Major Ebb

After the tsunami sweeps ashore all that water has to eventually go back where it came from, taking with it all manner of flotsam and the carcasses of critters drowned in the flood. The election tsunami on Tuesday swept away a lot of Democrats with some 60 House seats swinging over to the GOP and with a half dozen or so races still counting chads. (Hennepin County where Minneapolis is located was trying to figure out how they had 880,000 votes to count and only 708,000 registered voters. I wonder if that’s how Al Franken made it to the Senate?) The Republicans also picked up five governorships and five Senate seats with Alaska and Washington as yet undecided.

The wave washed away three Democrat committee chairmen, seven Dems with more than 20 years of experience and most of the freshman representatives that came in two years ago on Obama’s coattails. James Oberstar, MN (18 terms), John Spratt, SC (14 terms) and Ike Skelton, MO (17 terms) were among the notables who now need to go find a real job. Actually, I suppose if you have spent 34 or 36 years in the House of Representatives you likely stole enough that working is no longer a necessity.

In one of the more satisfying purges, Alan Grayson of Florida, perhaps the most obnoxious politician in the US, got his ass handed to him. Good riddance.

Of course, this being US politics where incumbency means almost certain re-election, many Democrats more than worthy of being sent off to new careers, survived. Barney Frank, MA and 30 year veteran of the House prevailed over his first opponent even given a fleeting chance at beating him. Barney, who’s only real job was pumping gas at age 18 and the individual most responsible for the housing crisis, showed that in some liberal enclaves you can get away with almost anything and get re-elected. Pete Stark of CA is another example. He’s a very cranky 78 years old and 18 termer. Viral videos of him insulting his constituents at town hall meetings didn’t hurt him any. He got 72% of the vote. Yes, it is California.

Harry Reid survived. Although most polls showed him tied with Angle or slightly behind, he won easily. Pundits said he “had a good ground game” which means that the labor unions hired a fleet of buses, catered lunches and dragged people to the polls. Boxer thumped Forina and Brown showed Whitman what the California Democrat machine could do when threatened. McMahon in CT also got whacked.

To me the three highly successful businesswomen that entered politics for the first time in this election; Forina, Whitman and McMahon represent the biggest surprise.

All were enormously successful CEOs and rose to the top of male dominated industries. All three are smart, articulate and honest and all dumped millions of their own money into the effort. Yet they all got their asses handed to them. Why?

OK, they chose to run in notoriously liberal states but it’s got to be more than that. Is it possible that powerful women threaten men or is it that women are turned off by these assertive gals? Both? One would think that the feminist groups would be pounding the pavement for these accomplished women. But no, these are conservative, capitalist women not enthusiastic about abortion. The feminists wouldn’t go near them.

Whitman dumped $140 million of her own money in the campaign to try to get the job of Governor of California that, to me, is one of the least desirable jobs on the planet. Maybe she did want to save CA, but I can think of other things to do with $140 million. The “fruits and nuts” elected Jerry Brown. Good luck. If you’ve got any California bonds, this would be a good time to unload them.

So what can we learn from this and what can we expect for the next couple of years? A lot of the political wags say that Obama will now try to pull a Clinton and govern more from the center and find practical solutions with the new Republican majority in the House and new balance of power in the Senate. I’m not so sure about that. He is buggering off on an absurdly expensive trip to India and Indonesia tomorrow without meeting with the new leaders in the House. Not sure if that’s symbolic. Compromise and finding middle ground has never been his style and doesn’t fit his Chicago politics/ Saul Alinsky philosophy. He once said he didn’t mind if he’s a one-term president. Maybe he means it. If he and Harry Reid obstruct GOP efforts to preserve the Bush tax cuts and refuse to cut spending, then he will certainly get his wish. Maybe the Dems will even nominate someone else.

Another interesting thing to watch will be what happens to the Tea Party movement. Will the grass roots movement fade away? Will the enthusiasm die or will it persist? The Tea Party enjoyed some successes in this Tuesday with the election of Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. They also experienced some failures, most notably the selection of Christine O’Donnell and Sharon Angle. Both were elected in the primaries by the Tea Party folks based on their ideological purity and both got hammered in the general election. In both instances there were other Republicans in those states that would have had a better chance. Will the Tea Party folks be a little more pragmatic next time around?

Then there is the Sarah Palin question. What’s she gonna do for the next couple of years? Personally I think that her ego is going to get the best of her better judgment and she will run for President. Mistake. While I personally like her, I don’t think she’s right for the Oval Office. Most polls I’ve seen agree with me on that one.

Well, as the Chinese say, “May you live in interesting times.” No problem there.

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