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Midterm Elections 2010: Ugly Campaigns, Scared Incumbents and Angry Voters

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For more than half a century, the reigning ethos in Washington was neatly articulated in the succinct wisdom of Speaker Sam Rayburn, words imparted to freshmen members of Congress when they first arrived in the nation's capital: "If you want to get along, go along."

A sprawling congressional office building is named after the former speaker from Texas, and in January some of the new members of the congressional class chosen Tuesday by voters will set up shop in the Rayburn House Office Building. Some of them, however, will know in their hearts that they got here on the strength of a competing code of conduct than the one imparted by Rayburn, and it goes like this: If you want to get along, make damn sure you don't go along.

The midterm elections of 2010 will be talked about for many years. Amid all the loose talk of whores, witches, bad hair, tea parties, extremists – all while virtually ignoring two raging foreign wars – one little-discussed event may stand out as the defining act that ushered in a new age in American politics: the unceremonious dumping of Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah.

If you haven't heard of Bennett – or could never quite peg his state – do not feel bad. Bennett is a nondescript moderate-to-conservative member of the Republican leadership who won re-election in 2004 with nearly 70 percent of the vote. He is not a charismatic or handsome man, a fact he made fun of himself in that 2004 campaign with billboards that read: "Better Looking Than Abraham Lincoln (But Just Barely)." Bennett has the right pedigree for Utah, too. His father Wallace Bennett served four terms beginning in 1950, his grandfather was a president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he grew up in Salt Lake City, where he was active in the LDS church.

So what scandal did Bob Bennett commit? Apparently, his sin was that he worked across the aisle with Democrats occasionally, most fatefully in an effort to try to address the financial meltdown. And so he was replaced in May at the state party convention, ignominiously finishing third – the rare sitting senator dumped without a hint of a scandal, primarily because he dared to "go along."

All year, we've seen similar impulses – in both parties. In Pennsylvania, Sen. Arlen Specter replaced in a Democratic primary by Joe Sestak; in Kentucky, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's hand-picked protégé Trey Grayson was leveled by Tea Party-backed Rand Paul. It was tea time in Alaska, too, where Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, despite having much more name recognition and cash, was unhorsed by another grass-roots conservative, Joe Miller.

In Arkansas, Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was pummeled from both directions: First, she was nearly upset in the primary by a candidate who deemed her insufficiently liberal. Next, in the general election she is virtually being made out to be Barack Obama's cousin.

"I think I think there's a Tea Party tidal wave coming," Rand Paul said shortly after winning his party's nomination. "I think it's going to sweep a lot of incumbents from office."

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Actually, that phenomenon may already have taken place. Republican moderates, ranging from "the ladies of Maine" to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, to Bennett's Utah colleague Sen. Orrin Hatch, may be in the process of neutering themselves. Thus, on the eve of the election, Rand Paul's threat no longer sounds like an idle boast. At the beginning of this campaign season, Democrats were thought to be safely in control with their 39-seat cushion in the House and their 10-seat lead in the Senate. Now many party leaders are publicly nervous.

The press is often blamed for the lack of civility in American public discourse, but these candidates hardly needed a facilitator to talk trash to – and about – one another. Barbara Boxer's hair is "so yesterday," said Carly Fiorina. Should Meg Whitman be called "a whore," in the corporate sense, wondered an aide to Jerry Brown in a taped phone call. In South Carolina, two men who could never be called gentlemen claimed to have had sex with Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley – after she was married. Some Pennsylvania cad crudely claimed that he had slept with Christine O'Donnell -- after she did not have sex with him.

It was a bad morning on the 2010 campaign when a Democratic incumbent didn't call his Republican challenger an "extremist" – although in the recent Pennsylvania debate the two Senate candidates tossed the word back-and-forth as though it were a grenade with its pin only halfway out. For its part, the GOP was happy to benefit, if not encourage, the kind of followers who handcuff a journalist covering an event at a public school (Alaska's Joe Miller) or who stomp on a lady's head outside another rally (Kentucky's Rand Paul.)

Speaking of Obama, despite all the loose talk about creeping socialism from the conservative side, obscured is the fact that the controversial health care reform bill didn't put a single insurance adjuster or private enterprise paper-pusher out of business. And so, we are told that the American people are angry, a description that seems to baffle liberals.

Here's the rub. Long before this political campaign season got cracking, Larry Summers, Obama's chief economic adviser, marshaled support for the $814 billion stimulus bill by telling the president – and later the American people – that if the bill stalled unemployment in this country could reach 8 percent. Guess what? When Americans go to the polls Tuesday, the unemployment rate will have been 9.4 or higher for 17 months – only weeks after the White House got off its strange "Recovery Summer" communications effort.

It's understandable that millions of Americans are convinced that politics is an insiders' game, easily manipulated, and not doing nearly enough good in the world. It's no wonder voters are angry. They want to punish someone – many voters don't even seem to know whom – nor do they seem to know that those they may be hurting are themselves. Thirty-nine seats is what the Republicans need to capture on Tuesday to rule the House and install John Boehner as speaker, in place of Nancy Pelosi. In the Senate, the magic number is 10 for Republicans to become the majority. The pundits have all issued their last-minute prognostications. Now it's up to the people.

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amarocips

America needs to produce again, we make nothing here but killer fast foods and send all our money to china.

November 02 2010 at 10:14 AM
obammer1anddone

What a wonderful day. We can finally start reversing the damage done by the democrats.

November 02 2010 at 10:13 AM
Harvey

Before they passed Obamacare the Dems held a series of town meetings. When angry voters showed up at the meetings to protest Obamacare the Dems claimed they were just a small group of radicals. When the voiters promised that they would throw out the people who voted for Obamacare the Dems viewed it as an idle threat. Now in the wods of the immortal Reverand Wright "The chickens are coming home to roost." Shame on the Dems and shame on Obama for ignoring the American people. We are not as dumb as you think we are.

November 02 2010 at 10:06 AM
candsareus

Both parties had there shot? Really? Interesting twist on your grasp of reality unless your only source of input as to what reality might be is hate radio and faux network propagandists. There have been careers made and I mean millionaire careers made demonizing and hating all things Liberal or Democrat or Clinton or Obama. The airwaves are consumed with allegations of some fictitious demon called the liberal press when in fact anything truly liberal is rarely ever given any fair exposure in any form of media. Billionaires like murdock and koch et al, have bought up more and more media outlets and removed anyone who might let slip something that does not fit the hard-line right-wing mentality of these controllers. They stroked the small minded egos of rednecks and others of minimal comprehension of the printed word and turned this into a mob they control with a few words to instill fear and hate and intolerance to easily manipulate as a distraction of the masses away from their own personal agenda of destroying the middle class, destroying the education system and destroying any hope of an honest election in this country. The republican party has one job and that job is to scream NO and sit on their hands and do nothing so the uber rich can continue to strangle the life out of a weak and ill-informed middle class. There has been no chance for any opposition to this since the truth is hung up on daily on talk radio and dismissed in editorials and never make it to print. There is no balance and has not been any semblance of such a thing since the 70"s.

November 02 2010 at 10:06 AM
rlcallaway

This is just another left leaning rant trying to appear non-partisan. The press in this country is totally corrupt and out of touch. Congress needs to cut taxes and reduce the federal budget by at least 20% and that means a 20% cut across all departments. The idea that the only reductions would have to include Social Security and Healthcare are just the typical scare tactics. All funds to the UN should be cut off. HEW should be dissolved entirely, then the DOE and EPA should be reduced significantly because they are job killers.

November 02 2010 at 9:57 AM
DemocracyInPeril

The far left has had a plan for some time and they have been working toward their first major goal of having America become a socialist country. Europe is already well on their way. With the election of Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress a perfect storm was created for their dream to become a reality. The traditional Democratic party had already been taken over by the far left. The Republican Party had lost it's strength through a diffusion and lowering of their values, so they would not be able to stop it. At breakneck speed they began to implement steps that would drive America into the depths of socialism and globalism. The feeling was that the American people, even if they complained and were opposed to what was going on, were not organized enough to stop the movement. But then something unexpected happened. The will, the strength, and the voice of the American people were grossly underestimated. Suddenly ordinary Americans, many of whom never participated in any political movement before, began to rise up. A true groundswell, and grassroots movement, began to emerge. And emerge they did. They were senior citizens, grandparents, and parents, deeply concerned not only about themselves, but the future of America for their children and grandchildren. They were conservative Republicans, traditional Democrats, Libertarians, and Independents who were strongly opposed to the new socialist direction. Scared to death of it, in fact. They were informed younger people, and minorities who think for themselves and object to adhering to mass block thinking where it is "expected" that they will just comply. They were people who have a deep faith in God. They were people who are patriots and love America. They are veterans who had served their country and who had fought to preserve freedom. Spontaneously they came together. Millions upon millions of them. They came together under the title of "Tea Party". The left was flabbergasted, they hadn't planned or expected anything like this. They were so close to achieving their goal. At all costs the Tea Party had to be stopped. Immediately they began to try to discredit the Tea Parties, a tact that had worked for them so many times before. Truth is irrelevant, but discredit they must. They began to call them crazy, radicals, Nazi's, every name in the book...and finally the one that always seemed to have worked before...racists. Many major media sources fully complied with the unfounded and unwarranted attacks. Yet the Tea Parties kept coming, without a flinch. What the far left and the media failed to realize is that Tea Party IS America...the vast majority of the American people. You can't turn the vast majority of the American people on themselves, especially with what are KNOWN to be falsehoods. The far left then engaged union leadership, and organizations like the NAACP to help discredit the Tea Party movement, call them racists, etc. Again this didn't work to say nothing about violating the 9th Commandment of God by bearing false witness. Many of the good and decent people of the NAACP don't like being part of false accusations. Neither do the union MEMBERSHIP, in fact many of them are either in agreement with the Tea Party movement, if not actual members. Nonetheless the great strength of the administration in power, with the help of nearly all major media sources is immense. In addition, over time, deep seated roots have been established by the far left into many organizations throughout the country. Further, there are some very wealthy backers who have their own agenda toward turning the United States into a greatly weakened, yet socialist country that will allow globalism to continue. The future of United States is now dependent upon the people of America. This includes all those who want to preserve our great democracy irrespective of party affiliation, race, religion, ethnic, or any other socio, political, or economic group. And it depends greatly, as the far left fears, on the Tea Party since they have the strength of organization. All of this comes down to two dates..November 2010 and...November 2012 and our sacred right to vote. The choices are simple yet dramatic and potentially tragic in our history: socialism that will lead to the destruction of America as we know it.....or the preservation of our great country and democracy. Thankfully the Tea Party movement has given us at least a choice, now it is up to us.

November 02 2010 at 9:55 AM +11
2 replies to DemocracyInPeril's comment
Patty

Thank you....and 70 liberals in congress are now known to be members of the Socialist Party of America and includes the list. Howard Dean and AFL-CIO president working with european socialists (which is failing all across europe) to bring socialism here along with photos and articles. Soros is sponsoring an anti-capitalist think tank with millions of monies while telling European financial and political leaders that America does not want to be number one any longer.....(is this a plan about something and they don't tell americans what it is).....

November 02 2010 at 10:09 AM
amarocips

no one going to read that long post

November 02 2010 at 10:10 AM
Steve

So what? In the last mid-term elections, the voters booted out all the Republicans because they thought they were doing a crappy job...and they were! How soon we forget.

November 02 2010 at 9:48 AM -5
1 reply to Steve's comment
betearnhardt

I agree. How could anyone follow a party that sent this country into an endless war? I have only one complaint on Obama and that is for remaining in a sensless war that can not be won. Even Russia pulled out of the discord in the mid east. How, HOw, can anyone support this war with the drain on our next generation by killing and maming them? Some hard hearted people out there.

November 02 2010 at 10:08 AM
ump495

good morning my fellow americans. well today is election day across this great nation. i am a 65 year old gentleman from west virginia that has gone through this process many many times. i am a registered democrat and have been all my life but i ask that you dont hold that against me. you see i have voted for both parties in the last many years, depending on whom i thought would be the best candidate, not just because he/she was a democrat or republican. thats just one of the many RIGHTS i, along with millions of other young women and men have given this nation, some with their own life. today being election day i find myself angered, somewhat confused, and mad as heck that my party, the democratic one, has deserted me and moved to far to the left. i am ashamed to say that i voted for obama, but then again like millions of others i have come to realize that i was professionally fooled by this snake oil salesman from illinois. his phony and lieing tounge had me so convinced that he was a bit of some honesty, good dreams for us the american people etc etc. but under his lieing deceitful image of leadership and the to far left agenda of the present congress and senate i again will be forced to vote them out. they have deserted me and many other long time party democrats. my hope today is a simple one. most importantly that everyone that has a right to vote, do so, and most importantly that they vote with the facts we see and have seen in the last 4 years. i will not vote democratic this year and pray that all those that are as mad as i am do the same. they have totally ignored the will and desires of their constiuency and its high time we the american people tell them, THATS NOT HOW IT WORKS IN AMERICA. we the people must take back our country and tell them and future politicians that we are and will continue to watch observe what you do and dont do that we demand of you. get out and vote and god bless america. and one final note if i may. TO THE PRESS OF THIS GREAT NATION, we are tired of your left leaning bias reporting. you will be next. i already gave up on the media being a democratic owned media and do not watch anything other than fox, the others lack the integrity that a good journalist should have. go america....................

November 02 2010 at 9:48 AM +11
1 reply to ump495's comment
Charlie

You're buying in to the snake-oil salesmen from the right. Actually, the Democrats haven't moved to the left at all. They're to the right even of where the Republican party was back in the 1950s and 1960s. President Obama has been an honest man--those who claim otherwise are twisting things in a Karl Rove style. You have been fooled by Fox news, the propaganda station. Actually, there is no "democratic owned media." It's all owned by the far-right radicals, and Fox is the worst of the lot. No wonder you have been fooled.

November 02 2010 at 9:58 AM
steelesasteele

There is no such entity as "Republicorp". That label has been assigned by the leftists from MoveOn.org and Media Matters. This nonsense will not work this time. Maybe next time you could talk about issues that matter. Oh, I forgot. The issues that matter to the people DON'T matter to the Democrats.

November 02 2010 at 9:43 AM +10
1 reply to steelesasteele's comment
Charlie

The last time I checked, Democrats ARE people. "Republicorp" is obviously not intended to refer to an actual entity, but to illustrate the Republican party's servitude of big corporations and forsaking of the people, which certainly is something that matters to the people.

November 02 2010 at 10:00 AM
mbhbburge

If the Republicans do take control: I hope you fail. You have no time to right the economy. If I don't see jobs, jobs and more jobs coming the first days you are in charge, I will start to hold rallies to get you thrown out of office for not getting our economy running. No excuses. The futures of my family and their families depend upon it. Getting cracking.

November 02 2010 at 9:43 AM -4

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