Election Night: Republicans Hang Themselves With Too Much Rope

Last night's elections, a mere one year after the Republican tidal wave of 2010, proved that while people are ticked off at the condition of the economy, they are in no mood to take right wing wholesale attacks on the quintessential American values like rights of workers, voters and their general dickishness.

Ohio voters used a citizens veto, by a 2-1 margin to roll back the attack on the right of Ohio public employee unions by Republicans in the governor's office and state legislature, Maine voters soundly rejected their Republican governor and legislature's attempt to make it harder to vote and brought back same-day voter registration, and voters in blood red Mississippi whacked the religious Right by defeating their "personhood" amendment by a wide margin. Not to be outdone, Arizonans recalled the author of the state's "Papers Please" racial profiling immigration law.

And here's the kicker: the Republican candidates for president - including their likely nominee Mitt(ens) Romney - are on the record being for almost all of these things now rejected widely by voters: Ohio's union stripping law, Mississippi's "personhood" garbage, and of course, Arizona's papers please act.

In the pragmatic progressive blogosphere, we have often talked about one of the strategic ways the President is dealing with the mountain of Republican petulance and obstructionism, namely, the strategy of handing them enough rope so they can hang themselves politically. Plenty of Lefties and especially the Professional Left has described this as "eleven dimensional chess" and berated its effectiveness, but time really does tell, doesn't it?

When President Obama entered office, Republicans made a conscious decision to hurt the country so that they can win elections. President Obama was not unaware of this disposition. But he also knew how to keep his eyes on the prize: he knew he wanted to get big things done (health care reform, Wall Street regulations, student loan and credit card reform, repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, investments in clean energy and a stimulus, equal pay for women, you name it, he did it), and he knew that those big things will generate so much resistance and corporate dollars that there would be electoral consequences. Most people stop thinking at this point. But President Obama and his team thought further. IF and WHEN the Republicans regain political ground, how do they get stopped from entirely ruining this country? Answer: let them show the people who they are.

And that's the proverbial rope he handed to them, in electoral terms. Republicans, licking their chops and savoring their big wins in 2010, sought to radically remake America - state by state when they couldn't do something nationally. They mistook voter anger on the economy for an endorsement of the right wing agenda. And they figured this was their opportunity to do away with organized labor, immigrants' rights and women's rights while no one was looking.

Well, guess what? People were looking. And what the American people saw horrified them. They figured out that the Republican party was not merely waging a war on President Obama. That their real agenda reaches far beyond undoing the progress that President Obama has made - their real agenda radically alters the character of this country by expanding the privileges of corporations while simultaneously stripping the rights of working people, reducing the autonomy of the individual by imposing big conservative government in doctor's offices, making it more difficult for people to exercise their democratic right to vote, and pitting ordinary Americans against one another.

When they figured it out, Americans came out in droves to provide the Republican party with a classic smackdown. People who didn't vote in 2010 realized what a mistake they made and they got galvanized. The Republican party got the ropes, put it around their own political necks, and kicked the support off all on their own. Ya-hoo!

But in a token victory for the conservatives, Ohio voters also overwhelmingly approved Issue 3, something that is billed as a rejection of the individual responsibility provision in the national health reform law (although in reality, the ballot language for it was really about exempting employers and corporations from responsibility and applies to Ohio laws only). Why is that? Well, for one thing, this was focused on one aspect of the health care law and no one bothered to explain how it works in tandem with the rest to get people health care. No one really likes a mandate. No one likes paying rent in a vacuum either. But when one considers what that rent provides (roof over your head, electricity, a place to sleep, running water, maybe a few extra goodies), it doesn't seem so bad all of a sudden. That's an effort we on the pragmatic Left need to undertake seriously - to educate the American people better on the totality of the reforms that the president has championed, not just the bits and pieces being targeted by the conservatives.

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