Yesterday's election results are interesting because it demonstrates that the Tea Party Mojo that Republican Party members like to claim as their own might be little more than Hate Talk Radio (+ Fox News) smoke & mirrors, at best. The energy that got President Obama elected is still alive, and might be the real center of our political universe. There's two reasons why this may be the case.
First, the Republicans lost a congressional seat in a district that John McCain won to Democratic candidate Mark Critz. This means that among the four congressional special elections held since President Obama was elected, Democrats have (1) won a seat Republicans had held since the 1850s (NY-23), (2) held Kirsten Gillibrand's tough seat (NY-20, a Republican leaning district), and (3) won in the only district in the country that McCain won after Kerry had carried it in 2004 (PA-12).
This suggests that, for all their talk about fearing Obama, Pelosi, Democrats and deficits (a Bush legacy) the American public just might fear letting the Republican Party have another bite at the apple even more. This is not good for a party that's been popping off about taking over the House, or that 130 seats might be up for grabs in November.
Second, since President Obama's election, electoral events in the Senate don't necessarily bode well for the Republicans. Scott Brown's victory in Massachusetts is seen less as a harbringer of things to come for Republicans, and more as an overhyped media talking point. Brown is no dependable Republican. More importantly, yesterday's results tell us that while Democratic progressives may be disappointed in President Obama siding with Wall Street, they're still pissed off and ready to go after lukewarm Democratic incumbents who seem too cozy in Washington.
Arlen "It's-All-About-Me" Specter is out in Pennsylvania. Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln (a serious corporate tool) is on the ropes in Arkansas. This means that progressives, liberals, and Democrats are under no illusion that simply electing President Obama is going to fix the country. He's going to need to be pushed, and he's going to need help. Democrats seem to understand this, now.
Worse, for the Republicans, is that they now have to deal with their newest Tea Party darling, Rand Paul, in Kentucky. Check out this interview. It's stunning for what it reveals about Paul, and the Tea Party.
In a few words Paul demonstrates that the Tea Party libertarian market views are really more in tune with a segregationist "States' Rights" platform than they are with America's historic mission. Seriously, for Paul to suggest that private commercial interests should be allowed to discriminate - while saying he's opposed to racism - is like saying you're a family values man, and then standing by and claiming it's a "family matter" when asked about your wife beating, child molesting friends (or is that more like proposing abstinence programs for teens while you're having an affair with a staffer?).
Look, if the state has no interest in preventing prejudice and hate from infiltrating society, even those owned by private parties, what's to prevent segregationists, supremacists, and outright racists from carving out entire regions of the country under the pretense of creating "free market" havens? It's been done before. Only then we called it states' rights.
As James Madison made clear, "If men were angels no government would be necessary." Guess what? We're not angels. Just because you (or your Tea Party supporters) have a Unicorn-like belief in markets will not alter this simple reality. You can't wish something true, no matter how much you believe it.
What becomes clear from the Rand Paul interview is that the Tea Party movement is slowly being exposed for what it really is: A mix of disgruntled Republicans and far right extremists in Political Drag. At the end of the day, while they get to play dress up and yell and cry like they belong in an institution, they're still nuts.
All of this is important because with Republicans stonewalling on any kind of financial reform, and weak-kneed Democrats pushing financial reform that doesn't quite do the job because of gaping loopholes, we're pretty much looking at another market meltdown. Those of you who follow this site regularly know why. Putting Tea Party candidates and their narrow-minded, Republican-on-Steroids, policies in office again would only make things worse. We can't afford another generation of misguided deregulation and tax cuts for the rich.
If there is a positive side in this environment (to the extent that there is a silver lining), we have this: If a market meltdown does occur before a strong slate of progressives are elected to office, yesterday's elections suggest that the adults of America are still at work. They aren't resting after President Obama's election. To be sure, they might be ready to pick up pitchforks and torches when the market meltdown occurs. But at least they won't add fuel to the fire, like the Tea Party libertarians seem ready to do.
If it's true that progressive and liberal groups are ready and organized enough to get real Democrats elected - and with the Tea Party being exposed every day as little more than the extreme wing of the Republican Party - we might actually get to see real some reform done over the next few years.
With that, let's keep in mind that FDR didn't create the New Deal in a year (or two). The extremists in political drag might not like it, but President Obama still has time. More work needs to be done. Stay tuned.