Sunday, October 24, 2010

Checking In: Election Preview One Week Out

Good evening! It's been almost two months since I've contributed an entry. Yes, I've been extremely occupied with law school and a Giants' trip to the World Series. But politics has also been extremely depressing recently.

The election is coming up a week from Tuesday, and it is going to be a long night for Democrats. According to almost every prognosticator, the House of Representatives will be won by the Republicans, who will take charge in January under Speaker John Boehner. The Senate is slightly more likely than not to stay in Democrats hands, but it will be by the narrowest of margins. If the Democratic Party in the Senate labored to pass legislation with 59 votes, imagine how they'll do it with 51!

Even more disturbing, Republicans will pick up somewhere between 6-8 net governorships, which will give them a control over the majority of state-houses. This might be the result that hurts working families the most. State budgets are under enormous constraints due to the economic downturn, and with a new slate of conservative Republicans, you can bet that cuts to essential services, schools and pensions will be first on the agenda.

In terms of raw numbers, we project Republicans to pick up between 45 and 60 House seats. A net gain of 39 would be enough for the GOP to gain control. It's not entirely clear exactly which races will flip, but we've made some educated guesses on the sidebar of your screen. The obvious seats will be those held by retiring Democrats in conservative districts. I think at least 20-25 of the Democrats elected during the 2006 and 2008 wave elections will lose. I also could foresee some losses to long-term House veterans like House Budget Committee Chair John Spratt (SC) and Armed Services Chair Ike Skelton (MO).

In the Senate, my range for GOP pickups has changed slightly. I now think Democrats will lose 8 seats. Races in Nevada, Illinois and Colorado remain extremely close, but all tilt ever so slightly to the Republican side. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is popular, but the state is so deeply anti-Democratic right now, that I think he's at least an even shot to lose. In Pennsylvania, Democrat Joe Sestak has shown some serious signs of life, but I still think he'll lose to Republican Pat Toomey. Races in North Dakota, Arkansas and Indiana are now automatic Democratic losses. The Democrats, I predict, will hold seats in Connecitcut and Delware relatively easy. I also expect them to hang on barely in California and Washington, which will be just enough to keep them in the majority. Even though the Senate is now a 60-vote institution, a majority still has some serious consequences. Democrats will still control the floor agenda, and if they are united, they could put a firm stop to initiatives coming out of the Republican House. Also, things like the START treaty and Supreme Court nominations only go through the Senate, so even a narrow Democratic majority would allow us to get some positive things done.

The policy implications of the election are obviously catastrophic. It's easy for people like me to sit here and try not to think about it. Believe me, I'm happy to distract myself with the World Series. But there will be real consequences for working Americans:

1. Extended unemployment benefits will likely not be renewed.
2. There will be no more stimulus funding, pretty much, at the end of this year. That means, no more middle class tax cut, no more new infrastructure projects, no extended food stamp and Medicaid benefits. Republicans won't even think about extending these programs. They'll claim that we can't afford them, but they'll also attempt to pass even more tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.
3. Energy reform is dead.
4. Immigration reform is dead.

The list could continue for a long time. There possibly could be some small positives out of next week's likely outcome. Perhaps the herd of conservative Democrats that hampered our governing agenda will be thinned out, and our party can once again be represented solely by those who are actually Democrats. Perhaps President Obama will have a nice new foil in Speaker Boehner, who if past is prologue, will probably be a pretty huge disaster. Obama can pin some of the blame on the bad economy on the Republicans, and he can use them as a contrast to his vision.

This all may be true, but it won't take away the pain and anguish many Americans will feel as a result of the impending Republican wave. The story of this election is almost completely written, but there still is one week left for you to do something. I hope you remember the stakes, you get out to vote, you get your friends out to vote, and you continue to stand up for the progressive values we've fought so hard for. Also remember that we've won some important legislative victories these past two years, and all of us need to do our best to make sure they are implemented succesfully.

No comments:

Post a Comment