Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Two Special Elections

Last May, Republicans lost a traditionally safe seat in up-state New York in a special election prompted by the resignation of a House incumbent who’d been caught marketing his sexual wares on the Internet. Democrat Kathy Hochul won by telling reliably Republican voters that their party’s embrace of the Paul Ryan budget, with its provisions radically restructuring Medicare, showed that it was fixing to wheel granny off a cliff.  Democrats, still licking their wounds from 2010, exhaled gratefully at the thought that ideological overreach on the part of House Republicans had let them out of a tight electoral spot.

Last night, Democrats returned the favor, in a special election prompted by Anthony Weiner’s infamous tweets. Republican Bob Turner took a seat that had been securely Democratic since Warren G. Harding was in the White House. There are undoubtedly a lot of reasons why this happened, but one of them was that the "Mediscare" card was no longer a clear winner for Democrats. It would have been bad enough if it had just been trumped by cards from a different suit, like the state of the economy or Obama's perceived hostility to Israel.  But things are much worse for Democrats than that.  It's no longer clear that they have higher Medicare cards to play than Republicans.

Mickey Kaus identifies the darker lining of what was already a pretty dark political cloud for Democrats:
“It’s the possibility that the Democrats favorite issue–Social Security–didn’t work to save them because Obama, too, has embraced cutting Social Security and Medicare in [quoting David Weigel] ‘some undefined ‘everything on the table’ entitlement reform’ . . . Could it be that the differences between Obama’s Medicare cuts and GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare cuts–differences that seem so significant to policy analysts in Washington (and to me)–don’t have much salience in the crude argumentation of direct-mail electioneering? Now that’s scary for a Dem. After decades of pledging not to touch the two sacred programs, it’s beginning to look as if Democrats can’t just suddenly agree to pull trillions out of Social Security and Medicare and expect voters to maintain their reflexive loyalties.”
How things have changed in the space of four months. Last May, Ryanesque warnings about the radical unsustainability of Medicare were still widely regarded, even by traditionally Republican voters, as an incendiary fiction. One debt-ceiling negotiation and one downgrade of American treasuries later, they're becoming an article of common sense as to which Democrats lack a tried and true response.  The electoral question is no longer whether Republicans are pushing granny off a cliff, but which party is holding out more hope that future grannies can find a secure perch somewhere down the side.

I guess, if you put your mind to it, you could conjure up worse political news for Democrats. But off the top of my head, I can't think of any.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the NY election was all about Israel and not at all about Medicare/Mediscare. It is possible that Jewish voters will leave Obama in droves in the presidential election, and for good reason.