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Bipartisan Establishment Turns Back Challengers, Strengthens Hold On Congress

The Coalition of the Wealthy increased its hold on Congress, defeating most populist insurgents. DCCC, down 19 seats at start, failed to contest 21 winnable seats. Details? We have them.
Bipartisan Establishment Turns Back Challengers, Strengthens Hold On Congress
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Gaius again, with a follow-up to this pre-election piece: "Are Democrats Already 'Tea Partying' Progressives?" A version of this essay first appeared at Down With Tyranny.

There will be much analysis of the 2014 election results (including here), but I want to add some preliminary notes of my own.

1. DC insiders and corporatists, the Coalition of the Wealthy, have increased their hold over the House and the Senate. It took a joint, bipartisan effort, but the effort paid off on election day. Bad for corporate Democrats, who sacrificed their numbers for the cause, but good for the Corporate Congressional Coalition (hereby the “CCC”) as a whole.

2. In the Senate, conservative Democrats Hagan, Pryor and Begich have lost or will likely lose to conservative Republicans. (Begich is good on Social Security, but not on much else.) Conservative Republicans Perdue and McConnell (he who kissed the Koch Bros ring) fended off challenges from DSCC-sponsored conservative Democrats Nunn and Grimes. Economic conservative incumbent Mark Udall lost to extreme conservative Cory Gardner and right-wing Democrat Mark Pryor lost to extremist ideologue Tom Cotton.

While modestly-progressive Jean Shaheen held serve, barely, unloved-by-DC-insiders Shenna Bellows and Rich Weiland (both true progressives) were successfully defeated by conservative Republicans Mike Rounds (to flip the seat) and Susan Collins (to hold the seat). Collins was endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters, a pro-environmental group that wants to curry favor with both sides. (Wonder who’s going to speak at their annual big-donor dinner? It won’t be the first time a conservative politician said thanks in this way to a “progressive” group backing conservative policies.) The seat held by mainly-progressive Tom Harkins was captured by ultra-conservative Kochist Joni Ernst.

If you’re scoring the Senate D. vs R., the R’s went up by +8 (if Begich loses) or +9 (if Landrieu loses her runoff). If you’re scoring it Rich vs. the Rest or Corporatists vs. Progressives, the Corporatists went up +2 (or +1½, depending on your opinion of Mark Udall) — flipping the Harkins and Udall seats — and in true bipartisan fashion, supporters of both parties jointly turned back two potentially strong but mainly un-DC-supported progressive challengers, Weiland and Bellows. Way to win, Friend of Corps. Team effort.


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3. The House analysis is going to take more time, but if all current leads hold, Steve Israel turned a 35-seat deficit into a 61-seat deficit. You can talk “wave election” and “gerrymandering” all day, but when Dems don’t even compete in 21 winnable seats, your problem starts closer to home — the boss is throwing the race (my emphasis below):

All of these [Republican] incumbents represent districts where Obama won in 2008 and/or 2012 but where Israel has refused to back the grassroots local candidate or has frightened off anyone from running against his Republican pals:

• NJ-02- Frank LoBiondo- D+1
• MI-06- Fred Upton- R+1
• WA-08- Dave Reichert- R+1
• FL-27- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen- R+2
• PA-06- Jim Gerlach- R+2
• MN-03- Erik Paulsen- R+2
• PA-07- Pat Meehan- R+2
• MN-02- John Kline- R+2
• PA-15- Charlie Dent- R+2
• MI-08- Mike Rogers- R+2
• WA-03- Jaime Hererra Buetler- R+2
• VA-10- Frank Wolf- R+2
• CA-25- Buck McKeon- R+3
• WI-01- Paul Ryan- R+3
• MI-11- Kerry Bentivolio- R+4
• IL-06- Peter Roskam- R+4
• PA-16- Joe Pitts- R+4
• CA-49- Darrell Issa- R+4
• IL-16- Adam Kinzinger- R+4
• MI-03- Justin Amash- R+4
• MI-04- Dave Camp- R+5

To put this in numerical perspective, it takes 218 seats to control the House. Democrats started this election with 199 — meaning they were 19 seats away from the majority. The list above is itself 21 seats.

Think about that — 21 low-PVI Republican-held seats where Israel has either blocked progressives or protected Republican incumbents. Again, the boss is throwing the race..

I don’t have a Corporate vs. Progressive count for House races, but a number of progressives lost or are losing as of this writing, including the under-supported New Hampshire progressive, Carol Shea-Porter. (Well-supported corporatist Ann Kuster won handily, 55% to 45%. I wrote about both races here.)

As you can imagine, none of the new Republicans is likely a populist, and since most of the losses on the Democratic side were by corporatists, the CCC held serve. Did they increase their numbers in the House? Likely, but a later analysis will have to determine that.

4. Does the newly-minted corporate Senate majority favor real filibuster reform? I kind of hope so — especially since our “collegially-minded” Democrats wouldn’t take full advantage of a robust filibuster anyway. The old-minted corporate majority favored only weak filibuster reform, and then only because, with Democrats in the nominal “majority” they had to make a show of doing something. They did the least something that looked like a thing.

(I know that the short-lived reform insurgency led by progressive Jeff Merkley was sincere in wanting reform, but the bipartisan majority had its way. Then, when it came time to either hide or expose the names of Democrats who wanted to help Republicans keep the filibuster alive — Merkley’s group chose not to expose the “old lions” to censure. How collegial — progressives and corporatists, together again, united to defend the corporatist plan. I will definitely come back to this.)

5. I earlier identified Obama’s four high-priority legacy items as:

▪ Health care “reform” — a privatized alternative to Medicare expansion
▪ A “Grand Bargain” in which social insurance benefits are rolled back
▪ Plentiful oil & gas, and passage of the Keystone pipeline
▪ Passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement

He accomplished the first as his first major legislative effort. The second was stymied when back-bench Republicans joined with House progressives and refused many times to approve it. On the third, Obama is indeed giving us “plentiful oil & gas” despite a great show of caring about trying to begin to start the ball rolling on climate fixes. On the fourth, TPP is stalled.

Look for Obama’s unfulfilled dreams — Grand Bargain, Keystone pipeline approval, TPP corporate empowerment masked as a “trade agreement” — to come back alive, thanks to the strengthened corporate Congress. If they reach his desk, will Obama find himself “forced” (by collegiality?) to sign them?

If he does, he’ll get a four-point legacy “sweep,” as I count them. Mission accomplished. On to his next task

GP

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