03 November 2009

Tonight's Results Already Clear

All signs seem to point a Republican landslide tonight in Virginia's race for governor, and to a possible victory for the GOP in New Jersey. In New York, a right wing candidate of the states's Conservative Party looks to be the beneficiary of the moderate Republican's withdrawal from the race for an upstate congressional seat.

I would argue against the temptation to call such victories a repudiation of President Obama's performance in office. Take a look at Virginia's gubernatorial election in 2001. That contest took place in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when President Bush's approval ratings were in the stratosphere. Yet, the Democratic nominee won a comfortable victory. No one, not even an anti-Bush progressive like me, would argue that the result was a repudiation of Mr. Bush's presidency at that time.

If we take anything away from tonight's elections - even if the Democrats lose NJ, VA, and NY-23; even if marriage loses in Maine - it is that the civil war within the Republican Party has now fractured it beyond recognition. And tonight's victories will be one of only a few inconsequential ones for the GOP over the next generation.

The right-wing-dominated Republicans in 2009 resemble the left wing Democrats of 1981 - overwhelmingly rejected by voters the previous year and banished to the political wilderness. Sure, the Dems picked up congressional seats in the 1982 mid-terms, handing the Reagan White House a small set back at the peak of a pretty nasty recession, but the party remained in tatters, with the left wing dominating and Walter Mondale losing 49 states two years later.

So, as for tonight, the actual vote totals won't matter. The real result of the 2009 off-year elections is already clear: The Republican Party's downward spiral into civil war has come its next logical step - a complete and utter implosion.