Posts Tagged ‘Rand Paul’

All Good Just A Week Ago

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

A remnant from the Rand Paul filibuster story. I’ve watched this video of Marco Rubio quoting Jay-Z and Wiz Khalifa on the floor of the Senate about ten times. It always leaves me with my mouth open. If you told me 7 years ago that the President of the United States would be a black guy named Hussein Obama and that the likely Republican front runner to succeed him would be quoting Jay-Z on the floor of the Senate, I would have rolled my eyes and said, “Come on man!” Just more evidence that The Times Are A Changin’.

Anyway, this video led to some mildly entertaining discussions with my conservative uncle. He pointed to Rubio’s comment that things would be much different if President Bush waffled when asked if he had the power to order drone attacks to assassinate US citizens within the United States and citing a Glenn Greenwald blog post calling out liberals for their embrace of Bush era policies, including (amazingly), the keeping of Gitmo opened. Good points all, but I reminded him that hypocrisy is a double edged sword. Both Rubio and Mitch McConnell lent support to Rand’s filibuster, but where have they been for all this time on the expansion of government powers to fight terrorism? #StandWithRand starts trending on twitter and these guys are newborn civil libertarians?  Can anyone imagine them joining a Democratic filibuster in protest of Bush Era executive overreach?

It was all good just a week ago.

Same with spending: where was brave deficit hawk Saint Paul of Wisconsin when the prescription drug bill was passed without any source of funding? Oh yeah, he provided one of the deciding votes.

cuz, it was all good just a week ago.

How about the Tea Party? Where were they when the Bush Administration went on their 8 year spending binge? Nowhere to be found. The didn’t even exist until America hired a (black) Chicago Democrat to clean up GW’s mess.

and it was all good just a week ago.

and how about the most blatant example of Republican hypocrisy over the last 4 years: Benghazi. Iraq War: over a hundreds thousand people died as a result of Bush’s bad decision and the lies he told to sell it. Meh… Benghazi: 4 people die and the president shades the truth for a couple weeks. National Outrage!!

cuz it was all good just a week ago.

And since we’re talking about the intersection of politics, hypocrisy and Hip Hop, how can it be that it’s okay for Marco Rubio to quote a song by Jay-Z and Too $hort, on the floor of the Senate, but when Common get’s an invite to the White House, it’s a national emergency on Fox News. Someone on the staff of The Daily Caller might want to do a google search for “Too Short Nancy Reagan” I mean…

It was all good just a week ago…

Rand Paul Shows What A Filibuster Should Look Like

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Last week, Rand Paul caught the imagination of people who pay attention to politics and in the process did himself some good on the Senate floor. Paul staged a 12 hour filibuster to protest the Obama Administration’s vacillation when asked whether drones could be used to attack American citizens in the United States.

I’m not overly concerned that drones are going to be dropped on my local coffee shop, but I did think that it was offensive that Obama’s team bobbed and weaved when asked about it. As Charles Pierce put it:

The question of whether or not the president can drop a couple of hellfires on an apartment block in Cincinnati, or a farmhouse outside Salinas, or a fucking brownstone in Brooklyn is a yes-or-no question. And, if your answer is “yes,” you need to explain yourself at considerable length.

But it wasn’t so much the issue as it was somebody finally having their Howard Beale moment on the national stage. Ironically, in addition to providing a badly needed shot in the arm to a demoralized Republican party, it also highlighted how broken the system is by showing what a filibuster used to look like, as well as what it should be. Paul’s 12 hour Mr. Smith Goes To Washington style soliloquy was a throwback to the days when people actually used to filibuster, not just declare their intent to filibuster and watch the other side fold.

This contrast wasn’t lost on liberals. As Gail Collins pointed out, you didn’t have to read your history to see the contrast. It was on display that very day in the US Senate.

Compare Paul’s behavior to that of Mitch McConnell, the minority leader. Earlier in the day, McConnell had staged a filibuster under the usual system: He blocked the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the D.C. circuit court by filing a piece of paper.

Halligan’s nomination has been moldering for two years now. Her fate is an excellent example of everything people hate about the way Washington works. She’s completely qualified, a former solicitor general for New York State. Nobody questions her character. But she cannot get an up-or-down vote. McConnell’s opposition is partly partisan (the Republicans want to keep majority control of the powerful D.C. circuit) and partly a bow to the National Rifle Association, which has recently gotten into the business of vetting major judicial nominations.

Would any Republican have spent a night fending off hunger, thirst and the need for bathroom breaks to stop Halligan’s nomination? We’ll never know. All McConnell had to do was just say no. Harry Reid, the majority leader, needed 60 votes to proceed. End of story. End of Halligan.

Since Obama was elected, the Republicans have basically changed the rules of engagement that the Senate lived by, now making even the most basic questions subject to a 60 vote majority. To see how dramatic this change has been, take a look at this chart.

One of the most tepid filibuster reform proposals in the US Senate this year was to actually force people to do what Paul did last week if they want to stop majority rule. Amazingly and inexplicably, Harry Reid made caving on this principle as one of his first actions in this new term.

This is just outrageous. Even if you support the filibuster, shouldn’t it be a requirement that you actually filibuster, not just declare your intention to?

4 People Died

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

Well, after 3 months off, I had hoped to start with something more positive, but inspiration often comes from outrage, so I want to rant a little about what Joe Klein dubbed the Benghazi Circus back in November, and which any close viewer of politics can tell you is apparently still parked in Washington DC.

Last week, Senate Republicans bestowed on themselves the dubious distinction of being the first Congress ever to filibuster a Secretary of Defense nominee. The reasons for this vary (the main reason was to see if they could dig up a little more dirt on Chuck Hagel), but one cited by both Senators McCain and Graham is that they wanted the White House to release more information on the Benghazi attacks. This latest stunt is just one in a series dating back to the campaign, with the most prominent being Senator Ron Johnson’s ill advised attack on Hillary Clinton and the gentle smackdown provided by John Kerry the following day.

In order to understand the reasons that Republicans have wasted so much energy on the Benghazi attacks, you don’t have to look far. As Kevin Drum pointed out months ago, it’s the same thing that makes Republicans think that it would be good politics to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress over the “Fast and Furious” scandal that no one who doesn’t watch Fox had ever heard of, or that our electoral system has been severely compromised by Acorn and the six guys in the New Black Panther Party: Fox News. Even after the rest of the country had moved on, many Republicans continued to “very closely” monitor the story of “who knew what, when” after the Benghazi attacks. Why? Because it was on their TV every night.

Just to be clear, I’m not someone who thinks that there was no issue here. Clearly the White House soft pedaled the attack carried out on the anniversary of 9-11. While Susan Rice’s mentions of the “spontaneous response” to an anti-muslim video can be explained with reference to the talking points she was given by the intelligence agencies and the evolving reports from Benghazi,  President Obama’s repetitions of this incorrect narrative are harder to justify. In addition, there are lessons to be learned about how we protect our embassies in distant lands, many of which were detailed in the a State Department commissioned  report on the incident.

But let’s put this incident in historical perspective. President Obama shades the truth about four dead Americans and it’s a national tragedy that deserves months of media coverage, multiple hearings and the filibuster of a Secretary of Defense nominee who wasn’t even in the Obama Administration at the time. On the other hand, President Bush and his cronies lie our country into a war which results in the death of over a 100,000 people, including the death of 4,000 Americans and the maiming of tens of thousands of others, and there is nary a peep from those same Republicans. Where is the sense of proportion here?

Rand Paul, during the final Senate testimony of Hillary Clinton, said that if he were president he would have fired Secretary Clinton, and that the death of 4 Americans in Benghazi was the “worst tragedy since 9/11.”

First of all, Senator Paul, you’re not president, nor will you ever be president. And second of all, “the worst tragedy since 9/11″?! Were you sleeping through the entire eight years from 2000 to 2008? Again, 4 People Died. That’s a tragedy, and we mourn all Americans who die in service to this country, but were talking about 4 people, not the tens of thousands wounded in Iraq, not to mention the deaths of almost 2,000 Americans during Hurricane Katrina, or the many others who have died in mass shootings that could have been mitigated (if not stopped) if the GOP wasn’t completely in hock to the NRA.

Proportion, Republicans…

Proportion.

Charlie Cook on the 2010 Elections

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

WSJ’s Gerald Seib interviews Congressional Election expert Charlie Cook on the 2010 elections.

I usually see Cook on Hardball. It’s refreshing to be able to hear him talk for a change.

Cook says he thinks a wave election is coming. Barring any major changes, he predicts a Republican takeover of the House. The Senate is more of a longshot.

72 days to go.

Silver’s Likely Voter Model Bad News For Dems

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Nate Silver has updated his 2010 Senate election model.

The main change from the previous model is the addition of a likely voter screen. As I noted in my previous post on Silver’s rankings, turnout will be key in this election cycle and assumptions about turnout will impact any predictions significantly.

The addition of turnout assumptions are not good news for Democrats this year.

While Silver gives the Republicans only a 12% or 16% chance of taking the Senate (depending on whether Charlie Crist caucuses with them), for the first time you can see the outlines of what a Republican takeover would look like. With the exception of the Florida race, the top 10 potential pickups are all Democratic seats, with the 9th being a tossup in Illinios and the 10th being the race in Washington state where sitting Senator Patty Murray only leads presumptive Republican nominee Dino Rossi by a half a percentage point.

Silver ranks seven seats at more than a 60% chance that Republicans will take control.

Perhaps the biggest shift for the Democrats is in Colorado, where Michael Bennet’s hopes have seemed to dim in recent weeks as Ken Buck’s primary surge has translated into general election polling success.

To be sure, it’s not all bad news for the Democrats.  As has been reported extensively here, Sharron Angle’s campaign in Nevada continues to implode and three recent polls (two of which were published after Silver’s post) have now shown Reid with a small lead. In Delaware, what seemed like an easy victory earlier this year for moderate Republican Congressman Mike Castle is now rated at a 64% chance of Republican victory.

The new model also has Ohio and Missouri right behind Washington state as potential Democratic pickups. In what will certainly dissapoint Republicans, Barbara Boxer’s chances of losing her California race is ranked just below the chance that Rand Paul will lose in Kentucky.

One projection that pops out to me is the 62% chance that  Joe Sestak will lose to Club for Growth Candidate Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. Based only on my gut, I would have given Sestak a better chance here, but as James Carville famously said years ago, Pennsylvania is basically Philadelphia and Pittsburg with Alabama in between. This always makes it hard to predict, but Democratic successes in the past few cycles have been encouraging.

Once again, all the usual caveats apply here, but the Democrats are running out of time to turn this around. Even if there’s only a 16% chance of losing control, turning the largest Senate majority since Watergate into a one or two vote margin within two years would be a tumble of epic proportions for the party.

We’re Sorry BP

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

A running theme of my writing for the past month or so had been what I call the obvious Democratic strategy of drawing distinctions between themselves and Republicans. To that end, Congressman Joe Barton’s statement last week played right into their hands. 

Thanks to the deal President Obama inked with BP last week, the victims of the BP oil spill won’t have to go through what people whose businesses were ruined by the Exxon Valdez spill did: 20 years of litigation that ended with the Republican Supreme Court slashing the amount of compensation paid to them.

To most people, this would seem to be an unalloyed positive development. But not to many Republicans.

At a hearing that was meant to grill BP’s CEO Tony Hayward on the causes and remedies for the oil spill, Congressman Joe Barton spoke of  a “tragedy of the first proportion.”

Okay, so far so good. Anyone looking at the oil washing up on Gulf Coast shores could agree with that.

Except that Barton wasn’t referring to the spill itself, but rather to the settlement that BP had agreed to under pressure from the White House. He wrapped up his remarks by saying to BP’s CEO:

“I apologize. I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, is subject to some sort of political pressure that is, again, in my words — amounts to a shakedown, so I apologize.”

Well who cares what some Oil Patch Republican who is the largest recipient of oil money in the Congress says? Why is it relevant? Well, it’s relevant because this douchebag is the Ranking Republican on the Energy Committee. If the Republicans succeed in kicking out Nancy Pelosi, this guy will be the head of the committee that any legislation that involves energy needs to come out of.

In case anyone thought that he was an outlier, the “Republican Study Committee,” an organization whose membership includes 2/3 of the Republicans in the House, released a statement earlier in the day that called the pressure put on BP to create this fund “Chicago-style shakedown politics.”

Surprise! Rush Limbaugh was reading from the same playbook. He called the escrow account a “slush fund” and said that the money would probably be given to “ACORN type people or union activists.”

Michele Bachman (in the running for Dumbest member of Congress) called the fund to pay victims a “redistribution-of-wealth fund” and said:

“If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there — ‘We’re not going to be chumps, and we’re not going to be fleeced.’ And they shouldn’t be. They shouldn’t have to be fleeced and make chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest — they’ve got to be legitimate claims.”

Well fair enough, BP shouldn’t have to pay for illegitimate claims, but it makes you wonder about these people’s mindsets when they’re more worried about illegitimate claims than about the destruction of the ecosystem and the economy of the entire Gulf Coast for a period of years

But it’s all par for the course for Republicans. These people look at birds drowning in oil on our shores and shrug their shoulders, then they watch President Obama convince BP to voluntarily give up $5 billion a year for 4 years to compensate victims and call it “a tragedy of the first proportion.”

Like Tea Party Darling Rand Paul said (in an echo of Donald Rumsfeld), “accidents happen.”

Yeah, accidents happen when you work in an industry that has lax regulations and even more lax enforcement; accidents happen when you lead your competitors by a margin of 760 to 8, 2 or 1 on “egregious, willful” safety violations; and accidents happen when you’re behind on drilling a well and you encourage your employees to take shortcuts to save the company money.

Not to be outdone by Ron Paul in his defense of allowing corporations to abuse their power without the check of government, Sharron Angle, the Senate candidate in Nevada not only favors making Nevada the sole repository of nuclear waste in the country, but wants to abolish the Department of Energy, which regulates the storage of nuclear waste.

What could possibly go wrong?

If these guys have their way, the coastal waters of America would look like the coast of Nigeria, where some have estimated that they have endured the equivalant of the Exxon Valdeez oil spill every year for 50 years.

Like I said, there’s something to be said for drawing distinctions and the Republicans did a pretty good job at that this week. Americans would do well to think about this when they go to the ballot box this November. They might not like Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid, but would they rather have a guy who thinks we all owe BP an apology running the committee that sets the regulations for them? Would they rather have a guy who says that it’s un-American to hold BP accountable for their toxic oil spill? Would they rather replace Harry Reid with a woman who thinks, in the wake of the largest environmental history, that the EPA is unconstitutional?

The distinctions are out there. They’re just waiting for someone to make them. As Frank Rich wrote in this weeks NY Times:

While the greatest environmental disaster in our history is a trying juncture for Obama, it also provides him with a nearly unparalleled opening to make his and government’s case. The spill’s sole positive benefit has been to unambiguously expose the hard right, for all its populist pandering to the Tea Partiers, as a stalking horse for its most rapacious corporate patrons. If this president can speak lucidly of race to America, he can certainly explain how the antigovernment crusaders are often the paid toadies of bad actors like BP. Such big corporations are only too glad to replace big government with governance of their own, by their own, and for their own profit — while the “small people” are left to eat cake at their tea parties.

Rahm Emmanuel has long been  pilloried by the Right for his statement that you should ”never let a crisis go to waste.” Well, this debate is long overdue. If the BP Oil Spill and the Casino-Capitalism-enabled Great Recession don’t provoke that debate, then the Democrats’ prospects for this years elections are even dimmer than originally expected. And we as a country will have succeeded in doing exactly that.

Nevada Tea Party Tumult Microcosm of National Debate

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Just a few months ago Harry Reid was all but left for dead in his reelection campaign. In February, he trailed the then Republican frontrunner, former Nevada Republican Party Chair Sue Lowden, by double digits.  But the surge of Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, Lowden’s much discussed gaffe on health care and consistent attacks on her by Harry Reid has shaken up the race and given the Majority Leader a glimmer of hope.

The shakeup began in early April, when Lowden  responded to a question on health care costs by saying that we needed to go back to a cash system for health care. She referred to bartering as a possible alternative to solve the health care crisis. A few days later, under questioning, she doubled down on the statement, saying on a public affairs program: 

“before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house.

“I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors,” she said. “Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system.”

As Lowden was being pilloried by the media and mocked online, Sharon Angle was racking up endorsements from the Club for Growth, Gun Owners of America and the Nevada Tea Party. Within a month, her support jumped twenty points in the fractured race for the nomination.

Sharron Angle is like Rand Paul on steroids: 

She supports the privatization of Social Security; advocates cutting federal spending by hundreds of billions of dollars; wants to abolish the federal income tax and replace it with a flat tax, supports pulling the United States out of the UN and (by extension) giving up our veto power, wants to repeal the new health care law and ban almost all abortions. She thinks the Energy and Education Departments are unconstitutional, would get rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and would remove all campaign finance restrictions. She is in favor of nuclear storage at Yucca mountain, which might be the right stand for the country, but has been a third rail in Nevada politics for years and no candidate has won statewide in recent history with this position.

To boot, Angle has expressed reservations about the legalization of alcohol(!), has been accused of having ties to Scientology (which she denies) and was named “one of Nevada’s worst legislators” multiple times by the Las Vegas Review Journal. According to Politico’s reporting a week and a half ago, her website was “full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.”

Other than that, she seems totally mainstream and competent…   

Seizing the opportunity, Reid and his allies have gone on the attack against Lowden, but have refrained from attacking  Angle. The strategy seem to have worked, as the latest polling shows Angle now leading by 7 points, with Danny Tarkanian and Lowden in a dead heat for the number two position.

Clearly, Reid would rather run against Angle, but his strategy has had the double effect of weakening Lowden and increasing the chances that he will be able to run against a far right Tea Party candidate with positions way out of the mainstream.

While Reid’s support hasn’t increased, the contest between the three Republican challengers seems to be paying dividends for Reid. He now trails Lowden and Tarkanian by just a few points and leads in a matchup against Angle.

What happens on Tuesday is anyone’s guess. Primary polling is notoriously difficult to do, and 13 people are running in the race, but if Harry Reid gets his way, Nevada voters will have to choose from a Senator that they don’t like or a far right candidate that they don’t agree with.

Either way, Harry Reid is looking less and less like a dead man walkin these days.

More importantly, Nevada seems to be a microcosm of a process that is happening all over the country. As registered Republicans become a smaller and smaller  part of the electorate and an increasingly paranoid  group, Tea Party candidates are having more and more success in the primaries. In the cases where they can’t win they are pushing moderate Republicans to become more extreme (see McCain in Arizona).

Like Jake Scully in Avatar, The Republicans were hoping to tame the dragon of the Tea Party and ride it to power in 2010 and 2012. Increasingly it looks just as possible that the Tea Party dragon will eat them for dinner.

Let Rand be Rand!!

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

By now everyone has probably heard about Rand Paul’s tumultuous week.

Frank Rich sums it up nicely here.

If you missed it, the Rich article contains links to many of the essential parts. I suggest that you click on the Maddow link and follow it wherever it takes you (even to a defense of Paul from a conservative Christian group).

In his acceptance speech, Paul defiantly tied himself to the Tea Party. “The Tea Party Movement is huge,” he said. “The mandate of our victory is huge.”  Ignoring Tip O’ Neil’s maxim that all politics is local, Paul mentioned Kentucky just once and the Tea Party nine times.

He followed up the next day with an appearance on the Rachel Maddow show where he said that he had some problems with the most famous civil rights bill in American history, the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It’s not like this issue came out of the blue, or Paul hadn’t thought about it before. He had commented on it during the campaign and when he was asked about it by Maddow, he said that he agreed with 9/10 of the bill, but disagreed with the section which disallowed discrimination in private businesses (which is a huge part of the law). Also, he has a written record, writing in a letter against the 1968 Fair Housing Act to his local paper in 2002:

“A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin. It is unenlightened and ill-informed to promote discrimination against individuals based on the color of their skin. It is likewise unwise to forget the distinction between public (taxpayer-financed) and private entities.”

So this is no “gotcha” question (as Sarah Palin (surprise!) said this weekend on Faux News). It’s a legit question on how he views the powers of the body to which he is running for.

That being said, I have to disagree with many on the left’s characterization that this is mainly about race. I don’t believe that Rand Paul is a racist (at least I don’t have any evidence of that), but I do think that his “strict constructionist” view of the Constitution does put him way out of the mainstream and expose the reactionary views of many in the Tea Parties.

Basically, this philosophy comes down to a view that the Constutution doesn’t allow the federal government to impose regulations on individuals or private businesses within the states.

This is a fringe view and has been settled by the Courts for decades, which basically ruled that the Interstate Commerce Clause allows the federal government to enforce the Bill of Rights within the states. This may have been an end run around the Constitution at the time, but it has been accepted by a huge majority of people in the US (who don’t know anything about the Interstate Commerce Clause, but accept at face value that the Federal Government can enforce civil rights laws against busineses across the country who discriminate on the basis of race).

Under pressure from the national Republican party, Paul has moderated, saying that he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and isn’t in favor of repealing it. Even the most right wing Republican Senators were quick to say that they shared this view.

Since then, he has backed off a bit, saying on GMA that he believed the Fed’s had a right to set a minimum wage and cancelling his Sunday interview with Meet the Press, but he couldn’t resist one more wacky comment on Friday when he said that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s comment that his job was to keep his “boot on the neck of PB” was “un-American.” Given that a large majority of American’s probably believe that’s exactly where the Administration’s boot belongs after watching millions of gallons of crude oil spill into the gulf, it was a hell of a way to end the week.

I have to say that I am dissapointed that Paul is censoring himself these days. I think the debate would have been good for the country. At minimum, it would make the Tea Partier’s question how far they want go with their strict constitutionalism and expose what the consequences of an America that hewed to strict libertarianism would look like.

I’ll be interested to see how this plays out since there may be some agreement from the left on some of his policies (on military intervention and drugs). It will also be interesting (If he wins) to see how much his voting record differs from the hard line (American Taliban-cultural conservative) wing of the Republican Party.

I say: Let Rand be Rand!

The people of Kentucky deserve to know who they’re voting for and the American people deserve to know what this kind of unfettered free market capitalism and strict constitutionalism would look like.

Plus, it’ll make for an interesting debate and the country could use one right now.

Winds of Change

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Well, last night was a good night for people who think the system needs some shaking up.

Congressman and former Admiral Joe Sestak overcame a recent 25% deficit to defeat the party-changing Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania. Specter’s a good guy and he’s had a good career, but changing parties was too clever by half and Pennsylvania Democrats decided that it was time for him to go.

In Kentucky, Rand Paul back-handed Mitch McConnel’s vaunted Kentucky Machine, garnering the largest primary vote total of any Republican in Kentucky history for this office.

Paul comes straight from the Tea Party, but he’s from the libertarian wing of the movement, favoring small government, not focusing on social issues and skeptical of US military adventurism. How this split plays out on the right should be interesting.

On the Democratic side, Jack Conway got the nod, beating perennial loser Daniel Mongiardo. Conway was generally seen as the more progressive of the two candidates and the netroots thinks he could win this thing, but that sounds like a longshot. Still, Paul’s case isn’t helped by the fact that 43% of his opponent Trey Grayson’s supporters said that they would not vote for Paul in the general. 

In Arkansas, netroots favorite Lt. Governor Bill Halter performed significantly better than expected and not only forced conservative Dem Blanche Lincoln into a runoff, but came within a few percentage points of beating her. Many have said that this hurts the Democrats chance in the general election, but most people think that Lincoln is toast no matter what, so we might as well have someone who reflects Democratic values competing for the seat.

Perhaps the most interesting race was Pennsylvania’s 12th District, where longtime John Murtha aide Mark Critz won the special election for the seat that Murtha held for decades by 8 points against Republican Tim Burns. Critz is about as conservative as you can get for a Democrat (pro life, pro gun, anti-health care reform) but won an election in the only district in the country that voted for both John Kerry and John McCain. President Obama has a 35% approval rating in this district, but despite the fact that the Republican’s poured over $1 million into the race and tried to nationalize the election by tying Critz to Obama and Pelosi, they lost an election that, in the end, wasn’t even that close. 

Republican’s are trying to downplay this race, but you know that if they won, they would be trumpeting this as the first wave in a tsunami that will propel them to a majority in the Congress.

What does it all mean? Well, first of all, it means that people are fed up with politics as usual. The outsider candidates won in almost every primary contest. This was perhaps clearest in Pennsylvania, where Ed Rendel’s political machine and President Obama’s tepid support weren’t enough to propel Specter to victory. A few months ago, Sestak’s campaign looked like a fools errand and everyone thought that he should have stayed in the Congress or taken that Secretary of the Navy position that Obama’s White House offered him to stay out of the race.

Paul’s victory seemed just as improbable initially. He’s a doctor with no previous experience in politics and was opposed by Mitch McConnel’s supposedly formidable machine.

Finally, Pennsylvania 12 shows that this year may not be as easy to categorize as it seemed initially. The Democrats have now won 7 out of 7 House special elections and if they can find a way to hold seats in districts where Obama has a 35% approval rating, then they aren’t going to be in as bad a shape as everyone predicted. Congressional Democrats are at historic lows for approval, but the only group less popular is Congressional Republicans. PA 12 proves that you can’t beat somethin’ with nothin’ and it’s not going to be enough for Republicans to just tie Democrats to Nancy Pelosi and Obama.

What this ultimately means for our broken, polarized system is unclear.

But it sure is shaping up to be an interesting year.