Before getting into the "updated agenda" part of this diary, I wanted to (maybe not so) quickly go through the exit polling and my interpretation of it.
Yes, the American People really are concerned about what Obama is doing
People here can pooh pooh it all they want, but there are four pretty damning results in the exit polls that show that pressing forward without re-evaluation may not be the wisest choice:
Obama's Policies Will...
Help the Country - 44%
Hurt the Country - 52%
Even if you include everyone who didn't vote for Obama or just didn't vote in 2008, this still means some people who even voted for Obama think his policies are hurting the country (46% in the exit said they voted Obama).
Next, the question about the stimulus:
Stimulus Package Has...
Helped economy - 33%
Hurt economy - 33%
No Difference - 32%
1/3 of voters think the stimulus helped the economy. At least 30% of Obama's own voters don't think the stimulus helped the economy, or worse, hurt it. While just as few people think it's a disaster, those who said it made no difference still voted for the GOP, largely because those people probably view the stimulus as money thrown into a lava pit.
And on health care...
What Should Congress Do With New Health Care Law?
Expand - 31%
Leave as is - 16%
Repeal - 48%
So most Democrats still want to do more on health care, but they're about the only ones who do. And they only made up 36% of the electorate this time. It doesn't seem any Obama voters want to repeal health care reform, but a good 30% don't want to expand it either.
The good news, if there is any, is that repeal isn't the slam dunk the GOP thinks it is. The counter to that is that trying to expand the health care law is even more toxic than repealing it.
However, the most damning result of all:
Opinion of Government
Government should do more - 38%
Government should do less - 56%
This means, at minimum, even 17% of Obama's own voters think that the government is doing too much, and it is likely closer to 20% in reality.
So does this mean we should just give up and become blue dogs? Not necessarily.
As noted above, HCR repeal, while getting significant support, still couldn't even break 50% in a GOP landslide election.
Other important planks of the GOP agenda also had problems. Cutting taxes as the "highest priority" for the next Congress only garnered 18% support. Also, there is this:
Bush-Era Tax Cuts Should Be Continued For...
All Americans - 39%
Families Under $250,000 - 37%
No One - 15%
In a GOP wave election, a paltry 39% say that those making over $250,000 should have their tax cuts continued. That is, quite frankly, pathetic, and is probably worse news for the GOP than the stimulus number is for the Democrats, given the nature of the election.
Even in a GOP wave election, extending tax cuts for the rich is still poison.
Also, this interesting nugget:
Anyone in Household Lost a Job in Last Two Years?
Yes (31%) - Democrats: 50%; Republicans: 48%
This means that people who were actually directly affected by the recession actually voted for Democrats over Republicans, even if just slightly. This means if the GOP causes gridlock, and the economy gets worse, they may not be able to bank on people flocking to them in 2012. It also suggests that actions taken to help workers (see: unemployment insurance) will, shockingly, make those people like you.
Also, the GOP isn't exactly the new popular kid on the block. Look at these approval/disapproval numbers, and remember, this is a GOP wave election, so the numbers should favor the GOP:
Democrats: 43/52 (Net -9%)
Republicans: 41/53 (Net - 12%)
President Obama: 45/54 (Net -9%)
Even in an election where the GOP won more seats since 1948...where the GOP has their largest house Majority since the 71st Congress, from 1929 to 1931, even in such an election, the GOP is still disliked more than both the Democratic Party and President Obama.
The Tea Party movement fared a bit better on the net, but only because there are still many people who just don't know enough about them or just don't care:
Opinion of Tea Party Movement
So the net here is +9, but the tea party still has the lowest Approve/Support number of anybody, even lower than the GOP in general (by a point).
Also, this result has mixed messages:
Highest Priority for Next Congress
Cutting Taxes - 18%
Reducing Deficit - 39%
Spending to Create Jobs - 37%
This has good and bad news for everyone.
The bad news for the GOP: cutting taxes isn't a very high priority for people, so their top proposal for fixing the economy...not really all that much support.
The good news for the GOP and Bad news for the Dems: Reducing the deficit gets the biggest score at 39%. This is perhaps a sign that the Democrats need to start making some real noise about trying to get the deficit under control, something that hopefully the progressives will finally admit to.
However, does this mean the Progressives should completely cede to the deficit hawks of the blue dogs? Not necessarily. 37% still think spending to create jobs should be the top priority, so some targeted stimulus may still be supported.
And then of course there is this:
Who Do You Blame for Economic Problems?
Wall Street - 35%
President Bush - 30%
President Obama - 23%
It's likely that the 23% blaming Obama are hard core Republicans who never have and never will vote for him.
So 65% blame pretty much those who should be blamed: Wall Street and President Bush. This means that an agenda of Wall Street oversight and reform may very well still be received well by voters.
This also shows that President Obama can still recover from this set back as, while people are frustrated with the steps he has taken to deal with economy so far, they still don't blame him for the economic situation they're in.
The main thing someone is going to have to explain to me, though, is why, for the 35% who blamed Wall Street, why they voted 56% to 42% for the GOP. I've been trying to come up with explanations since I saw that number, and haven't come up with anything that satisfies me as an explanation.
Finally, one final thing:
I've seen some people write that say, since the Blue Dogs go decimated, that proves that they were wrong and they were punished for it. While I don't think we can say the blue dogs were right, I think coming to the before mentioned conclusion is shortsighted as well, and here is why:
Blue Dogs lost because they were the lowest fruit. If there was a wave, they were going to be the first to go, whether they were right or wrong. It would be like saying that your front lines in a battle were poor soldiers because they took the brunt of the casualties.
No, they took the brunt of the casualties because they were on the front lines. I think something similar can be said about the blue dogs. They got wiped out because they were simply the first ones in the way. I don't think you can really come to any other real conclusions or judgments beyond that.
So what do we take out of all this. I think there are several conclusions that we can draw from this:
- Democrats would continue on Obama's current agenda, unadjusted, at their own peril.
- Surrendering to the Blue Dogs or "third way" Democrats, however, is not really the way to go either. There are elements of both the progressive agenda and the blue dog agenda that voters like and dislike
- The focus on the next 2 years must be on jobs. We can try to get as much done in the lame duck session (see: DADT, Bush tax cuts, etc.) as we can, but after that, things like Immigration Reform and Climate Change are largely going to have to take a back seat. Nothing is going to happen until the economy improves, and that means jobs, jobs, and jobs.
- Marketing will need to be important. I think one of the biggest problems with the stimulus, aside from completely blowing the expectations game, was that it was completely nebulous. No one really knew what it did. Democrats will need to do a better job clearly explaining to voters what their proposals do, and how they will improve the economic situation.
- Democrats have nothing to lose by fighting the GOP's agenda. The GOP and their agenda, despite yesterday's election, is lukewarm at best, and outright unpopular and opposed at worst. While compromise isn't necessarily a bad thing if both sides can work together on certain issues (however likely or unlikely that might be), there is little reason for the Democrats to cave to the GOP agenda.
So, I think the first step is that Progressives, moderates, and what is left of the blue dogs need to come together and decide on a unified agenda that everyone can get behind (even if they're not completely happy with it). Get the infighting done now instead of doing it over the course of a year and in public, like what happened with Health Care Reform. This, of course, will require concessions on both sides.
Things that I think the Moderates/Blue Dogs Should concede
I think the blue dogs need to concede that spending, if done right, is not a bad thing, and that letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the rich is also not a bad thing. The best way to keep their seat isn't to act like Republicans but to try to make sure that the situation improves (or at least that the Democrats have a credible sounding plan come 2012).
If things don't improve, they're going to lose anyway, as was demonstrated yesterday. Being obstructionist to try to win favor is not going to save your seat, so they just as well stop doing it and try to work together with progressives on finding real solutions.
Things Progressives should concede
The deficit matters. The voters aren't going to find "we'll deal with it later" to be an acceptable answer regarding the deficit. That doesn't mean Democrats have to go whole hog into deficit reduction, but it does mean that they are going to have to take some serious, real steps towards attempting to reduce the deficit.
Also, a similar smack down as the blue dogs, though I don't think the progressives in congress need it as much as the blue dogs do: standing by your principles is great, but doing so at the expense of putting together a real agenda isn't going to help anyone in the caucus. Drawing lines in the sand is only going to provoke the more moderate wing of the party. If you have to state a progressive position to start negotiations with the blue dogs and work your way down, then fine. But lines in the sand are going to be counter-productive.
So what can the Democrats set as their agenda for the following 2 years and into 2012? I don't think Democrats need to just dump Obama's agenda, though I think it might need some tweaking. Here are some things that I think Democrats can do:
Jobs and the Unemployed
- Create some smaller, targeted stimulus packages (though don't call them that). I think two prime ones would be an infrastructure spending bill and a renewable energy spending bill.
I think the important thing here is to create proposals that spell out exactly what is being done, demonstrates how the work that is being done clearly helps Americans, and helps put Americans back to work. I don't think these can be too big. Certainly not as big as the original stimulus. Maybe $300 to $400 billion combined between the two of them at most, I think.
- Push aggressively for continued unemployment. Even if the GOP won't let them pass congress, the Senate should continue to hold votes on the matter, and Obama should continue to press the GOP on the matter.
- Perhaps take a more aggressive stand against outsourcing, including punishing companies that outsource, and perhaps taking a more vocal opposition to unrestricted free trade deals
- The renewable energy spending bill above will fit here
- Kinda like how Palpatine says that Naboo has to "accept Federation control for the time being" in Phantom Menace, I think Dems are going to have to accept offshore drilling and other oil drilling for the time being. It's still popular, despite the Gulf oil disaster, and, frankly, we're still going to need oil until we can build up our renewable energy infrastructure.
- If it's not being done already (or even if it is), reward companies that actively try to reduce their carbon footprint.
- If Bush Tax cuts are renewed without the top bracket, then we don't really have to worry about that issue anymore. However, if the Bush tax cuts are renewed in full for some amount of time (say, two years) as a compromise, Democrats will still need to push for the eventual elimination of the cuts for those making over $250,000.
- Democrats need to make real, concrete steps at trimming the budget. And yes, I think the military budget should be included in that. I would propose something like a 10% cut in discretionary spending (only about $139 billion when looking at FY2010), much, if not most, of which can probably be sliced out of defense spending.
$139 billion isn't a heck of a lot, but it's a start, anyway, and it would show that Democrats are serious about doing something about the deficit.
- Jobs are very intertwined here, just because one of the biggest drags on the deficit is lack of revenues due to the economy. If the economy gets rolling, a good portion of our deficit problem will solve itself.
I don't think Democrats have to toss out issues like Immigration Reform or Climate change, but given the current (no pun intended) climate, I think these issues are going to have to take a back seat to the issues above. If we regain the majority in 2012 and keep the Presidency, we can certainly work on them, but jobs are going to have to come first.
Other Items to be Taken Care Of
I think there are a few other items that should be taken care of, though somehow I don't think the Dems will do it:
- Remove Tim Kaine as DNC Chair. Look man, I like you. You did some good things while you were Governor of Virginia and probably kept the recession from being as bad as it could have been in the state. But really, you suck at being DNC chair.
- Elect a new Senate Majority leader. I glanced at a tweet last night saying that Schumer might still challenge Reid for leadership in the Senate, and I hope he does. While the Senate didn't have an awful night, it was the mismanagement in the Senate that helped the GOP sweep into the House yesterday. And with a smaller majority, we're going to need someone who is more willing to bust some heads, especially those of Nelson, Lieberman, and Manchin.
OK...I think I'm done.