Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thoughts on the U.S. Election


I am sure much more has and will be written on yesterday's U.S. election by people smarter and more knowledgeable than I. But nevertheless here are a few short observations.

1. Money Talks: The Republic gains can be ascribed to many things. But one of them, and certainly not the least, is the unprecedented flow of big money, often from anonymous sources, to right wing candidates and in support of right wing issues. This is largely as a result of the terrible U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturns nearly a century of campaign finance reform and allows corporations to contribute unlimited funds in support of "issues" advertising right up to election day. As I wrote when this decision was first made, it is a game changer with long term consequences. I wrote at the time that if the Democratically controlled Congress did not do something to nullify the effects of this court decision, and do it before the elections just completed, they would never get a chance to do so again. The results of this massive infusion of unauditable corporate cash into the American political system, would give right wing candidates control of Congress for years to come. I fear I was correct.

And, as if to add insult to injury in this regard, one of the Democratic Senators to fall last night, was Russ Feingold - one of the authors of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act, the very law overturned in the Citizens United case.

2. Age Matters: According to CNN, exit polls indicated a strong showing for the Tea Party among seniors, with 47 percent of those 65 and older saying they support the Tea Party, while only 26 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 said they it. CNN also notes that 25% of the voters in this election were 65 years or older! (When they make up only 15% of the voting age population.) So unless the younger voters can be enticed to vote in larger numbers - as they did for Obama in 2008 - the left is in for many more years of election defeats.

An interesting point to consider in this regard is, "do people's politics change as they age, or do they keep their basic political orientation." If the former assumption is true then the future is even more bleak for progressives then it is today, as the "baby boomer" demographic bulge is just now moving in to the "seniors" bracket. If the second assumption is true we may see seniors slowly become more liberal over the next few years, with a real shift to the left coming in about 25 years, when todays under 40's - progressive by a wide margin, hit 65. But then again, if they retain their political inactivity along with their progressive values, then this may not matter at all.

3. Is it good for the Jews? No! If its bad for America and bad for the world (and it is,) then, by definition, its bad for the Jews.

And among the many new Republicans elected, not one Jew! * (Though there were several new Black and Latino Republicans elected.) Eric Cantor remains the only Republican Jew in Congress. This, as opposed to the approximately two dozen or so Jews among Democrats on Capitol Hill. The number of Jews in Congress will drop as a result of this election, with Russ Feingold being the most prominent Jew to go down, though the number of Jews in the Senate will likely stay the same - at 13 - as Richard Blumenthal won an open Senate seat in Connecticut. (As of this writing the incumbent Michael Bennett is leading in Colorado, but the race is still considered to close to call.)

And despite what Likud supporter's in Israel might think, this is not necessarily good for the Israeli right wing. Congress was and remains pro Israel. Foreign policy is largely the prerogative of the President, and there is no predicting how the election might affect Obama's mood and policy's on the Middle East. On the one hand he may feel that with so many other troubles, he doesn't need the headache and domestic opposition that will come with pushing aggressively for a peace deal, or reaching out to Arabs and Muslims. On the other hand, frustrated on the domestic front, he may decide to devote more energy to foreign affairs, where he has a relatively free hand.

4. Will Obama be a one term President? Read points 1 and 2 above! On the other hand, the last time the President's party lost so badly in midterm elections was in 1946 - and Truman went on to be re-elected in '48! Similarly, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton all came back to win after significant midterm losses. It will all probably depend on the economy. And if you know where that's going to be in two years, please let me know.

(*) I just read that there may be 2nd Republican Jews in Congress. Congresswoman-elect Nan Hayworth of New York, is married to a Jew, and calls herself a Jew, though it seems she never converted. If the Jews can count Democrat Micheal Bennet as Jewish - he defines his religion as "unaffiliated", though his mother is Jewish - than why not Ms. Hayworth?

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