On Tuesday, May 24th a special election was held in New York’s 26th congressional district to fill a seat in the House of Representatives. If you did not know this, good for you, it means you have a real life and politics is not overshadowing all that you think and do. If you are aware of the special election, you have my condolences and welcome to the club.
The seat had been vacant since the abrupt resignation of Republican Christopher Lee, who was caught using a Craigslist dating site to send topless pictures of himself to women who were not his wife. Apparently the Radical Gay Agenda and same sex marriage has claimed another traditional marriage, but that’s another essay. In any case, Lee had won reelection in 2010 with 74% of the votes and NY-26 was considered a “safe” Republican seat, however, in a huge upset, the Republican candidate, Jane Corwin lost the election, and lost big. Democrat Kathy Hochul, an Erie county clerk, will be the newest member of Congress after capturing 49% of the vote.
This obviously is a good omen for Democrats in the 2012 elections, if only because it moves them one seat closer to regaining the majority. The odds on that are long, because a fourth straight wave election, one where 20 or more seats change parties, would be unprecedented. However, Republican political hubris has caused them to believe in their own press releases, and instead of focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs, which they promised us in 2010, the legislation coming out of the House has been the greatest hits of the conservative wish list.
Because the Senate and White House are in Democratic hands, most of the right wing social engineering legislation coming from the House was doomed from the start, proposed chiefly to keep the Tea Party base happy, donating and voting. Republican candidates had promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, yet have only managed a symbolic repeal vote, still no replacement plan from the GOP. Legislation from the House has included the usual fare of tax breaks for the rich, corporate welfare and attacks on NPR, women’s health care and the social safety net. Congressman Paul Ryan, under the guise of deficit reduction, proposed a budget that included the dismantling of Medicare, a program that has been on the Republican hit list since the day it was enacted. Every Republican in the House, save four, voted for Ryan’s bill and in doing so, voted to end Medicare as we know it. They have since been pummeled at town hall meetings by seniors, Independents and young voters as well, all worried about the destruction of a popular and effective program.
The election of a Democrat in a heavily Republican district, one who campaigned almost exclusively on saving Medicare, has cemented those concerns into the 2012 elections. If you are wondering what lessons the Republican Party took away from this debacle and how much power the Tea Party wields in closed primaries, the very next day 42 of the 47 Republican Senators also voted for the Ryan budget and to end Medicare.
Medicare now joins Social Security on the third rail of American politics; any attempt to get rid of it becomes a campaign issue and a vote killer. Americans have no problem cutting government programs, unless it affects them personally, those programs are sacrosanct.
2012 is shaping up to be an interesting electoral year, the Tea Party is forcing a weak slate of Republican presidential candidates to run far to the right in the primaries in order to win the Party’s nomination, far enough that the move back to the center where general elections are won will be a difficult feat to pull off. The Senate was ripe for a Republican takeover, because the Democrats have to defend twice as many seats, but thanks to the rarely used tactic of telling the truth about their policies, Senate Republicans now have a much longer row to hoe. Ditto for the new House majority, who not only have to explain why there is still no job creation legislation, but also why destroying Medicare is a good thing. Deficit reduction won’t work as an excuse, unless they also want to address support for the billions in government subsidies to oil companies awash in record profits or tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. As long as the extremists from either party are driving policy, there is hope for the other side and the good news for Democrats is that far right conservatives are fully in control of the Republican Party.

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