Friday, November 5, 2010

The Aftermath and a New Way Forward

The GOP’s reclaiming of the House with the support of the Tea Party is being interpreted by many as the rise of Conservativism and Populism in the United States, and the heralding of the big-government, pro-spending, Democratic party. This is, to be frank, a shallow misinterpretation of what happened during this bout of midterm elections. The biggest loser in this election was not the DNC, but was moderate Republicans such as, Olympia Snowe, George Pataki, Scott Brown and Colin Powell.
To display this, let’s first determine what a “Tea Partier” is. To do this, it is best that victorious candidates for the House and Senate who claim to be Tea partiers are examined, as they are the ones who will truly influence policy decisions. Start with Senator-Elect Rand Paul, one of the most popular Tea party candidates—his campaign promises, in essence, were to shrink the debt and alter President Obama’s healthcare bill. Nan Hayworth, Representative Elect of New York’s 19th district, wishes to make social security more solvent, and alter the heathcare bill. Marco Rubio, Senator-Elect of Florida, wishes to extend Bush tax cuts, end the estate tax, and opposes an energy tax. In short, Tea partiers want an end to any form of government intervention in markets, wish to lower taxes, and wish to shrink the size of government. They are strong fiscal conservatives.
            Now that there is a solid definition of a Tea partier to work with, what is a moderate Republican? Olympia Snowe, from Maine, can be looked to for an example; she voted against the Bush tax cuts in 2003. George Pataki, former Governor of New York, can also be looked to as an example of a moderate Republican, as he provided billions to help the sick in New York. These politicians aren’t anti-government, and don’t want to wildly slash spending or end health care, but do have Conservative reservations to Democratic policies.
In the old Republican party, these members were a small, moderate voice in a right-leaning party. Now, with the Tea Party in seats across the nation, it is easily stated that the GOP has shifted right; now, moderate voices are a small voice in a very right-wing party with less of an ability to moderate its party. Why? Let’s use an analogy—if a weight is ten feet away, a person with x amount of power could pull the weight five feet with y energy, leaving the weight at five feet away. If the same said weight was fifteen feet away, a person with the same x amount of power could pull the weight five feet wit the same y energy, leaving the weight ten feet away. The moderate Republicans would have to exert more political capital to moderate the GOP with the tea party in it, as it is further right, it is unlikely that they can or will do this because the GOP has roughly the same amount of moderate Republicans as it did in the last session of Congress. Simply, moderate Republicans have lost power and thus their voice. This is important as it has been shown that the populace does not like either party and prefers a centrist way forward.
Needless to say, this might help Democrats in the long term—if the Tea party forces the GOP right on issues that America (or at least the parts of America that matter in a Presidential election) are moderate on, the DNC can make an attempt to be the ‘party of moderation’ and reclaim center-left and center voters that it lost in this election cycle.
What can the Democrats do in the long term? Outgoing Sen. Evan Bayh has a fantastic article op-ed at New York Times (link: outlining what Dems can do. In short he advocated pushing center and moderate, working on what is agreeable (deficit reduction, tax reform, energy security, and improving current legislation). This should give them the needed political capital to win in the upcoming 2012 elections.  
-J. Abys-Smith 

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