Charlie Pierce once more shows why he is one of the most read pundits around. He offers biting insightful comments which make a person laugh out loud. His last post on his live blog election night is probably the best commentary of this election I have read or heard:
1:30AM — I think it was contemplating the fact that both Sam Brownback and Paul LePage both may have survived as governors that was the last straw for me tonight. Brownback has wrecked his state. Even Kansas Republicans believe that. LePage is a local embarrassment who became a national embarrassment in the final days before the election. Even Maine Republicans believe that. But Brownback will go back to wrecking his state, and LePage will go back to embarrassing his because of an attitude that Republicans, and the conservative movement that has powered the party, have cultivated carefully over the last three decades. They have engaged, quite deliberately and quite successfully, in a concerted effort to convince the country that self-government is a game for suckers. Nobody does what they say they’re going to do, so ignore the fact that our candidates have drifted so far to the right that they’ll be falling into the Thames any minute now because they’re not going to act on their fringe beliefs, and just go out there and vote your Id. Once you’ve divorced the act of voting from the conviction that voting will have any connection to what the government actually does, voters do not vote their desires, they vote their anger and their fear. And Sam Brownback goes back to wrecking his state and Paul LePage goes back to embarrassing his own.
Let us dispense with some conventional wisdom before it petrifies. First of all, the president’s basic unpopularity was unquestionably a factor, but not anywhere near as much of a factor as was the reluctance of the Democratic party — from the president on down — to embrace the actual successes that the administration has achieved. The economy is, in fact, improving. It is the responsibility of the president and his party that we have the paradoxical polling that indicates that the elements of the Affordable Care Act are popular, while “Obamacare” is not. (Mitch McConnell told a transparent lie that Kentucky could get rid of the ACA and still keep its very popular state exchange. He didn’t suffer at all for that.) The senatorial candidates who lost were senators who ran away from the administration. Alison Lundergan Grimes wouldn’t say if she’d voted for the president. Kay Hagan endorsed the Keystone XL pipeline. Michelle Nunn practically ran as an independent. How much worse could it possibly have been for all of them had they stood by the president and his record? How much worse could it possibly have been for them had the president come to campaign for them?
Second, it was a great night for voter-suppression, which has been central to the Republican response to the fact that the president has been elected twice. Kris Kobach, the architect of the strategy, was re-elected as Secretary of State in Kansas, and Jon Husted won the same office in Ohio, over Democratic candidate Nina Turner, on an election that was a referendum on Husted’s voter-suppression tactics in that state. Thom Tillis, who piloted North Carolina’s incredibly stringent voter-suppression law through the state legislature, is going to the Senate, and Scott Walker, who oversaw the same kind of effort in Wisconsin, is going back to his day job, running the state into the ground and dodging subpoenas, until it’s time for him to run for president. It’s going to take days to sort out the overall effect of these laws on the general electorate, even if anyone cares to do so, which I’ve come to doubt, because the Supreme Court created a new normal when John Roberts gutted the Voting Rights Act and declared the day of jubilee, and the people in the country who are not those inconvenienced by these laws, and who are not those against whose franchise these laws were directly aimed, seem perfectly content with this situation.
Last, and I hate to break this to Tom Brokaw, and to Kasie Hunt, who talked about how the Republicans know they have to “govern,” but this election couldn’t have been less of a repudiation of the Tea Party. As the cable shows signed off last night, it was dawning even on the most conventional pundits that the Republicans had not elected an escadrille of Republican archangels to descend upon Capitol Hill. It was more like a murder of angry crows. Joni Ernst is not a moderate. David Perdue is not a moderate. Thom Tillis is not a moderate. Cory Gardner — who spiced up his victory by calling himself “the tip of the spear” — is not a moderate. Tom Cotton is not a moderate. And these were the people who flipped the Senate to the Republicans. In the reliably Republican states, Ben Sasse in Nebraska is not a moderate. James Lankford in Oklahoma is not a moderate. He’s a red-haired fanatic who believes that welfare causes school shootings. Several of these people — most notably, Sasse and Ernst — won Republican primaries specifically as Tea Partiers, defeating establishment candidates. The Republicans did not defeat the Tea Party. The Tea Party’s ideas animated what happened on Tuesday night. What the Republicans managed to do was to teach the Tea Party to wear shoes, mind its language, and use the proper knife while amputating the social safety net. They did nothing except send the Tea Party to finishing school.
It is well worth clicking on the link to read more of Charlie Pierce’s comments from election night.