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The Potential for a Political Backlash from the Right

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Just days since Tuesdays primary elections were held (and upon some considerable reflection by this observer) what appeared as inevitable i.e. Republicans and their "tea party" cohorts salivating at the prospect of a rout over the Democrats in November isn't going to be the can't miss, sure thing they thought it would be.

That may very well happen but there are mixed signals from the left and the right that make for a less than clear picture.

On the left, the "pundits" see an "enthusiasm gap" with Democrats generally not energized particularly when compared with the "tea party" activists on the right. As to progressives whether they will even step up and vote in November is another matter. They have been supremely disappointed with the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress squandering their huge advantage in both houses of Congress. In particular over the tepid health care reform package that was enacted, the less than robust regulation of the financial industry, the expansion of the war in Afghanistan, the drone attacks accelerating in Pakistan, the growth of America's private contractor mercenary army in Afghanistan (and still in Iraq) while expanding into Pakistan, Yemen and almost everywhere the defense establishment sees terrorists lurking are just a few of the many issues that concern progressives. And this says nothing over the failure of this administration to hold those who authorized torture from being held to account, the continuation of extraordinary rendition and indefinite detention of suspects without charges, the continuing existence of Guantanamo Bay and other detention facilities remaining open et al. There is the feeling with progressives that though the rhetoric of Barack Obama is more articulate, sophisticated and more eloquent when compared to the banal George W. Bush and his cowboy arrogance, there is little change in policy and thus little real difference between the two administrations. So progressive participation in November is not a given.

On the right there is consternation among "traditional" Republicans over the "tea party" activists. They don't know whether to embrace their boisterous reactionary cousins or roll their eyes over their excesses.

In Republican primary contests Sarah Palin, the darling of the "tea party" crowd, endorsed certain candidates but her effect had mixed results at best. Palin backed candidates won primary contests in Alaska (Joe Miller over incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski), in Delaware with Christine O'Donnell besting former Governor Mike Castle for Joe Biden's old seat and of course Rand Paul in Kentucky getting the nod over Senator Mitch McConnell's candidate for that states open Senate seat. But these are small states or heavily red states (in heavily blue Democrat states the Palin effect was negligible).

When the Congressional general election is held in November it becomes far from clear whether the "tea party", Palin backed Republican candidates will prevail over their Democrat opponents.

The Delaware contest was particularly interesting where Karl Rove (of all people) said after O'Donnell's primary victory she makes "nutty" statements. He also said Republican chances of recapturing the majority in the Senate is not likely considering the odds against O'Donnell winning in November. So, to say the least, all is not well with the "wing nut" crowd on the right.

The big issue of late is the Bush tax cuts of 2001 that are set to expire at the end of the year.

The Democrats want to make the middle class tax cuts permanent while letting the tax cuts for the rich expire. The Republicans want to continue all the tax cuts. This of course lays bare their constant hammering of the Democrats for expanding the national deficit. They're on the wrong side of this issue as nationally, by a 2 to 1 margin, people favor keeping the middle class tax cuts while opposing an extension of the tax cuts for the rich.

So in retrospect, what appeared just months ago that there would be a huge political backlash coming from the right (particularly with the economy remaining in the doldrums) most people may not be ready to entrust their faith in a Republican, "tea party" type revival, despite the over the top vituperation from those people. They may be loud and energized, but they are a fraction of the voting population. Many other people might just feel though the Democrats are weak kneed and gutless they are the lesser of evils and the Republican party and their "tea party" brethren have no answers and will only make things worse.

That does not make for a Republican renaissance.

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