"To a hammer," the old saying says, "everything looks like a nail." And to the Beltway insiders who push corporate-friendly "bipartisanship," every election proves that voters really want to be governed by an amalgam of elites from both parties.
For some reason they call that "centrism," even though it leads to policies which voters in both parties typically dislike. Forget it. Let's anticipate their arguments and look past them -- at the world as it is, not as they would have us believe it is.
It's Election Day 2013. Get ready for the spin.
Unless something surprising happens, Terry McAuliffe will win Virginia's governor's race, Bill De Blasio will become New York City's mayor, and Governor Chris Christie will win an easy reelection in New Jersey.
Here's another prediction: De Blasio's victory will be dismissed by most pundits, while Christie's and especially McAuliffe's will be touted as a vindication of "centrist" politics. We'll hear new calls for something called "bipartisanship," a term applied to policies which are opposed by most of the electorate but have the support of corporate-backed officials from both parties. "Bipartisan" policies include unpopular cuts to Medicare and Social Security, a reluctance to invest in jobs and growth, and unseemly and harmful tax breaks for corporations.
Once again we'll hear that Democrats must return to the "third way" Clinton-style corporate centrism of years gone by. We'll be told that voters have rejected progressive and populist politics, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is "living in the past."
Actually, it's the third way-ers who are living in the past. The old triangulating Democratic Party won its victories in the 1990s, when our economy, our society, and our prospects for the future were very different.
Let's look at those races without the distorting filter of an insular insider's bias.
Terry McAuliffe was not chosen by the voters of Virginia. He was anointed by party leaders in Washington, showered with money, and foisted upon the voters of that commonwealth. Those voters were not given a choice between his brand of insider politics and a truly populist candidate.
McAuliffe isn't projected to win because Virginians have embraced his ethos of Beltway-insider collaboration. He's projected to win for one simple reason: he's not Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli, McAuliffe's Republican opponent, has self-destructed rather impressively in this campaign. Why? Because he embodies the new Republican Party. Apparently voters, especially female ones, don't care for that very much.
We don't have enough room here to catalog all of Cuccinelli's misdeeds. Here are a few highlights: He paralyzed Virginia's budget talks as Attorney General in an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. He tried to ban common forms of birth control, including the pill. He personally donated thousands of dollars to some of those "crisis pregnancy centers" that lie to women in a vulnerable time.
Cuccinelli's anti-women behavior may have earned him the title of Republican Party Id. If so, that will have to do, since he's not likely to win the title of "Governor." It turns out that most voters agree with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who said she was "sick of debating the social issues like it's 1913, not 2013."
That doesn't mean Virginia voters are buying what Terry McAuliffe is selling. They have a negative opinion of both Cuccinelli and McAuliffe. The good news for McAuliffe, such as it is, is that he's less disliked than his opponent. His latest rating was 42% favorable versus 45% unfavorable, which is less negative than that of the deeply disliked Mr. Cuccinelli.
That's hardly what George W. Bush used to call "a mandate to govern."