Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Blanche Lincoln’s Victory

Blanche Lincoln’s victory or as some are calling upset over Bill Halter I think gives some important lessons to those who think you can come in and decide local elections by trying to nationalize the election. For years I have argued that voters in one district or in one state do not value the same characteristics or gravitate to the same issues as other voters. The netroots community and labor spent a lot of political capital challenging the incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln with many folks believing their own hype. The hype was that if the netroots community targeted a candidate then that candidate was in trouble. The problem is that with a big tent party like the Democrats you cannot conduct purity tests. They have never worked and they never will.

There are certain states where the electorate defies the talking heads, prognosticators, and any logical conclusions. The state that immediately comes to mind is Kentucky. Kentucky has continued to elect Mitch McConnell who is the poster child for receiving corporate largess and despite the media coverage of his unbiased defending of corporations he remains popular. Not only have they continued to elect Mr. McConnell they have now nominated Rand Paul as a senatorial candidate. Unfortunately in America people of like minds tend to live in close proximity to each other and thus they create these pockets of suspended disbelief and as a result we get elected officials that are not accountable to their voters.

What the netroots community did was to allow Blanche Lincoln to portray herself as a victim, a victim of outside agitators, corrupt unions, and special interests. She was able to present herself as a populist against not just corporations but also the unions. And in a right to work state like Arkansas unions are easy targets. Did everyone forget that Arkansas is the home of Wal-Mart public enemy number one for unions? Conservative or centrists Democrats will always be a part of the Democratic Party and as such the Democrats will continue to be a majority party while the Republicans continue to purify themselves in a bid to attract a shrinking electorate. The people of Arkansas have decided that they preferred Blanche Lincoln despite her shortcomings to the progressive community.

So what are the lessons to be taken from her victory by the netroots community? The first is the first law of politics and that is that all politics are local. They are local to the voters of whatever district or state that they are in. The second is that not all voters in all states share the same understanding or perceptions of the issues. The fact is that for all the talk of the intelligence of the American electorate the truth is that in many areas of the country the electorate is anything but intelligent. Too often we have seen voters who have been bamboozled by special interests to vote against their own interests. The third is that the friend of my enemy is not necessarily my enemy. There are some states or districts where a progressive candidate cannot win despite the best efforts of the netroots community. There are no moral victories in politics. Despite the ramblings of the talking heads on MSNBC tonight was a loss for the netroots community.

Poor Ed Shultz looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights following the election being called for Senator Lincoln. Ed Shultz was in Little Rock to celebrate the netroots victory of Bill Halter. The problem is that someone forgot to tell the voters of Arkansas. The public option was suppose to be her “Waterloo” and as with so many other Waterloo references in politics they were greatly exaggerated and unfounded. Once again we have to reexamine our current reliance on polls and how they really affect voters. The public option polled very well in Arkansas but when given the opportunity to punish a politician who voted against it the votes were just not there. So this tells me that it was not as great an issue with the voters of Arkansas as it was with the progressive community.

There will be a lot written about what happened in this election and what can be taken from it both in victory and in defeat. I don’t know what this says about the current mood of the electorate or how this plays nationally, but I do know that when preparing to wage war one should always count the cost prior to taking on an enemy.

“The enemy isn’t conservatism. The enemy isn’t liberalism. The enemy is bullshit." - Lars-Erik Nelson

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