The still prevailing narrative is that Democrats will suffer great losses in the fall and Republicans might take over the house and make strong gains in the Senate, even if they might not win both houses. This narrative has been the conventional wisdom for months now and, while it has been getting push back for awhile, it still qualifies for the title of conventional wisdom.
For months, I’ve been writing and saying that I think this is overblown. Yes, historical trends favor the Republicans as the out of power party in the first midterm election. Yes, the birfer/teabagger brigades are vocal and enthused. Yes, the economy is not yet fully recovered. Yes, there is a general feeling of anti incumbency and there are more Democratic incumbents than Republican incumbents. And yes, many progressives and Democrats are less pumped than in 2008.
But I don’t think it’s going to be as bad for the Democrats and progressives as the prevailing narrative is predicting. They will probably lose seats in both houses; but I doubt they’ll lose either of their majorities.
Despite efforts to tamp it down, there will be a civil war on the right. There was a minor freak out yesterday over the fact that a muslim Arab-American won a beauty pageant. It was a tempest in a teapot, but it was still illustrative of the nativist racism that animates so much of the animosity of the birfer/teabaggers.
Even if congress doesn’t act on it, immigration and immigration reform will be part of the debate. This is bad for rightwingers and Republicans because, not only does it alienate latinos and other immigrant groups as well as young people generally, it encourages loony rhetoric, especially from the types of older white people who like to complain in public about their liberties and country being taken away from them and how they, as older white christians, are the most persecuted group in America today.
That’s not exactly a formula for victory for the rightwing Republicans. The leadership knows this, but the base is clueless about their lack of broad appeal.
The base is largely isolated. They watch Fox, listen to talk radio, visit far right sites and mainly only talk politics to people who agree with them. The vastly overestimate the popularity of their views. But, fueled by this misapprehension regarding how many people share their beliefs and prejudices, they are ready to let their freak flag fly.
Like the apocryphal American tourist who shouts louder and more slowly when confronted with people who don’t speak English, the birfer/teabaggers, who are just the far right segment of the rightwing Republicans with new names, become louder and more shrill when they see their message isn’t getting the widespread approval they were so sure it would.
If you thought last summer’s ‘town hall’ meetings featured petulant, whiny baby boomers, wait till this summer. There will be rallies and protests galore. And the anger of the birfer/teabaggers will be directed just as much at the rightwing Republican leadership as at the Democrats, progressives, liberals, immigrants, young people, etc, etc…
When they encounter negative public reaction to their extremism, they will blame the leadership for ‘pulling punches.’ They will get more extreme and the leadership, becoming more and more afraid of their prospects in the general, will pull further and further away. Each factions’ actions will fuel the other’s reactions and it will get increasingly ugly.
And many of their potential supporters will either vote for Democrats or stay home.
Then, after the Republicans under perform, the leadership will blame the extremism of the base and the base will blame the punch pulling of the leadership. The disarray could last until after the 2012 elections.
Now, this could of course be overly optimistic. What if the Republicans do better than I predict, even perhaps taking the House?
I’d still think the base, and in this case the leadership as well, would take the wrong message. They would feel empowered and run to the right in 2012, which, I’d contend, would be a mistake.
Basically, I believe the rightwing Republicans created a monster when they ramped up their fringe base. Whether it’s sooner or later, there will be a backlash against the extremism. When — and whether — that actually happens remains to be seen. But I predict it will come sooner rather than later and that this summer will set off the backlash.