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The 26th as Political Barometer

May 22nd, 2011

When Republicans first started talking about their Medicare plan back in April, I could hardly believe they were serious–and I predicted that it would cost them dearly if they were really going to try it out. That was before we knew the public’s reaction.

Now we know.

Case in point: New York’s 26th congressional district, recently vacated by Chris Lee after his now-infamous shirtless photo on Craigslist.

The 26th district is heavily Republican. Though held by a Democrat for most of the 90’s, it was redistricted after the 2000 census, and since then, Republicans have won by varying margins. The closest Democrats came to reclaiming the seat was in 2006, when Republicans were incredibly unpopular and the House fell to the Democrats; even then, the 26th was won by a Republican by 4% of the vote. In other elections in the last decade, Republicans have won by margins of 11.3%, 14.5%, and 51.2%, with Lee winning the seat handily by a margin of 47.2%, with 73.6% of the vote over the Democrat Philip Fedele’s 26.4%.

Now that Medicare is a big issue, Republicans are finding themselves in trouble. 21% of respondents to a poll in the 26th said that Medicare was the single most important issue in deciding their vote, followed by jobs (20%), the budget deficit (19%), and then by taxes and health care (12% each).

And with the special election just three days away, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, has jumped ahead in the polls and now leads the conservative candidate by 4 points. Hochul carries the largest block, 42%, followed by Republican Jane Corwin, with 38%, with 12% going to the Tea Party candidate. True, the vote is being split on the right, but considering that the Democrat got only 26% of the vote just a year ago, this is pretty significant.

Furthermore, 66% of voters say their minds are made up, with another 27% saying that it’s unlikely they will change their minds by election day, with Democrats being the most firm in their decision. With only 7% to work with, that’s not much hope for the Republican–especially since most of the undecideds are independents and Tea Party people. You might think that was good for the Republican, but almost all of the people who defected from the Tea Party candidate so far have gone for Hochul, the Democrat. Which means that if anyone stands to gain from the uncertains, it’s Hochul.

If Hochul wins, it will be interesting to see the reaction of the GOP regarding their Medicare plan. Already they have tried to walk back from it, but walked right back into it shortly after that, even going so far as to vote for it nearly unanimously and shooting down one of their most popular presidential candidates because he dared speak out against it.

Will they continue to walk into the buzz saw, claiming the 26th was only an aberration? One can only hope so. Unless they are stupid, they will not only shelve the Medicare plan, but also do a 180 and disown it, with nothing less than a new bill that bolsters Medicare in its present form. Yes, they’ll look like pandering hypocrites, but they already look like that anyway. At least they won’t be firmly gripping a third-rail issue any more.

Amazingly, I get the sense they will not do this, but will instead, like lemmings were once thought to do, swarm in lockstep over the precipice on this one.

Like I said, one can only hope.

  1. Troy
    May 22nd, 2011 at 14:11 | #1

    I kinda feel for the Republicans . . .

    they know things are screwed and the only way to fix things is raise taxes.

    We can’t cut spending . . . the last time we did that was after the Korean War . ..


    It’d be nice if we could cut $300B or more from Defense, but that would throw millions of people out of work and destroy many local economies that are dependent on Uncle Sugar.

    We could try to continue health care reforms to reduce future tax burdens, but, unfortunately, they’ve decided being the “Party of No” is the way to electoral success.

    So that leaves tax rises, and the reversal of all they’ve worked for since St Ronnie . . . lowering the tax burden of rich people to that of everyone else.

    It was a noble effort but clearly “supply-side economics” do not work.

    Republicans are out of ideas and running out of time to reinvent themselves as a functional force in American politics. This laissez faire stuff just ain’t going to fly much longer, Tea Party nuts or no.

  2. Troy
    May 22nd, 2011 at 14:39 | #2

    Former Congressman Alan Grayson:


    pretty much nailed it.

    George Carlin clip he was talking about:


    Hard to believe there’s still almost 18 months to the next election . . .

    Gonna be one helluva slog

  3. Tim Kane
    May 22nd, 2011 at 16:31 | #3


    “It was a noble effort but clearly “supply-side economics” do not work.”

    The Republicans are victims of their own success and excess.

    Every ideology/Philosophy most correctly answers the questions asked at its core, but as you move away from the core towards the periphery, the efficacy of the answers for a given question falls off, until it becomes the absurd.

    At the far end of all ideologies lies the same thing: nihilism.

    If you were from the artic, and you had an ideology that said always wear a coat outside, the ideology would seem sound… but as you walk towards El Paso, the efficacy of the ideology makes less and less sense, until, if you adhere to it, it kills you. Nihilism.

    There are some limited conditions in which supply side bias policies might make sense. The conditions in 1980 presented a plausible argument for them. But those conditions didn’t last that decade, yet the policy bias continued long, long past their efficacy.

    We are in the nihilistic stage for perpetuation of the Republican ideology. The policy netted ZERO jobs during Bush’s presidency. The policy created a global economic melt down still in effect. Still they continue.

    I used to think that Republicans couldn’t believe the crap that they were pedaling – that it was all just a pretext for looting the country on behalf of the rich. But a friend argued with me otherwise – that Republicans really believe the carbon fiber the pedal.

    Here’s where the proof meets the pudding: their policy to destroy Medicare can only destroy them politically. Every seasoned politician in the party knows it.

    Nihilism. It’s at the end of every ideology.

    Ayn Rand’s protagonist burning down his creation, Hitler’s scorched earth policy,Republicans claiming that Obama’s saving the American auto industry was an assault on capitalism, it’s all the old “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.” That’s nihilism.

    Fortunately Dems/liberals are mostly not ideologues, but instead pragmatist. The New Deal’s mixed economic system was a pragmatic solution to the problem of the depression. It produced history’s most golden of golden ages.

    Hopefully the increased absurdity of the Republican party will doom it and we can return to our pragmatism.

  4. ken sensei
    May 23rd, 2011 at 03:42 | #4

    Great George Carlin clip, Troy.
    Thanks for posting that. It would be funny if it wasn’t so true.


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