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Not Right Wing but Still Angry

Posted on Nov 4, 2009

By E.J. Dionne Jr.

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J.—Tuesday’s elections were a rebuke to the right wing and a warning to Democrats.

They were also a timely reminder that President Obama needs to tune up his celebrated political organization and find a way to make Americans feel hopeful again.

The night’s biggest loser was the national conservative political machine—the wealthy tax-cutters at the Club for Growth and the Palin-Limbaugh-Beck complex. The Beltway right shoved aside local Republicans in an upstate New York congressional race, imposed their own candidate who didn’t even live in the district, and went down in a heap.

To understand the importance of the defeat of third-party conservative Doug Hoffman by Democrat Bill Owens in New York’s 23rd District, consider the narrative that would have been woven if Hoffman had won.

Combined with Republican victories in the New Jersey and Virginia governors’ races, a Hoffman triumph would have been heralded as the beginning of a new conservative revolution, a reproach to Republican moderates as well as Obama Democrats, and a sign that “big government,” including the Democrats’ health care plan, was on the run.


Square, Site wide

Instead, voters in the district (parts of which have been Republican since Abraham Lincoln) staged a different kind of rebellion. Furious that big conservative money and national personalities such as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck had forced out Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava—the official, moderate, locally chosen Republican candidate—they turned to Owens.

The Democrat was the perfect candidate for a middle-of-the road protest. He had only recently been a political independent and presented himself as having no ideological edges. The spurned Scozzafava backed him, creating a moderate united front. June O’Neill of the New York Democratic state committee called Owens’ victory a “backlash” against “the way they treated our friend and neighbor.” We know who “they” are.

The Owens win puts the victories of Republicans Chris Christie in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell in Virginia in a different light. Both won governorships by focusing on the need to win voters smack in the middle of the electorate: moderates, independents and suburbanites. David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, engaged in a bit of self-serving hyperbole when he said in an interview that McDonnell ran “not as a Sarah Palin Republican, but more as a Barack Obama centrist,” yet his point was right: McDonnell knew where the votes were.

So did Christie, who capitalized on a deep, personal disaffection with incumbent New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine. Christie, like McDonnell, managed in reverse the excite-the-base, win-the-middle strategy Democrats pursued so effectively in 2006 and 2008. Christie ran up huge margins in Republican counties, but also won over previously Democratic voters who were angry but not ideological.

Democrats will highlight Obama’s continued strong approval ratings in New Jersey as part of their larger argument that these contests were local in character. But the disaffection in both Virginia and New Jersey—and the unexpected narrowness of New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s re-election margin, despite his record-breaking campaign spending—should worry all incumbents, particularly governors seeking re-election next year. And after their strong showings in the last two national elections, Democrats happen to constitute a large share of the pool of incumbents.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, as he made his way to Corzine’s concession speech at a hotel here, said he sees an electorate in a dark mood. “There are two things happening,” the New Jersey Democrat noted. “One is fear. The other is punishment. Voters fear for themselves and their families, and they want to punish anyone who got them into this condition.”

What Lautenberg underscored is a spirit far different than the buoyant confidence Barack Obama inspired a year ago. And the Obama change-agents, particularly the young, were notably absent from the voting booths this week. In Virginia, a state Obama carried comfortably last year, a majority of those who showed up to vote on Tuesday said they had backed John McCain. This much more Republican electorate produced a GOP landslide all the way down the Virginia ballot.

That is the fact from this week that Democrats would be fools to ignore. It’s not a resurgent right wing that should trouble Obama’s party. Indeed, the stronger the right’s role in shaping the Republican message, the harder it will be for middle-of-the-road voters to use the Republicans to express their discontent. But for the moment, the thrill is gone from politics, and that is very dangerous for the mainstream progressive movement that Obama promised to build.

E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)

© 2009, Washington Post Writers Group

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By ardee, November 7, 2009 at 6:05 am Link to this comment

The Democrat candidate, being to the right of Scozzafava, won the election.

An utter drubbing for Lefties. 

I suggest that this is an excellent example of double speak. Rather than a rejection of the far right candidate we see a 1984 like rendering of opinion as fact..sorry nope.

That district had not elected a democrat since Lincoln was in the White House. Republicans are self destructing I fear. Their increasingly narrow ideologies and extremism makes them almost irrelevant politically. If it were not for the almost complete incompetence of the Democrats, and the economic crisis, we might not see any GOP successes.

Not that it matter much which corporate party rules.

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By DieDaily, November 6, 2009 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment

The coming elections are the time for us to follow not
only a strict policy of anti-incumbency, but of
independent candidates only based on issues. I can’t
remember who it was, but there was a candidate
somewhere who signed an affidavit or legal contract
regarding the campaign promises being made. What a fine
idea. If Obama had contracted to do the things he said
he would he would be in prison now, or at least penury.

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By Trailing Begonia, November 6, 2009 at 5:21 am Link to this comment

The Republicans didn’t get the message.  What gives anybody the idea that the Democrats will?  One party over the other is not the solution as they are both the problem with us sheeple stuck in the middle.  This remind me of a line from one of Clint Eastwood’s spaguetti westerns (which I’ll paraphrase to suit the occassion) “why, the Republicans on one side, the Democrats on the other and me stuck in the middle.  I don’t think so!”

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By Nighthawk, November 5, 2009 at 4:56 pm Link to this comment

“Not Right Wing but Still Angry”

This statement is, of course, nonsensical.  Did Right wing people bust up the Denver DNC office?  Did some Right wing guy instigate a fight at a tea party and bite off someone’s finger?  Are Right wing people resorting to violence including the use of guns?  Was Miss California Angry?


Left wingers are the rage filled folk.  Angry intolerant Lefties.

“The spurned Scozzafava backed him, creating a moderate united front.”

Let’s try it again, with truth.

“The Liberal Leftie Scozzafava backed him, further spurning her party’s base.” 

Scozzafava’s behavior caused a VERY NARROW LOSS for the dark horse candidate, the nearly unknown and underfunded Conservative candidate.  Among other things, absentee ballots for the Repugnican were utterly wasted.  Ross Perot reincarnated.

The Democrat candidate, being to the right of Scozzafava, won the election.

An utter drubbing for Lefties. 

By RdV, November 5 at 9:24 am #
“he won by promoting an ideological shift”


He won because of racism in America. 

White folks trying to prove that they are not racist.  Black folks proving that they are.

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By DaveZx3, November 5, 2009 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

There was definitely a clear message to me in the NY 23 election. 

If you put three people on a ballot:

1. a pseudo-Dem moderate

2. a nerdy newcomer with the personality of Don Knotts running under the “C”

3. a scorned, unpopular, Republican women, who drops out and throws her votes to the pseudo-Dem,

What do you get? 

You don’t get S—-. 

But let’s all pretend it meant something, o.k?.

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By Folktruther, November 5, 2009 at 9:30 am Link to this comment

The function of Dionne, and truthdig, is to to neutralize and delude the American people, which Dionne does here with the bullshit that commenteers have seen through.  Notice what the Dem Hopesters fear most:  anger.  The anger at being betrayed by Obama and the Dems.

The anger trumps the fear that Americans have in opposing power.  It allows them to reject the Inspiring dupliity that Obama emits to delude the population.  This fosters the emotion that may crystize in a grouping of Americans who wish to foster equality, peace and reason against the inequality, war and irrationality promoted by Obama and his truthers like Dionne.

It is therefore time for the American people to get mad.  We have been conned by Obama and the function of the mainstream truth is to prevent us from understanding it.  Our anger must be directed against the plutocracit gangssters that put Obama in power, and are looting us and the world as much as they can before the US sinks into barbarism.  With the outcome of these elections, it is obvious that this is now occurring, no matter how much spin Dionne uses to obscure what actually happened.

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By David, November 5, 2009 at 8:45 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A new excuse for Obama to make another hard right turn and further alienate his base and every single person who voted for him.  I believe this is referred to as ‘Rahm’s Revenge’.

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By ardee, November 5, 2009 at 4:51 am Link to this comment

I certainly hope that Mr. Dionne doesnt injure himself with this stretch. That the upstate New York election, one sent into a tailspin by inept right wing intercession, is an indicator of any leftward trend is simply hooey.

As indicated by the insightful comment of RdV many are not being fooled by empty rhetoric devoid of actual change. This nation is in a perfect storm, one that may very well see the emergence of third party politics, at least I for one hope so.

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By RdV, November 5, 2009 at 4:24 am Link to this comment

The usual hooey from this fool that must be paid to spin by the word.
  Obama did not win by playing to the mythological center, fool, he won by promoting an ideological shift and he betrayed that hope. the only thing that Obama has done is campaign and that is why the loss reflects on him. You do not serve him well, fool, in continuing to prop him up. It will be rude awakening—but I am sure you will spin that too with just a small but continuously annoying need to qualify your claim in a footnote.

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By Ian Kocher, November 5, 2009 at 1:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In his Daily Show interview with Plouffe, Jon Stewart pointedly criticized Obama for appointing the very same financial advisers and officials that were responsible for the creating the conditions for the meltdown.

As an independent minded progressive Democrat, I share the same outrage as Jon. Obama and his congress betrayed the spirit of change that motivated so many young voters. Watch for more of them to sit out elections.

The Democrats’ only redemption is a robust public option.

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By DieDaily, November 4, 2009 at 9:43 pm Link to this comment

Wouldn’t is be nice for Obama if the majority of the
people who fervently oppose him and his puppet masters
were republicans? Wouldn’t it be nice for all
politicians if there really did exist some sort of discernible difference in the corruption levels between
the two parties? Wouldn’t it be nice for all of free
humanity if people stopped believing in this Left vs.
Right fantasy? Yes, yes, and yes.

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By Commune115, November 4, 2009 at 5:07 pm Link to this comment

Obama was never going to “build anything,” he’s still part of the rotting system that’s bringing us down. He glorifies the “free market” and plays golf with people like Thomas Friedman. Unless a real, popular alternative presents itself, the right-wing will take advantage of the disillusioned. Liberals need to stop trying to spin this into something positive where it was really the “Tea Partiers” that “lost.”

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By @CT, November 4, 2009 at 4:42 pm Link to this comment

“Tuesday’s elections were a rebuke to the right wing and a warning to Democrats.”

That the Democratic and Republican parties had to MERGE, to elect a non-partisan running as a “Democrat”, isn’t exactly a “rebuke” to the right wing, so much as it’s as humiliating a “victory” as the Democrats could POSSIBLY, er, “win”—like Oblabla Himself, he’s a “Democrat” elected by, and beholden to, Republicans. Biiig deal.

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By muldoon, November 4, 2009 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, actually, the Glenn Beck crowd DID send a message to the Pres: Just because a district has been solidly Republican for over a hundred years doesn’t mean they’re gonna buy what the Far Right tries to sell them.

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By gerard, November 4, 2009 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

Serious, gruesome questions:  Has America become a country that uses war to partially “solve” its unemployment problemls, now that Big Business has shipped so many jobs (and so much pollution) to the Third World?  At the same time lowering numbers in the “population bulge”? 
  Has organized killing become a strategy of sorts?
Is the process conscious or unconscious Massive devaluation of human life accompanied by denigration of the human soul seem to point in that direction.

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By Mary Ann McNeely, November 4, 2009 at 3:15 pm Link to this comment

Tuesday’s elections were a rebuke to the right wing and a warning to Democrats.

A rebuke?  The Reactionaries won two governorships.  The loss in New York will be blamed on UFO’s, fluoridation, sun spots, possibly even the candidate himself, a quintessential Nerd if ever there was one.  What rebuke is this man talking about?  As for the Democrats, led by Howdy Doody Obama, you can expect them to continue being the Keystone Kops, except these Kops carry a lot of fire power.  Just as oafish, however.  Just ask the Afghans.

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By ChaoticGood, November 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm Link to this comment

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Obama needs to change his name to “Jobama”
That is the way to win.
Everything else is secondary.

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By Hulk2008, November 4, 2009 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

Unfortunately, the Glenn Beck crowd are crowing about the results - claiming they sent a message to the Pres. and other Dems about 2010. 

Bottom-line:  day-after analysis can be spun ANY direction.

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