The American people have spoken: They do not care to see former NBA player Rick Fox dance on television any longer. With a resounding voice and top ratings, they kicked him off Dancing with the Stars. Turns out they are also none too fond of Democrats.
Tango not being my forté, there are a string of observations to note from last night’s elections, wherein Democrats called in sick to the midterm with a case of Elephantiasis:
(Climate) change… or more of the same: The lede is of course that Republicans stormed back from two successive losing elections to take back the House with a formidable majority and make inroads in the Senate. Although he’s chastened and pensive, the president won’t be sticking around to sulk; he’s skedaddling to India (among other stops) for a twice-postponed trip on diplomacy and trade.
The impact that the sluggish recovery of the economy had on this outcome cannot be underestimated. Even with this result, we already heard that the Tea Party may have cost Republicans gains. Did it? I leave that to others to dig deep on, but the short answer is yes. Whatever you think of the Tea Party, its energized components did drive activity, fundraising, and turnout. Now we’ll see how easily Republicans are able to settle internal ideological problems with these new members. Will it be like liberal Democrats trying to win over Blue Dogs, but this time on the right? TBD. One thing is for sure: a father-son swearing-in mash-up is in order for Ron Paul and Rand Paul. Talk about a conference committee!
The Republican gains are tough for rank-and-file Democrats to swallow. It means immigration is going to be an uphill battle at an even steeper grade. It means “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is going to be a struggle to repeal via legislation. It means there will be an argument (though no successful action) to scrap health care reform when it could be improved. But perhaps the most debilitating consequence of this election is that it throws meaningful climate change legislation into purgatory. We are running out of time on this issue.
Mama Fizzlies: So much attention has been given to a unique subset of the women who ran this year. And virtually all of them lost. Sarah Palin, who I learned is less popular than Barack Obama in Alaska, endorsed a bunch of them, and it ended up being a mixed bag. Christine O’Donnell, for example, was a godsend for the media, but as her coverage went up, her poll numbers went down in Delaware. (I have a feeling she’ll be back in some form.) Linda McMahon got body-slammed in Connecticut. Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman spent a ton of money only to lose in California. Palin-powered Nikki Haley pulled out a win for the governorship of South Carolina, but it was close.
This trend wasn’t limited to the GOP. Blanche Lincoln barely survived a pair of primaries, only to lose Senate re-election in Arkansas in the general. Alex Sink lost out to her Republican opponent in the Florida governor’s race. Krystal Ball, the exuberant Democrat from Virgina, got creamed in her Virginia House race. Many women won on Tuesday, but they were not household names.
“Control” of the Senate: Can the cable networks get rid of this demonstrably inaccurate phrase? Holding 52 seats does not grant one party any more control than the party that has 48 seats. As we’ve learned with frustrating certainty, 60 votes gets a job done. Never bring a majority to a supermajority’s job.
It’s hard to dislike Brian Williams: He’s the Tom Hanks of new anchors. He’s everywhere (always kills on 30 Rock) and he eruditely captains event coverage with relevance, wit, and humility. Plus, he’s solidifying himself as the coolest guy who shouldn’t be cool. In David Carr’s “Network Anchor Quiz,” Williams said this is how he pre-gamed for election night on NBC: “I got 6.5 hours of sleep last night. Not enough, but when is it ever? Anxiety will have to suffice for exercise. Right now (1:30 p.m. E.S.T.) I’m studying in my office while listening to music. Some Keith Richards, some Arcade Fire, Cee Lo Green, Bruce, U2, Peder.” Okay, so he didn’t throw back a few Sam Adams Octoberfests, but unless he’s listening to some deep tracks on the new album (mind you, he didn’t say Gnarls Barkley), I’m pretty sure the anchor of the biggest nightly newscast in America admitted that he digs “F**k You.”
While we’re on the topic of the Peacock family of networks, I commend the decision to air coverage on the flagship broadcast net from 9 p.m. until the wee small hours, despite the ratings hit. But did you really need three separate, simultaneous sets of coverage? NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC? I know each has their own angle, but there was a ton of overlap. You could practically see Keith Olbermann creeping into the edge of shots with Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw. However, I will say that Lawrence O’Donnell (now, with show) is evolving into one of the most clever, astute, level-headed commentators on TV. No wonder he’s not more popular.
‘Til the last Blue Dog dies: The Blue Dogs have practically been reduced to the Blue Dog. That coalition of centrist Democrats who received so much attention on crucial votes over the last two years lost 28 seats, over half their ranks. Time to train some new puppies for 2012.
“My” races: Regular readers may recall that I’ve covered a few races and figures with extra interest. Joe Sestak, a self-styled independent Democrat and the highest-ranking military officer to ever serve in Congress, is definitely on that list. I’ve written about him four times. (Pick a link in this paragraph if you want proof.) I was really pulling for this guy. He ran for Senate against the wishes of the White House, but won his primary against Arlen Specter, an institution unto himself. Then he battled to even in the polls with Republican Pat Toomey heading into Tuesday’s showdown. As Politico’s Ken Vogel put it “[Toomey] was sort of the Tea Party before the Tea Party was cool.” So, you can see there was a lot riding on the outcome of this one. Well, Sestak lost a tight race 49 percent to 51 percent. Tough break. Do I believe Arlen Specter would have beaten Pat Toomey? I think it would have been just as close. It’s also a shame about the Congressional defeat of Patrick Murphy, the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress.
Andrew Cuomo coasted to the governor’s mansion in New York, as expected. Though, in typecast villain style, his runner-up literally declared “You have not heard the last of Carl Paladino!” The battle for the bronze and bragging rights among the third party Unknowns ended up going to the unlikely-accented Green Party man, Howie Hawkins, with 57,092 votes, or 1.4%. There was a case to be made that Cuomo’s assuredness and Paladino’s ass-ness would free up Empire State voters to experiment a bit with their ballots, but they didn’t. Libertarian Warren Redlich pulled in 44,824 votes. Rent Is Too Damn High guy Jimmy McMillan got 39,939 votes, but oh-so many more laughs. Press-generating Kristin Davis picked up 22,879 votes. Charles Barron finished last.
That’s all you get. Don’t whine: I did tease that this would be deliberately incomplete coverage.