Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Tea Party holds back Republican advance

As predicted the US midterm elections saw the Democrats lose control of the House of Representatives and slip back in the Senate. This is bad news for anyone who wants to see moves, no matter how timid, towards health care reform, gay equality and a host of other crucial issues.

However, while pundits were either cheering on or quaking in their boots at the sight of the Tea Party in fact the Republican right's ginger group has been a double edged sword and has arguably held back the Republican advance rather than deepened it.

It's certainly true that Tea Party candidates won some races, like the candidate for South Carolina governor who becomes the country's first ever black woman governor. Nikki Haley, is a Sikh born to Indian immigrants, and was publicly backed by Sarah Palin. Her policies are focused on 'fiscal conservatism' and she fits well within the Tea Party family.

However she won on 51% of the vote (to 47%), cutting the Republican lead by two thirds with an estimated 12% of registered Republican voters voting for her opponent. The Tea Party managed to turn a safe seat into a marginal.

The only Gubernatorial seat that the Democrats managed to take off the Republicans last night was in California where I had predicted that high profile Teabagger Meg Whitman was in danger of losing the race to Democrat Jerry Brown most famous, to me, for being the subject of punk classic California Uber Alles.

Whitman's controversial and divisive campaign drove the Republican vote down from 55.9% in the 2006 race to a pitiful 41% on a night when the Republicans were sweeping the board across the country! The Tea Party lost the highest profile Governorship in the USA for the Republicans, and for that we must thank them.

In Colorado everything is pointing to the Democrats narrowly holding on to the Senatorial seat despite another high profile Teabagger opponent Ken Buck who is, as you might expect, anti-abortion, anti-gay, denies man made climate change and is very pro-gun. This is a seat that, had it followed the national trend, would have been won easily by the Republicans - but the butterfingers Tea Party snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Delaware senatorial race had been marked as a race to watch but, again, the Republican vote fell to 40% from 48% in 2008. The Republican candidate? Christine O'Donnell, who is definitely not a witch.

It looks like the higher profile a Tea Party candidate is the more Republican support they manage to lose - and that's on a night of Republican victories, imagine how they'd have done in a tough election for the right.

So what's the conclusion?

It seems to me that the Democrats are losing the enthusiasm of their supporters because those supporters don't think they are delivering. I'd suggest most Democrats want to see the economy turn around, an end in sight for the Afghanistan occupation and reforms that live up to the promise of the Obama candidacy. The Democrats are letting their people down.

While the Tea Party have injected enthusiasm into the ranks of the most vociferous section of the Republican Party more moderate Republicans are feeling a similar dissatisfaction with their party. We need to remember that the Tea Party was a movement that began to germinate under Bush, not Obama, and they were just as unhappy with him.

The right of the Democrats has consistently held back any agenda of real change and that has become a national problem for the left. The Tea Party is dangerous and ideologically repellent, they are a divisive faction on the right with the capability of tearing the Republicans to shreds as they try to pull it further to the right.

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