Why Democrats Are Smiling

The elections may have been a mixed bag for the White House, but they certainly didn’t signal a Republican renaissance. Far from it—the party’s “grassroots patriots” are now headed for war against the moderate apostates.

While the Democratic brand is obviously not what it was when so many of us were brought to tears a year ago by that beautiful scene in Grant Park, Republicans are on the verge of civil war. The sure-to be-a loser side appears to have all the soldiers and the reasonable-sounding side, and the one that can win, appears to have well, not much going on. The Republicans’ suicide will be anything but painless if this keeps up—and it will, if only to continue to juice Fox’s ratings.

Still, Tuesday was a mixed bag for the Obama White House. Clearly someone in the political office needs a vacation, perhaps an embassy post in Bora-Bora.

Overall, the news was pretty good for Obama and the Democrats from the standpoint of 2010 and even more so for 2012.

Obama traveled three times to New Jersey for Jon Corzine, an unpopular incumbent who never polled above 45 percent and who made his opponent’s waistline his most significant campaign issue. What’s more, Corzine was relying on a heavy vote for a nutty third-party candidate even to have a chance of winning. Meanwhile, a minor investment in New York City might have turned out the greatest political upset of the year and given the Obama operation a powerful shot of mojo, rejuvenating the issue of campaign finance reform in the process. But it was not to be. Obama bet on the wrong horses—make that billionaires—on both banks of the Hudson.

But overall, the news was pretty good for Obama and the Democrats from the standpoint of 2010 and even more so for 2012. Many in the media are echoing the wishful thinking of the Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, who called Tuesday a “Republican renaissance.” In fact, it was a victory exclusively for Republican centrists. Bloomberg would be a liberal Democratic in city in real America. And in both Virginia and New Jersey, candidates won governorships by explicitly avoiding the issues that get Fox News anchors all hot and bothered. “Va. Republicans pledge to steer toward center” was the headline of a Washington Post story that explained, “Despite winning the governor’s race by a 17-percentage point blowout, Virginia Republicans insisted Wednesday that they had gained no broad mandate and would make their top priority the pragmatic platform that drove voters to the polls did not mention gun control or abortion, much less gay marriage.”

Benjamin Sarlin: The Plot to Purge GOP ModeratesLee Siegel: New Jersey's Obama WannabeMark McKinnon: The GOP Surge Isn't Obama's FaultPeter Beinart: Behind the Democratic WipeoutMore Daily Beast contributors on the election aftermathDitto New Jersey. The New York Times reports that “Governor-elect Christopher J. Christie of New Jersey, basking in praise from Republicans who hailed him as the party’s new star, said Wednesday that he would move quickly to suspend new regulations on business and find ways to lower crushing property taxes, the nation’s highest. ‘Other than taxes and funding issues, the most important issue to me is fixing our urban education problem,’ he said.”

Meanwhile, the “real Republican” running Tuesday night—the one who represents Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Tea Parties—lost to a rather nondescript Democrat in the now legendary New York 23rd Congressional District race. OK, so Doug Hoffman was not on the Republican ballot. The point is not only did he have the support of the grassroots and much of the party’s leadership—over their own party’s nominee—but he lost in a way that only emboldened his supporters to continue to make life miserable for the rest of the apostates who fail to see the world in the black and white hues that are so clear to them (and only them).

Palin has already launched the first scud missile in the coming conservative jihad, (naturally via Facebook): “To the tireless grass-roots patriots who worked so hard in that race and to future citizen-candidates like Doug,” she wrote, “please remember Reagan’s words of encouragement after his defeat in 1976: the cause goes on.” What’s more, South Carolina’s Jim DeMint is signed up for the insurgency as well, promising to support the far right challenger in the race for California’s Senate seat on the basis of her record of “rock solid conservatism” california-senate over former Hewlett-Packard chief executive and McCain economic adviser Carly Fiorina, who was the leading candidate in that liberal state, despite her awful record both at HP and with McCain.

In all likelihood, the Democrats will lose a few more seats next year but will be poised to run in 2012 against a party that looks and sounds a lot like George W. Bush, and I’m guessing that “Not George Bush” is a slogan with at least as much staying power for Obama as “Blame Jimmy Carter” had for Ronald Reagan.

Meanwhile, Maine is apparently the world capital of pot-smoking bigots. Who knew? Pot is also the big winner in pot-smoking Breckenridge, Colorado. If only we had pot smoking on the ballot here in New York City on Tuesday night, Pedro Martinez could have beaten Bloomberg. (I’m assuming that under the new rules of New York City mayoral politics, only billionaires need apply…)

Eric Alterman is a professor of English and journalism at Brooklyn College and a professor of journalism at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He is the author, most recently, of Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Important Ideals.