One bright spot stood out in yesterday's rout of Democrats in the congressional elections, it was the election of senate majority leader Harry Reid against all odds. Polls had predicted he was set to lose against tea party backed Sharon Angle. Well, that was one loss announced too early. No doubt Reid's win showed the way to (I hope) a strategy for the White House seeking to navigate the way through a diminished Senate majority and lost House of Representatives.
Clearly, the GOP Tsunami did not materialize. Democrats may well end up with 53 or 52 Senate seats, and did not do that badly in the Governorship races. This has been due largely to tea party candidates faltering when their rhetoric has been critically examined against their records. They don't hold up, and Harry Reid proved it. Indeed, the best defense is a great offense and it is this reality that Obama has to bear in mind going up to 2012. He must realize that discrediting and rubbishing the reputation of Tea Party by staring them down like Clinton did Gingrich (during the government shut down) is critically important to his second term project.
The way to do this is to focus on one issue, where clearly the Tea Party has rhetoric but frankly have lacked details i.e. issue of deficit and national debt. Two things can happen very quickly before spring to assist this process:
1. Focus on Bush Tax Cut as a deficit issue. It is important that Obama and Harry Reid find 41 good Senators that will filibuster the hell out of any bill that includes tax cut for the wealthiest and insist (until GOP blinks and propose a compromise) it as an issue of fiscal discipline (basically borrowing money from China to give Warren Buffet) and do so until the tea party acolytes now taking the politically incongruous position of tax cut and reduce deficit are forced to budge in the face of such inconsistency. Can someone say, "scale fall off their eyes". Just 41 good liberal senators can get the job done...go Reid...find them.
2. Force Republicans to put the global economy in a tail spin by denying GOP controlled House of Rep the votes to raise the debt ceiling. This is a job for Pelosi or whoever the new minority leader in the House. A Party discipline vote of "NO" to raising the debt ceiling will be the sharpest contrast between new debt seeking GOP that would have to do it or force the global economy into a depression (if America defaults on her debt) or go against their tea party nonsense and vote for it. Plan B: Once tea party house pass such ceiling raise, force a 60 vote in Senate that will ensure some republicans tea party type vote for it or are forced to filibuster along with democrats. Rand Paul, will you vote to increase the debt limit or destroy the global economy? It is a "either-or" proposition. I can't wait.
In the mean time, the President will have to focus on small business and jobs. Interestingly, a grid-locked legislature is exactly what the business community (to put some of their cash to work and start hiring again) has been waiting for and the natural ebb and flow of the economy gives me confidence the economy will come back faster than expected. Add the quantitative easing by the Fed, and you get every reason to wager in on the stock market (an approximation for the rest of the economy) in the next few years.
Indeed, the right course correction for the President once the two fights highlighted above have forced a compromise (and resulting disillusionment) of the right is to work with their wounded leadership on entitlement program reforms; much like Bill worked on Welfare reform with a wounded Newt (post shut down). That is the only free lunch in town. And perhaps try again for immigration reform, which the business wing of the GOP clearly still supports.
In the end what will ensure BHO's reelection will be a disillusioned and disenchanted tea party base faced with the hard reality of governing and being made to compromise every single time (and their alienation from establishment GOP leadership that will have to compromise...very quickly). It is this base that is now energized that need to be dis-energized by Democratic Party legislative unity and refusal to play ball and produce the votes that gives cover to rhetoric that will never be backed with action.