is to stop Obama from doing anything. -
By Adele M. Stan at AlterNet
Now that Democrats have lost the House, pundits will likely declare a mandate for a right-wing agenda. Don't believe a word of it. What we witnessed tonight was a protest vote by an angry sector of the electorate, encouraged by hundreds of millions in spending by corporate-funded groups, that has attributed its falling fortunes to a cultural change in Washington. People who are not like them are running things in Washington, and everything really sucks.
The final results of the 2010 mid-term elections have yet to be tallied, but progressives have already begun their soul-searching.
Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Lynne Woolsey, congresswoman from California, told Pacifica News Radio that the Democrats lost the House because "we weren't bold enough." If they had started off with a jobs bill, Woolsey said, their position would be different tonight. And, Woolsey said, "We could have done a much better job of letting people know what we had accomplished."
At an election-night event broadcast by Free Speech TV at a progressive gathering-place in Washington, D.C., longtime labor activist Bill Fletcher complained that progressives left the right a wide opening when, after the election, the leaders who had put together the coalition that elected President Barack Obama sent those activists "back to the barracks."
So, now that the Republicans have the House, what will they do? Beholden to the special corporate interests who poured millions into races across the country, they are pledging to shrink the size of government and cut spending. But more than that, their mandate is to stop Obama from doing anything.
At a Washington, D.C., conference sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation in August, foundation President Tim Phillips told a room full of activists that job one was the repeal of "Obamacare". It's not a goal they are likely to achieve in the next congressional session, Phillips said, but they can pass it in the House, attach repeal amendments to Senate bills, and force Obama to veto the repeal of health-care reform "two or three times" before the session concludes. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation was founded and is chaired by David Koch, heir to the fortunes of Koch Industries.
If enough Tea Party-branded candidates are seated in the Senate -- especially those indebted to the Senate Conservatives Fund PAC led by Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina -- the Senate will likely devolve to a state of complete gridlock, making it impossible to get anything done. Heck, given the message sent to the leadership of the G.O.P. establishment with the spate of primary challenges its candidates faces at the hands of DeMint and his allies, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell might just opt for DeMint's gridlock agenda whether or not the South Carolinian gets to seat the majority of his Tea Party team. After all, two new senators have won tonight whose candidacies were launched in direct challenge to McConnell's leadership.
Marco Rubio's race in Florida, and Rand Paul's in McConnell's home state of Kentucky stand as repudiations of McConnell's control of the Senate agenda. In both states, he had endorsed other candidates -- and Rubio's challenge forced Gov. Charlie Crist, McConnell's pick, right out of the Republican Party. In Wisconsin, DeMint's candidate, millionaire Rob Johnson, vanquished three-term Sen. Russell Feingold, with the help of ferocious organizing by Americans For Prosperity, which also sponsored a mailing to Wisconsin voters in Democratic districts that was part of a voter-suppression scheme.
But not all of DeMint's team won. He threw in with Sharron Angle in Nevada -- but not until she won her primary against a G.O.P. establishment candidate -- for the potential prize of defeating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who ultimately prevailed in a hotly contested race that was flooded with money from outside groups. And Christine O'Donnell, the colorful Tea Party candidate in Delaware, went down to defeat, as expected.
Some are saying that after a couple of years of gridlock, the American people will tire of the G.O.P., just as they did when Newt Gingrich shut down the government after his party's 1994 rout of congressional Democrats in those mid-term races.
But things are different now, thanks to Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that allows outside groups to spend unlimited amounts of cash to influence the outcomes of elections. That's a wall of fire for community organizers to walk through.
Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.