Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Agence France-Presse: Washington Power Sits Uneasily After Vote Backlash

Washington power sits uneasily after vote backlash
By Agence France-Presse article link
Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 | the raw story

More political bloodletting likely looming in November

Incumbent US lawmakers of all political stripes squirmed uneasily in their seats Wednesday after angry voters in key nominating races delivered a stinging anti-Washington backlash.

Results from Tuesday's primary elections, reflecting voter anger at economic blight, Wall Street bailouts and establishment politicians, suggested more political bloodletting is looming in November's congressional elections.

They also showed that the yearning for change that Barack Obama rode to the White House is not yet sated, and is now matched on the right by the conservative "Tea Party" movement.

While Obama's Democrats have long feared Republicans could loosen their stranglehold on congressional power in November, Tuesday's results also bore ominous signs for the opposition party.

At this volatile moment in US politics, power, of any kind, may be a liability.

In Pennsylvania, veteran Senator Arlen Specter, who switched to the Democrats after concluding he couldn't win a Republican primary, tumbled to defeat to insurgent candidate, Joe Sestak.

In Arkansas, Democrat Senator Blanche Lincoln failed to head off a run-off vote against an opponent branding her a symbol of incumbent complacency.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul, now vying with Sarah Palin for Tea Party hearts, declared Washington "horribly broken" after beating the handpicked candidate of Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

Many commentators seized on Paul's triumph as proof of the Tea Party's muscle and the resonance of its low tax, small government, anti-corporate bailout and anti-Obama message.

"It was the perfect storm ... it's the mood of the country and our message being exactly equal to the mood of the country which is: We've got to get our government back," Paul told CNN Wednesday.

In other nominating fights, the Tea Party has also demonstrated its might: in Arizona, long-term incumbent John McCain faces an unexpectedly tough Republican primary fight against a Tea Party favorite J.D. Hayworth.

But while the movement has defied national Republican leaders in primary votes among the most activist voters, its national clout is still in doubt.

In a New York special congressional election in November, a Tea Party revolt put a deeply conservative candidate on the ballot -- but handed a reliably Republican district to Democrats.

"The question is going to be in November -- is the Tea Party big enough to swing elections?" said Bruce Altschuler of the State University of New York, Oswego.

"Does this conservative insurgent movement give the Republicans strong candidates -- or does it allow the Democrats to defeat a more divided Republican Party?"

Whatever the answer, Republican leaders face tough choices as they seek a champion to race Obama for the White House.

"This gives rise to great concern from the Republican Party looking towards 2012," said Bruce Buchanan, of the University of Texas.

"Can they come up with somebody that is centrist enough to win nationally?"

Establishment Democrats may see a silver lining in Specter's loss, even though he was backed by the White House after his party switch.

Sestak may turn out to be a better candidate to take on Republican Pat Toomey, whose conservative bona-fides caused Specter to bolt.

Another bright spot for Democrats: they kept the Pennsylvania House of Representatives fiefdom of the late John Murtha, the kind of rural, conservative seat Republicans must win to take back Congress.

But Murtha's legendary local appeal may mean the result is not representative of countrywide sentiment -- despite White House spin.

Current popular anger also poses problems for Obama.

As the architect of a 787 billion dollar stimulus plan, a huge federal health reform drive and a car industry bailout, he can hardly claim to be a Washington outsider.

But posing as an inside man is also a risk, with suspicion of government running so deep.

In Ohio Tuesday, the president tried to thread the needle -- surrounded by steelworkers in grimy overalls, portraying himself as a man who stood with the people against entrenched political interests.

"Sometimes in Washington, everybody is spending all their time arguing about politics and you lose track of the folks who sent you there in the first place," Obama said.

Polls show that voters revile Washington's partisan bile.

But the nominating process is producing candidates that pander to the grass roots -- and may lead to an even more polarized Congress.

Replacing the moderate Specter with Sestak or Toomey will clearly widen divides between the parties, said Tom Baldino, a politics professor at Wilkes University, Pennsylvania.

"The likelihood of a Congress that is more polarized than the current one is very high."

the raw story home page

What Explains the Anti-Establishment Sentiment?
by Glenn Greenwald article link article link
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | Salon | CommonDreams
Salon home page

... It makes perfect sense that the country loathes the political establishment. Just look at its rancid fruits over the past decade: a devastating war justified by weapons that did not exist; a financial crisis that our Nation's Genuises failed to detect and which its elites caused with lawless and piggish greed; elections that seem increasingly irrelevant in terms of how the Government functions; grotesquely lavish rewards for the worst culprits juxtaposed with miserable unemployment and serious risks of having basic entitlements (Social Security) cut for ordinary Americans; and a Congress that continues to be owned, right out in the open, by the very interests that have caused so much damage. The political establishment is rotten to its core, and the only thing that's surprising is that the citizenry's contempt isn't even more intense than it is. But precisely because that dynamic so clearly transcends Left/Right or Democratic/GOP dichotomies, little effort is expended to understand or explain it. ...

Fear Comes of Age
by David Michael Green article link
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | CommonDreams
CommonDreams home page

... So the short version of the story is that the aberration of partial economic justice and democracy that characterized the middle of the twentieth century is collapsing all around us. That implosion has now swallowed up both political parties. It has long held sway on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. And it is finally being ossified into place for at least the next several decades with lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. The first priority is to create an all-powerful executive. The second priority is to create an all-powerful state. And the third priority is to make sure that both are put to the service of oligarchic interests. This is the regressive play book, rarely ever seen with greater clarity than in the voting records of the Scalia bloc on the Court. All else is commentary, if not diversion.

The astonishing irony, of course, is that there could hardly be a moment more propitious for an ideological swing in the other direction. People are hurting badly. Elites are vastly richer today than they were three decades ago. The connection between the two, in the form of predatory Wall Street plunderings continually aided, abetted and even funded by the government, is no longer even particularly hidden. And yet there is no left at all on the national horizon, apart from an occasional Bernie Sanders or Dennis Kucinich. Indeed, quite the opposite is the case. All energy is with the blind raging tea party mentality, which only seeks to vastly exacerbate the problem through some sort of vague libertarianism that will further unleash corporate dominance and further shred what little is left of a tattered social safety net in America.

You really have to hand it to the right. They understand mass psychology so much better than progressives do. They know that rationality is the first victim of fear, and that fear breeds upon itself, amplifying its own effects exponentially. They understand how fragile a thing is a thoughtful, sober and responsible democracy, and how readily undermined it can be for nefarious and hidden purposes.

And they understand how easy it is to buy off those with the capacity to prevent a country's political and economic suicide. ...

Message of Tuesday's Elections: F*ck Washington, Obama, DNC, DSCC, GOP, Unions
By Rob Kall article link
May 18, 2010 | OpEdNews
OpEdNews home page

The "Mad-As-Hell" Party Scores as the Anxious Class Stews
by: Robert Reich article link
Tuesday 18 May 2010 | truthout
truthout Robert Reich blog home
truthout home page


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