Monday, September 1, 2014

Consensus-Caucus Reboot - Centrist Politics Goes to Work Again

Welcome to, a place for common sense politics.  We are left of center here, but mostly centrist, so if you classify yourself as someone that doesn't go for compromise on any issue then you've come to the wrong place.  It’s Labor Day in an even-numbered year so that means the silly season is upon us and I’m hitting the road again, tilting my pen at windmills to promote agendas, policy and people who commit treason nowadays – they want to work with others to create a better country. 
I’d like to remind people, young people in particular, that our politics wasn't like this all the time.  America isn’t a perfect place and none of its institutions are flawless and while the Constitution and our forefathers are to be respected, revered and even loved, they are and continue to be works of humans, and therefore imperfect.  Anybody that tells you there is only one way to live or one “tried and true” answer to our problems are selling something, religion or ideology, and both are anathema to good government.  Don’t get me wrong, they have their place, almost everything was thought of in the Constitution, but they, like the branches of government are limited and contained – and should be. 
Divisions based on religion and ideology are facts of life, but today they have become too broad and deep, and I’m worried that the pluralistic assumptions on which the Document is based (an acknowledgement that groups will form to promote their interests, coalescing and reforming as those issues change with time), is being attacked and questioned by a view that there are only two kinds of people – us and them.  We are a two party system and will likely always be that way, but the parties have always been broad enough to represent more than one group, and didn't require absolute loyalty to the party platform.  Once you demand loyalty to platform and exclude diversity of people and ideas, without recognition that the other side may have a valid point, you have an ideology. 
Both parties get that way every so often, it’s nothing new, and that’s where the center must do its job – to crack them – point out the inherent contradictions in ideology and the Constitution’s barrier’s to absolute power, and also to bring people of good will together.  The pendulum of American politics swings both ways as our needs change, and for someone to try and rope the pendulum to one side or another by rigging the system, is dirty trick – but allowed in America and adds spice to our politics.  Time usually cuts the rope and the pendulum swings back with a vengeance.  Our journey here will be to ensure the pendulum swings freely and easily moving the country forward at an even pace.

It’s Labor Day.  Enjoy the day, Constant Reader.  Tomorrow is when we get to work and November is just around the corner.  For the record, I get my polling stats from  - but the articles posted there have become lame and from the same sources of division, rarely do I see a piece there that promotes working together.  I encourage the Constant Reader to read to read at least two articles, one from each side of an issue wherever you get your news and opinions – and of course, make a trip back here occasionally, I try to write once a week during the fall of an election year, sometimes more, sometimes I miss.  If you like me, share, re-post, you know – help me out.  Thank you for your time.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Corporate Tax Inversions" Are a Symptom - Will the President See the Larger Issue and "Go Big"?

The DC catchword of the week is "tax inversions", which is where a company that makes money in the US and around the world tries to limit it's tax liability in the the United States.  Sounds downright un-Amerrrican doesn't it?  Well, let's look at this and I'll try to keep it simple as most people are turned off by the details of tax law, usually getting rev'ed up by ideological talking points: "keep my taxes low and let someone else pay for the roads and schools!" or "tax those rich bastards and corporations because they know how to get around paying anyway!"

I'm having a bit of fun, and alas, there is truth to each argument, but do we need to apply knee-jerk ideology to every problem?  Corporate taxes are a funny thing, made more complicated by the Supreme Court's "Citizen's United" ruling that gave corporations "life" - they are people too.  So in my thinking, since I am taxed as an individual, the argument that Corporations just pass along the tax to the people that buy their products doesn't hold water anymore.  Corporate boards are made up of people who get an extra income depending on how the stock price does, and stockholders like myself also benefit from the stock prices directly.  Hopefully the workers will benefit from a rising stock price, but that's debatable since the price could go up because they have fired some of the workers in order to keep profits, and the stock price, up.

The Right to Life Movement Just Took a Weird Turn
So let 's keep it simple.  We agree that some sort of tax needs to be applied to corporations because they are people too.  That aside, if someone moves abroad to take advantage of better tax laws, they lose their citizenship but also pay a tax on any money made in the US. Fine.  But this is where corporations get the shaft from the US tax laws as currently formed: they pay a tax on money made in the US and pay the other country's tax where they've expanded to - fair enough I would say.  Here's the trick - the US a few years ago decided to tax the money made abroad AS WELL...making our corporate taxes THE HIGHEST IN THE WORLD.  That's not good for anyone.

Now, I'm for squeezing every dime I can from those evil corporate entities making decisions in a Star Chamber to control the universe -  but c'mon, this is America!  Darth Vader has rights and businesses DO create jobs - and as we found out with the"Free Trade" agreements of the 80s and 90s, if this continues, they can move jobs AND tax dollars to other countries.  No matter what Mr. Obama says, capital, per John Locke, Adam Smith and his friend Cardoso, all agree that corporations HAVE NO LOYALTY to any flag (economic patriotism Mr. Lew?  Really?  Standard Oil used the CIA to help get control over Iran, but I doubt it was to further Western democratic values by assassinating an elected president and supporting a monarchy with a fictitious lineage) .  

Capital, in the form of rational thought of humans, will find the best environment to make more capital (it's the beauty and terror of the system as you look at it).  So nasty, but smart, little countries like Ireland and the Netherlands have told American Companies, "Hey, we won't tax you at all!  We just want the jobs!  Come here and be welcome!"  It turns out Irish accountants know our tax system better than our legislators...why am I not surprised?  And talk about a nimble government  - they went from being a case study for a nation with too much debt, to a case study in recovery and doing what needs to be done for their long-term security.

But, What?!  No taxes on a corporation?  You mean, you would rather have the jobs, with no income tax and just tax individuals on their consumption?  Why...that's UN-AMERRRICAN!  "Of course", say the Irish and the Dutch, "we're the Irish and Dutch and don't give a fig about ideology.  We just want the jobs that you, apparently, do not need.  The taxes from consumption related to a higher income will do us just fine."  

The Irish and the Dutch seem to know who to play the game better than us

Company after company, most notably Apple, are not paying ANY taxes by re-incorporating their businesses overseas where this form of "tax inversion" opportunity exists (some Caribbean countries are now home to some of the largest companies in the world).  Seriously speaking, I'm not actually a fan of taxing corporations as in truth, they ARE NOT people.  They are vehicles for enterprising individuals to invest in risk once a small company decides to grow to into a larger company - using the money from stockholders to advance it's interests.  We need to tax those individuals, whether they make money from a 5% CD or from trading stocks, whether working a $14 hour job or a $200 an hour job as well - tax them on their consumption. 

We need a consumption tax that doesn't care how you make your money or how much you have - only that if you buy a huge house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina one will pay more tax on that purchase than if you buy a modular home on the edge of a corn field in Iowa.  If one buys a Lamborghini or a Fusion, there will be a difference in what you pay in tax depending on how big the sale.

This is even different that Steve Forbes' notion of a "flat tax", because I don't care if you are hermit gazillionaire waiting for the Apocalypse in a cave with all his money in gold (what he will buy with all that gold is another question...I'd rather eat popcorn during an apocalypse), encouraging people to save for a rainy day or retirement is always a good thing. 

So what do we have, then?  No IRS for one.  Both the Left and the Right would like to see THAT, but I'm sure that the accounting community may not like the idea of a simplified tax code for individuals and companies, but I think we could offer some kind of temporary assistance for them to transition into another field, say, farming pot?

Seriously, we would have a simpler and more transparent tax regime where an increase in taxes is immediately felt by all.  I'm glad that the White House and Congress have woken up to threat to our economy posed by our demented tax system only when it affected the income of the government and not the jobs lost from this gaping loophole .  But the president's idea to close the "inversion loophole" is only a band aid to the overall problem of corporate tax reform, and makes it punitive as well - punitive in the sense of making it retroactive to May, serving to unwind all those deals made prior to the legislation, and unfair to those who were simply doing what was in the best interest of their companies in an increasingly competitive global environment.  

If we want to create more jobs and attract more companies, lowering or getting rid of the corporate tax is something Democrats and the Left should look at through different lenses - we get that corporations are not people, but only people should be taxed and taxed on what they consume, not what they produce.  Mr. Obama doesn't need another "election issue" to rail against corporate America, he needs to look at this as an opportunity to open the gates for companies to access our talent and our increasingly cheaper energy.  I don't see President Obama using this issue in a positive way at this point though, he's too caught up in the insidious partisan game that kills the idea of any legislation by making it a campaign issue rather than policy initiative.  I am tired of waiting for another election Mr. Obama - and I know some in the GOP who don't want to accomplish anything while this president remains in office.  

This is yet another opportunity that the Congress and the president will not fail to miss.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Happiness as a Human Right

Happiness as a value or goal or even societal measure seems a bit trivial in the context of today's important events, and the straight up question, "are you happy?" is loaded one for most people based upon my own unscientific observation of human behavior.  A person that is "happy" is most times mocked, put down and even scorned by the jealous.  Sure, one can be happy about an event in your life, like, "I am happy to finally graduate from college" or "I'm happy that you are pregnant", and "I'm happy this election is over."  It is in the context of a temporary or fleeting moment, because if you describe yourself as a "happy person" in a permanent sense or even intermediate/transitory state, I contend that most people will put you in a mental category of the foolish, naive or just plain goofy at one end of the spectrum to downright crazy on the other end.

Normally people look for a qualifiers to the happy state describing their situation as "content", "satisfied", "positive", or use the more fashionable expression, "blessed" or "blest" (I'm really annoyed with its overuse).  These all imply a less than perfect state of happiness and that there is a cloud out there that one has come out from under, nearly missed, or just over the horizon. To describe oneself as to be in a continuous state of happiness is like subscribing to a new religion or ideology - it is at that extreme - where only the most devoted go to start selling flowers in airports.  So if we are so averse to the word, so embarrassed by it's taint, why does our Constitution puts it front and center as an inalienable human right.  We have a right to be happy, and we have a right to do what it takes in pursuit of that very state of happiness - as long it doesn't bar someone else's path to happiness.  We should be in awe of the happy.

A remarkable concept if you think about it.  Recently I've heard that the American Dream is to be a millionaire; it was basically why the pilgrims came to this country - to be job creators and millionaires don't you know.  That is not what I grew up with, but for now we'll let that statement speak for itself and it's apologists.  In my youth there were a number of American Dreams, from becoming president to simply owning a home with a picket fence, two dogs and a car.  In my grandfather's time it was even simpler: a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage - "little pink houses for you and me".

Becoming a millionaire was on the list, but not so common as to be a political message, and certainly priests back then would have a talk with you about the difficulties the wealthy have in getting into heaven, something to do with camels and needles.  We don't hear that too much from priests anymore on the subject, although I hear one in Rome has re-opened the issue.  So what of those millionaires - are they happy?

A recent CNBC survey of millionaires, the top 8%, shows them not be so different from the rest of us.  They see happiness in terms not so different, believing that spiritual happiness is a part of life and that hard work is a good part of the pursuit of happiness.  Because of that belief in work they are not ashamed of their wealth - and if I was lucky enough to be with them I wouldn't either.  I don't begrudge them their wealth especially if they contribute to that system that enabled it - a representative democracy and a well-regulated free market. 

The survey found they agree with most Americans that inequality is becoming a problem - is a major problem.  Even some of the Warren Buffett's of the world (the 1%) have trouble leaving all his money to his children, quite rightly thinking we may be creating an aristocracy in this land of the free, exemplified by different educational systems and the growth of private and charter schools, different neighborhoods and gated communities; and like a special pass that costs more to get you to the head of the line at King's Dominion, a judiciary and government that can be bought and paid for on the whims of the powerful (rulings like Citizen's United and others have made former justice Sandra D. O'Connor regret her decision to retire). Yes, things are quite nice for the wealthy.  But are they happy, since that is what everyone should want out of life?

What encourages me about the wealthy in this country is that they are just as divided as you and I are about where we go from here, and that they are not happy with things - a clear sign that American pluralism is alive and well.  According to the survey a large majority of rich folks think a raise in the minimum wage is needed as well as higher taxes on the wealthy - and a good many are Republicans too. Clearly, they know that people in general are not happy and while they are rightly not to be ashamed of their hard earned wealth, they are concerned about the distance between them and the rest of us.  I'm not worried about the wealthy, as Lenin put it, if they are unhappy "it's their own fault", but I will worry when they don't care about who is happy.

I also don't care if someone wants to be a millionaire, and frankly (as a social media friend pointed out), it sounds like our children will need to be millionaires just to retire comfortably (many say we all need to be millionaires now in order to retire...good luck if you've waited until your 50s to start - the market has likely passed you by).  Only let's make sure we all have the tools and opportunity to be wealthy.  If the wealthy are concerned about inequality enough to tax themselves there is a kink in our system, and once again we find that a supermajority of our citizens favor policy measures that are not represented in Congress.  We are not happy with that at all, and a pox on both houses and parties for making it so.

Sometimes the pursuit of happiness is enough, for the Greatest Generation and the Immigrant Generations it was enough.  We need to return to that spirit, we who are older in particular - we've had our time and blew it.  Interestingly enough it was the longest era we have known where the "arc of inequality" stayed pretty level.  I don't know if we can return to the prescriptions of that time (big unions and big government in the 21st century seem antiquated even to a good lefty like myself), but lately I'm not too sure that anyone in Washington is concerned with the general happiness of the entire nation anymore - unhappy and angry people always looking for 51% to claim victory in checked and balanced system - foolish and goofy, naive...crazy.  

I may sound goofy, but I think we need to bring back the happy instead of the angry.  Perhaps looking at candidates that are happy or want to be happy or wanting others to be happy is the answer; because if our elected leaders are not interested in one of three most fundamental of human rights, they aren't in Washington (or our state houses and county seats) for the right reasons.  Be happy, Constant Reader.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

C2 Starts Up Again: 2014 Midterms Will Show How Times Have Changed

Consensus Caucus:
A Place for Passionate
The Senate is in GOP hands.  At least that's what conventional wisdom (CW) predicts will be the result of midterm elections this November.  A flood of old white people, ever the truest friend of the GOP, will show up in state after state to vote for just about anyone claiming to be that critical vote to push back Obamageddon. The Pew Research Center in DC projects 80% of voters in 2014 will be white, and while 40% of white voters are Democrat, only 20% can be counted on to vote this year.  Not only senate seats held by Democrats where Mitt Romney won are in play (Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Carolina and South Dakota), but some blue and purple states as well.

Obamacalypse - waited to sign up to long
All the signs of the End Times for Democrats are there, according to CW: 1) it's a mid-term so young people, minorities and working poor won't show up;  2) it's the second mid-term so the party in power always loses seats; 3)  President Obama's image took a structural hit after the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the details of the plan were not what was promised; 4) there are very few seats that Democrats can claim an offset (Kentucky and Georgia, but the GOP will need self-inflicted wounds in each to increase any chances for Democratic wins); 5) the weight of all that becomes an issue as well, depressing even the most fervent of Lefties to wait until the presidential cycle to expend their electoral energy, instead of taking off early from a temp job to vote that may not "count".  

I beg to differ with CW.  History, and trends can educate but not prognosticate, and like the economy, this year's electoral map and data are unstable to be sure. We've identified some counter-trends and historic anomalies that exhibit interesting possibilities for this mid-term.  Bottom line: times change and the impact of technological, migrational and generational trends have yet to be felt or fully understood, and according to C2 the 2014 mid-term results may be another example.    

C2 had the opportunity to speak with students in North Carolina's "Research Triangle" recently and was surprised by the tone of young people there, who were not only knowledgeable of the issues in the 2014 race - and conscious of the barriers to voting placed against them by the North Carolina state government. Nonetheless, they were excited to vote locally and eager to find ways to get their fellows to the polls in November.  Hardly a scientific exercise but indicative of what went on in 2012, where youth enthusiasm wasn't recognized by the Romney camp who continued to gauge youth enthusiasm by how many kids showed up at a rally.  Being thoroughly out of touch with young people, underestimating the power of social media, and viewing their participation in 2008 as a one-off, this slice of the electoral went uncounted by the Right.  2014 will be another test of the youth vote as a reliable member of any coalition.  

A president's second term is also a difficult one for his party according to history, losing an average of four seats in the Senate and a dozen or so in the House.  Here C2 points to Bill Clinton administration for help.  All else being equal, most analysts point to congressional overreach and negative impressions of Newt Gingrich as the deciding factor in the '98 midterms, and one of the most unusual results in American electoral history - the Democrats did not lose a single seat in the Senate and actually gained five seats in the House.  Rather than a validation of political conventional wisdom, the exception to the rule forced Speaker Gingrich to resign.

Pure the Senate one day?
Can this be repeated?  Not exactly.  The GOP has been fighting an ideological civil war since 2010 when the Tea Party came to power, and a civil war by it's nature has more than one leader.  If the GOP had a distinctive party leader such as Newt Gingrich, 2014 could be an exact mirror of 1998 given the approval ratings of Congress.  There are just too many actors for the Democrats to focus on, and while their base may show up in November, C2 doubts fear and loathing of the Koch brothers will get them there.  But that doesn't mean the base or a large part of it, won't show up.  As Terry McAuliffe's 2013 gubernatorial election showed, even the worst candidate can win if the message and organization is there.

McAuliffe is the archetypical insider: President Clinton's close friend and campaign manager as well as Democratic National Committee Chair from 2003-2005, he knows how to win elections.  Despite all his negatives, his Tea Party opponent was by far more objectionable - so much that establishment Republicans in Virginia would not endorse him and the Republican National Committee would not fund him.  In September polls showed a landslide for McAuliffe - but that was before the Obamacare website rollout and the president's misstatements on the ACA's promise to keep your current doctor and policy.  Still, the Democrats took all three statewide seats, but could not expand their position in the legislature.

"Jane! Get me off this crazy thing!"
Nonetheless, since last November the word is out for Republicans, establishment types or Tea Party folks, to hammer their opponents on Obamacare.   But the news for the GOP isn't as rosy as they'd like to think. Yes, they've taken two congressional bye-elections with each candidate using Obamacare as a hammer to nationalize the election.  While this was a no-brainer for the South Carolina district, the congressional district in Florida wasn't a cake-walk, with the GOP candidate winning by 1.8% in a district they had held for over sixty years.  Neither was a pick-up by the GOP, but with the Florida district also won by Obama two times, an interesting questions remain for both sides:  will a single-issue campaign against Obamacare work in a senate race?

According to most polls through March voting Republicans are 7% more likely to vote and congressional Republicans hold a minor lead over Democrats in popularity.  Those are small numbers and can be changed. Recent polling suggests that the 2013 scandals and issues with Obamacare bottomed out sometime in the winter, when IT became the news.  C2 posits that as the American public is more familiar with the ACA and experience it's benefits, it will be too difficult to realistically take them away.  There will always be a portion of the public who will hate the law, as much as they continue to hate social security and medicare, but the problem with the GOP is that as long as the Act does no harm to the average person, Americans will adjust and move on.  

I've done my job
Establishment Republicans like Paul Ryan have done themselves a favor by passing a budget that goes past the 2014 elections, shielding them from another moronic move by backbenchers in the House to shut down the government.  But if there is no more negative news about the ACA, they will be the ones who look to be gambling on single-issue message in November.  Winning a congressional seat in Alabama is much different that winning a senate seat in Arkansas, North Carolina or Louisiana where local issues and environments can add unknown flavors.  Louisiana Senator Landrieu is part of a political family that has served the state for decades, while Arkansas is the home of another very well known political family.  North Carolina is the most interesting of all, with the local Democratic party mobilized by a voter restrictions and other measures.

Bottom line: while there are a lot of factors pointing to a good year for the GOP, the election and the Senate is hardly within their grasp.  The ACA will need to be continually in the news in a negative light and Democrats will need to be as depressed and unconscious as they were in 2010, something I find hard to believe even with the voter restrictions passed by state legislatures.  History is not certain, and nor is the message guaranteed to be a winning one, and we feel more of a gamble for a party swimming against a generational and migrational tide on all other issues for which it has no answers.

And a final thought - even if the GOP were to take the Senate by winning eight seats, what would it mean for Obamacare?  Not much.  We are certain he has a special pen for vetoes and can wait out another two years.
"No more elections and a big fat veto pen"

*Consensus Caucus (C2) is a site where center-left ideas and issues are thoughtfully discussed.  Enjoy and comment, but do it with civility or leave.  Trolls are verboten and will be thrown off with extreme prejudice.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

Standing Up for the Ukraine

What happens in a far off and unfamiliar country matters and it's time that President Obama reassert American moral authority after the debacles in Syria, Libya and Egypt.  The Ukrainian people have, for the third time in twenty years, rejected Soviet and Russian dominance and interference in their affairs - and it's time the US play a more active role where it can to promote democratic movements.

If the Ukraine succeeds, he loses
All I've heard since the Ukrainian crisis began is that "the US can do very little in this region."  It comes from both the Left and the Right for different reasons.  The former wants a less activist foreign policy that may get us mixed up in a hot war, and the latter for more selfish political reasons: to continue to make the current White House look weak and ineffective at all levels in an election year.  As Americans we have to reject a kind of neo-isolationist tilt reminiscent of the post-Vietnam era, for as we know - as well as most around the world - when their is a vacuum of power, someone will try and fill it.  So far it's been Russia's President Vladimir Putin who has benefited from American insularism.

It is easy to point fingers at who is to blame for Ukraine's situation and the reasons for Russian assertiveness...there is plenty of blame to go around: from the Bush era naivete of Putin's motives to Obama's single-minded attention to his domestic agenda.  The international policy of the current White House is unclear except for one point: to draw down our military in the Middle East and realign our defense posture to support our trading interests in the Pacific to check the Chinese.  But as the only superpower left with the capability to build international coalitions, our responsibilities can't easily be forgotten in other regions - especially Europe, where every major conflict of the past two centuries seems to start.  

We must fight the urge to look inward and realize that our way of life depends on promoting our values around the world.  If we do not stand up for those trying to emulate our system of government which is based on human rights, tolerance and respect for the integrity of internationally recognized borders, then we deserve the world that others will create for us through brute force.  

Peace at the point of a gun never works
Putin's actions emulate the worst in history, manipulating his people to serve his private ends and the financial gain of his supporters.  A free democratic Ukraine at the border of Russia portends a true end to the remnants of Soviet-era tyranny and the kleptocracy that grew around his rise to power, and maintains his neo-fascist regime seeking to rebuild Russian hegemony in eastern Europe and central Asia.

What we can do: surely, we cannot think of a hot-war now when there are many tools to punish Russia that can easily be directed at the heart of the Putin regime - gaining control over Russian financial assets and an embargo on Russian energy exports.  Diplomatically, Obama can essentially end the G8 conference in Sochi by refusing to participate.  Yes, it's four months away, but it's a shot across the bow showing our determination and solidarity with the aspirations of the Ukrainian people.  Then there is a simple repositioning of our global military presence to ensure the current crisis does not extend beyond the region - what we think is not in our national interest will easily become one, once tanks are poised on the Polish border, or worse - refugee camps from a civil war in a country of ~40 million people.

Tyranny's answer to democracy
Mr. Obama needs to act fast as this Hitler-like strategy of invading surrounding states on the basis of "protecting the rights of ethnic Russians" must stop here.  No more lines in the sand. We may find that this may help with other movements-gone-awry in the Middle East.  Maybe not, but Putin MUST know that there is a limit and he has reached it.

The Ukrainians have paid for their territorial sovereignty by giving up nuclear weapons in a treaty signed by the UK, the US, Russia and Ukraine in the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  While the Ukraine was not allowed to be a partner in NATO, this treaty must have some kind of enforcement - someone needs to stand up with them and for them.  If not us, who else?  Are we up to the task?  Our ancestors are watching.  It's time to come together as Americans, imperfect as we are, to show the world we have not forgotten how to lead and stand for the underdogs.  There are no ambiguous groups here - the opposition represents everything the West wants in a new democracy.  We can't leave them in the cold.
We are "mutts", not "mongrels"; standing for the underdog

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Obamacare Flaws Taints Democratic Sweep in 2013

Bellwether: In 2009 the election of a slate of Republicans to the top seats in Virginia, combined with the election of Chris Christie in New Jersey,and the loss of Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts, was a bellwether for the GOP wave-election of 2010.  Democrats hoped for a similar decisive win in 2013 giving them momentum into the mid-terms of 2014, thanks to the Tea Party government shutdown in October. With a new Democratic Mayor in New York City (after 20 years) and a sweep of the statewide elections in what is now "deep purple" Virginia (stopping another decades long trend), the narrative around the landslide reelection of Chris Christie would easily be framed as "personality over party", and C2 and the Constant Reader could look forward to January, seeing a much diminished Tea Party brand struggle to maintain its death-grip on the GOP, and then, perhaps a much diminished role for them in 2015.  Well, let's stop right there...reality bites, Constant Reader.

Not today
What win?  Didn't all those things happen?  All those things were accomplished and a moderate, practical and centrist proved to be the winning tone in Virginia - why can't C2 be very satisfied?  Simple, the roll out of Obamacare was a disastrous mess.  Not only did the website crash and burn after three years of development, there are structural and unintended negative consequences as well, like the loss of coverage for perhaps millions of people who were promised they could keep their current healthcare plans.  That the president knew this and did not warn us, even if the plans were dodgy and ultimately harmful to their owners, it was a terrible abuse of our trust - and Democrats know the implications of a commander-in-chief with trust issues. 

Called an "idiot" by Vets; but she's back
The impact: Immediately the flaws in the Obamacare rollout were felt in the Virginia contest.  Polls showed a quick tightening the week prior to Election Day. Tea Party leaders canvassed the state reminding independents of the issues with Obamacare, and getting out their own reliable vote with more promises of repeal and the approaching apocalypse if one stayed home on November 4th, 2013.  Not only was the governor's race closer than it should have been - Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe and "Friend of Bill" outspent his rival, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, 2 to 1 - and the race for attorney general came down to provisional ballots counted last night, and a recount is all but certain.  C2 still calls for a sweep at the end of the day, but it didn't have to be; there was even talk of pushing the Tea Party out of the Virginia House of Delegates as well.

A way out for Democrats.  President Barack Obama never had a great relationship with congressional Democrats, but they've been remarkably loyal through all the "scandals", real and imagined, this year.  But they will understandably get a pass this time, and C2 endorses it so long as it doesn't turn into a circular firing squad or look like rats jumping from a sinking ship.  Administration official deserve this - there is extremism and there is blatant abuse of power and trust, the Obama administration is guilty of both, as well as a host of classically bureaucratic mis-steps that characterize "Big-Government" during the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act, a bent but not broken law that C2 still supports as a market-based solution to our inconceivably irrational and inefficient healthcare delivery system.

Cute currently homeless couple
Yesterday Bill Clinton, a firm ally of the Obama administration through the years, opened the door yesterday for congressional Democrats to step through, as the mantel of party leadership begins to pass from a lame-duck and wounded president, to the presumed front runner in 2016.  So far Obamacare has not touched the image of Mrs. Clinton and her husband has quickly moved with dispatch to ensure there is daylight between the former Secretary of State and the signature legislative achievement of Mr. Obama.  Again, C2 approves.

Leaving you with a positive note: there is a million political years between now and next November, time for repairs of websites and relationships with voters by both parties.  We were happy to see a potential for pragmatic centrism seen after the shutdown in the House and Senate, after the Tea Party's embarrassing moment of self-delusional theatrics in DC.  Moderate and establishment Republicans had finally pushed back.  Now, we look to see where that new found courage finds itself with a re-energize Tea Party that came very close to an upset in least giving Democrats and moderate establishment Republicans a black eye on election night.  We look to see where the pundits finish and where the real power lays in January, when the next round of imbecilic economy-damaging histrionics takes place.  It will likely be the last point the center can act and show its potential for governance - leaving behind a self-centered administration on one hand and a self-deluded extremist core of the other party on the hand.  We are not optimistic, but we are hopeful.  There's a subtle difference.  

Btw: Happy Thanksgiving - don't work if you don't have to, don't shop unless you need stuffing mix; do spend time with family, do thank your higher power for the things you have, do help others if you have the means.

You may feel like a turkey, but at least you aren't on the table