Obama’s faces a rocky road to 2012…

Okay, so John was first to the off on the US mid terms. I’m not sure I agree that the Tea Party failed to define itself as a party (thus providing Dems with a visible target). By which I mean, its intention was never to become another party but rather to break up the long term romance within the Republican party between its Ivy League and corporate elite and the Christian right for the small government, fiscal conservatives.

According to David Frum, the leadership of the House Republicans has now passed over in all but name. And according to Michael Tomasky, Obama’s troubles have only just begun when you look at the depth of the electoral hole opening up in some of the bellweather states (look at Pennsylvania for instance) he will have to ‘talk round’ by 2012:

Overall: this is the kind of election it can take a party 10 or 12 years to recover from. More. It doesn’t have to be. But it can be. The margins by which some purple districts flipped back from D to R give strength to those newly elected Republicans; means they’ll be stronger fund-raisers, which means in turn that strong Democrats will be less likely to challenge them.

So when will the D’s recapture the House? The R’s could screw up on any number of fronts. And of course right now I’m swayed by the immediacy and recency of events. But I’d say a decade.

And the Senate: in 2012, the Democrats will be defending nearly twice as many Senate seats as the Republicans will. Of course it’s a presidential year, which will bring higher turnout on both sides, so it’s a different situation. But picking off two more seats in aggregate is not a big reach.

So the Democrats’ moment is over. And frankly, they’re getting what lots of people have seen coming since the spring, and they didn’t do enough about it. Put aside for the moment how they governed, which we’ll discuss. Just on the subject of how they campaigned, from Obama down – lamely. And now they’re in minority status for some time to come.

Sure, the Republicans have problems. But it is instructive to note that some at the more extreme end of the Tea Party-supported candidates didn’t make it home. Thus far, the former Senator now President Obama has shown little of the deft touch of former Governor Clinton when he was negotiating from the White House.

It’s going to be a rocky road to 2012 for the Democrats… Not least when the President’s attempts to shore up his own party’s candidates seems to have either no, or a negative effect… Weak leadership from the Illnois professor say some… Although Kaus says the Democrats suffered from the mishandling of the kinds of “base-vs.-middle tradeoff” that often kills their best intentions…

Perhaps at the base, its because we are in a recession and there is no sign of an end to the US domestic job losses that has fueled a lot of discontent that gave the Tea Party some of its most potent effect… Another ‘kick the bums out’ election beloved of US electorates when suffering in extremis

A swing towards US protectionism would be bad news for Europe and in particular, very bad news for an Irish administration which has long since hitched its fortunes to American FDI… Still, it remains to be seen whether the Tea Party effect outlasts Obama’s near Messianic campaign of 2008…

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  • Anon

    So when will the D’s recapture the House? The R’s could screw up on any number of fronts. And of course right now I’m swayed by the immediacy and recency of events. But I’d say a decade.

    I’m reading the Black Swam at the moment and am mindful of the warning fo how useless we are at predictions. There are an unlimited number of events that could happen to change that. Is poor econmic growth for 4 years and an Obama loss in 2012 really that hard to predict?

    It’s the economy, stupid. The correlation between the state of the economy and presidential approval is ridiculously strong. You barely need anyone else. Though if he’s up against Palin, he still might win in a bad economy.

    As for the effect of coattails, a President can pull in people when he’s on the ballot. There is almost no other time that it works, unless you count a fundraising boost. Similar for speeches, be it State of the Union or other. It has at most a temporary very tiny impact on polls.

  • Anon

    Oh, and also worth bearing in mind the age of the electorate last night compared to 2008:


    If 2012 closes that gap by anything significant, the Dems will likely make a fair few gains back in two years.

  • It wasn’t that the Tea Party failed to define itself as a political party – it’s that its activitists claim they haven’t yet decided what sort of shape they will eventually create (since it obviously won’t evolve). It could remain as a lobby within politics (think Orange Order), it could cannibalise the Republicans from within or it could rival the Republicans and Democrats.
    The issue of leadership I heard mentioned by a range of commentators during the campaigns – the mid-terms are a real hotchpotch of contests at different scales. Different pundits (conservative and liberal) were noting that no matter where or what the individual vote was for (legislative, gubernatorial, senate or whatever) – Obama was the central figure. There was no corresponding figure acting as a ‘leader’ of the opposition (they universally laughed when challenged as to Sarah Palin’s status). For example – how many readers on here, who are pretty clued in, could name the current leader of the Republicans (in so far as the position exists)? The Republicans and the Tea Party managed to pin the debate down to Obama and didn’t let any of their own stray too far from the pack. As a political strategy it worked (but obviously won’t for a presidential campaign). Obama won’t have a complete stalemate but, like Clinton in 1994, he has a choice to make.
    Some might say the big news is yet to come from those with the real,/b> power – with the Fed to make announcements on quantitative easing today and the Bank of England and ECB making more statements over next couple of days.

  • Apologies for the shoddy tag work there.

  • Jj

    What do readers estimate as to the percentage of African-American or Hispanic support for the tea party and the set of “principles” that the movement stand for?

    Assuming the answer is a very low figure, does that tell us something about the motivation of those behind the movement and could I further ask if such a movement would have emerged had there been a white man elected to be President in 2008?

    I suspect the answer may be “no”.

  • JJ Malloy


    Your point about there being no corresponding leader of the opposition was dead on. A few months back the Democrats tried to demonize John Boehner and make him their symbol or target of counterattack.
    However, it did not work at all and the idea was scuttled very quickly. Many either did not know who he was (house minority leader) or find him particulary offensive/divisive. I thought it was a curious choice of attack, but the Dems were desperate and grasping at that point.

    As for Palin, my Republican friends wish she would go back to Wasilla and leave them be. They find her embarassing and have never forgave McCain for unleashing her on the world. She, and her ilk, certainly bring out the uninformed base but they have also cost her party at least two Senate seats (and thus the Senate) by nominating unelectable candidates (Nevada/Delaware). She, and the whole populist right movement, may be the genie Republicans can’t put back in the bottle.

  • Anon

    I don’t think it is motivated by race, primarily. If Obama wasn’t a Muslim then Hilary Clinton would have covered up killing something or somethign else.

    There are some undercurrents I think, mostly around wealth distribution, but its not the major cause. This type of right wing radicalism stretches way back, and it should be noted that the Tea Party is better at winning republican primaries than elections. Rand Paul win, but eh was vulnerable for quite a whiole. In Kentucky.

    Scott Brown? Senate moderate (well, for nowdays) and the TP would run against him as a RINO elsewhere.

  • JJ Malloy

    Are you suggesting the Tea Party is based solely, or largely, on race?

    While they are overwhelmingly white, there are plenty of minorities who are active. I live in DC and work several blocks from the Capitol, and I can tell you-from seeing and observing several protests- they are not a monolithic group of racists or homophobes. I have seen blacks speaking and hispanics running meetings.

    Many are genuinely upset at the way the government has been run and how bills (largely unpopular) have been passed behind closed doors and through shady procedures. They are concerned, rightly or wrongly, that the voice of the people is being forgotten in Washington.

    Considering over 4 of 10 voters in the recent exit polls had a “positive view” of the Tea Party movement it would be ridiculous to say they are simply a bunch of racists. This is the same country where just 2 years ago the majority of white voters voted for a black candidate.

    This is not to say, of course, that some may be racists or that some activists are more fired up than they would be if the target of their ire was white. But the Tea Party is a loosely affiliated group which encompasses many kinds of political opinions.

  • Jj

    “Are you suggesting the Tea Party is based solely, or largely, on race?”

    Yes, largely. I thought this from the moment I saw on a local rabid, rightwing, racist, homophobe born-again’s website that some of his contributors openly hoped that Obama would be assassinated before being sworn in.

  • JJ Malloy

    correction: Many either did not know who he was (house minority leader) or did not find him particulary offensive/divisive.

  • Sean


    I personally believe the racism is latent, so latent most don’t even understand it exists in them.

    But they can’t call him the “n” word so instead they call him a socialist even though he clearly is not

  • JJ Malloy

    speaking of Kentucky:

    “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky, because everything there happens 20 years after it happens anywhere else.”-Mark Twain

  • Anon

    The race stuff fine. But concern citizens stuff is nonsense. it’s conservative republicans, probably libertarian, overwhelmingly white. Plenty of polls to confirm this.

    In the 60s it was the Jon Birch Society, in the 90s any number of insane groups tragetting Clinton . there is always a part of the right wing that can’t cope with aDemocrat in the White House.

  • hoboroad
  • 21stcentury fenian

    I’m struggling to see how different this is from the Gingrich stuff in the 90s. Anon is right, there is always a group who can’t cope with the idea that one perceived as “their own” is not in the White House. I don’t remember much talk about big government etc. when GWB was president

  • John East Belfast

    I think this was an anti Obama vote rather than a Pro Republican one and in that it is not irretrievable for the former – ie the Voters realise the latter dont really offer anything else other than rhetoric at this stage.

    They are also aware that Bush gave Obama a hospital pass on the economy.

    However Obama has not covered himself in glory. Although the Health care ideals are laudible it was a waste of energy in this his two years and he should have concentrated solely on the economy. He has bitten off far more than he can chew on isses that are not the causes of what concerns Americans today – it really is “the economy stupid”

    People are losing their jobs and their houses and they cannot see a way out of this as the Govt seems to be simply running up more debt with litte infra structure to show for it. Add to that it seems to be business as usual for Wall Street and fat cat bankers.

    In this environment the tea party has been able to frighten people with nonsense about big Government and “socialistic” agendas.

    I was in the US for the Presidential election 2 years ago and the Republican Party was on its knees – I am amazed they have managed to turn it around as they have. i am even more amazed that they have done so by moving further to the Right as oposed to gravitating to the centre.
    One has to conclude that Obama only has himself to blame for this state of affairs.

    However if he can start talking jobs and the economy and bring some heavy weights into the White House – eg Colin Powell – then he can still bring it back in 2012.
    If the Republicans gift him Sarah Palin then he could easily see a second term.

    My money though will be on Mitt Romney.

  • Drumlins Rock

    “openly hoped that Obama would be assassinated before being sworn in.”

    thought the Tea Party didnt come into existence until mid 2009? your bit off there jj, as usual.

  • Jj

    I think the people who make up the Tea Party existed before that organisation was formed, though. Do try and keep up…. 😉

  • Drumlins Rock

    “The Bloomberg News poll showed that 40% are 55 or older, 79% are white, 61% are men and 44% identify as “born-again” Christians,[56] compared to 23.4%,[57] 75%,[58] 48.5%,[59] and 34%[60] for the general population, respectively.”
    from wiki

  • Drumlins Rock

    John, people seem to forget despite the Republicans having a terrible candidate, terrible campaign and 8 yr of a pretty woeful president still got pretty close to winning, yes it was decesive but not a landslide, didnt take that big of a swing back.

  • Damian O’Loan

    I find it odd that people consider the Tea Party ‘movement’ to libertarian, it’s an idea the press has propogated unquestioningly. A libertarian draws the line at harming others. A certain level of wealth redistribution is absolutely in line with libertarian values. It prevents incidents like this, which are an affront to a libertarian society:


    The movement’s funding means it is tied to corporate interests even more than the GOP. Its candidates may pledge opposition to bail-outs now, there is no evidence in any of their voting records that they would oppose what is clearly an example of corporate national governance.

    Its values are extremist, its racism beyond question in light of the Park51 scandal. Corporate interests are not American. They may use the Tea Party for some things, but it will not be permitted to break the ‘free’ trade dogma, whatever contradictory messages it is currently sending.

    It is changing nothing in US politics, it is a re-branding exercise for the GOP with nothing to differentiate it but a few local power struggles. The idea that it offers a new ideology is ridiculous, it is a faithful extension of the Bush era in terms of careful manipulation masquerading as folksy ignorance.

    Small government does not equal libertarianism. Who will pay for the prison industry for example? Has the Tea Party raised the scandalous waste of taxes that it represents?

  • RepublicanStones

    Looks like Obama’s olive branch of bi-partisanship problem solving is doomed, if these affiliates are anything to go by….


  • pinni

    Some hilarious, as well as ludicrous comments here. Why do liberals always have to bring race into the discussion? It seems to be something of a default mode that they fall into as they attempt to conceal their hatred of the people they are condemning.

    The Democrats were stuffed because of their attitudes and policies, not because of the colour of the president. Americans do not very often give complete control of Congress and the White House to one party, but they did for the past two years. The abuse of partisan power that they witnessed, when massive, expensive bills and laws were forced through without anyone even having the time to read the contents, and which went against how most Americans think, forced them to correct the errors of their ways. The Dems have lost the majority of the Independents, and it will take them a long time to get them back.

    The Democrats, however, can count themselves extremely lucky that more seats were not up for grabs in this cycle. It would have been an even greater humiliation!

  • Damian O’Loan

    It’s one thing to vote against the Democrats, but you have to consider what people are voting for when they elect a Tea Party candidate. The question of racism is significant because it is one of the few ‘values’ that can be reasonably ascribed to a large proportion of those candidates.

    The central ideology of the Republican Party is no different to the Tea Party. It is pure rule of force via the means of corporate leverage. America appears to be learning that in an age of globalisation, that corporate leverage is no more committed to its nation than any other stable investment climate. The Tea Party doesn’t have the means to overcome that, quite the opposite.

    The blog, in line with much comment, was considering the Tea Party as a radical new force. There are no grounds for this and the willingness of many to do so reflects laziness or an appetite for a story based on novelty, even where there is little or none. As someone who sees some merit in libertarianism, I also object to the idea being hijacked without challenge from those who should know better.

  • pinni


    The question of racism is significant because it is one of the few ‘values’ that can be reasonably ascribed to a large proportion of those candidates. The central ideology of the Republican Party is no different to the Tea Party.

    An absolutely scandalous statement! But only to be expected, I suppose.

    Another example of ‘liberal’ worldview:


    Obsession with race, obviously. Poor benighted, narrow-minded, confused liberals. Accusations of racism has become, to paraphrase, the last refuge of a scoundrel.

  • Damian O’Loan

    There is plenty of evidence of a common thread of Islamophobia, to put it kindly, among Tea Party candidates. It’s not correct, however, to say that I am “obsessed” by the subject. Again, there simply isn’t substance on other issues, aside from analysis of previous GOP positions. Unless you have evidence to the contrary?