From Charlie Pierce:
Let us dispense with some conventional wisdom before it petrifies. First of all, the president’s basic unpopularity was unquestionably a factor, but not anywhere near as much of a factor as was the reluctance of the Democratic party — from the president on down — to embrace the actual successes that the administration has achieved. The economy is, in fact, improving. It is the responsibility of the president and his party that we have the paradoxical polling that indicates that the elements of the Affordable Care Act are popular, while “Obamacare” is not. (Mitch McConnell told a transparent lie that Kentucky could get rid of the ACA and still keep its very popular state exchange. He didn’t suffer at all for that.) The senatorial candidates who lost were senators who ran away from the administration. Alison Lundergan Grimes wouldn’t say if she’d voted for the president. Kay Hagan endorsed the Keystone XL pipeline. Michelle Nunn practically ran as an independent. How much worse could it possibly have been for all of them had they stood by the president and his record? How much worse could it possibly have been for them had the president come to campaign for them?
…I hate to break this to Tom Brokaw, and to Kasie Hunt, who talked about how the Republicans know they have to “govern,” but this election couldn’t have been less of a repudiation of the Tea Party. As the cable shows signed off last night, it was dawning even on the most conventional pundits that the Republicans had not elected an escadrille of Republican archangels to descend upon Capitol Hill. It was more like a murder of angry crows. Joni Ernst is not a moderate. David Perdue is not a moderate. Thom Tillis is not a moderate. Cory Gardner — who spiced up his victory by calling himself “the tip of the spear” — is not a moderate. Tom Cotton is not a moderate. And these were the people who flipped the Senate to the Republicans. In the reliably Republican states, Ben Sasse in Nebraska is not a moderate. Several of these people — most notably, Sasse and Ernst — won Republican primaries specifically as Tea Partiers, defeating establishment candidates. The Republicans did not defeat the Tea Party. The Tea Party’s ideas animated what happened on Tuesday night. What the Republicans managed to do was to teach the Tea Party to wear shoes, mind its language, and use the proper knife while amputating the social safety net. They did nothing except send the Tea Party to finishing school.
The Republicans will try to repeal Obamacare. They will try to roll back marriage equality and LGBT rights. They will block attempts to raise the minimum wage. They will ban immigration for anyone except white Christians. And just because they can, they will try to impeach the president because they have nothing more important to do than to show that middle-aged W.A.S.P.’s are the ruling class and they will finally teach that uppity NiClang a thing or two.
Just as the Democrats are famous for under-reaching and not taking credit — and even apologizing — for their accomplishments, the Republicans consistently over-reach, which has done as much good for them in the past as under-achieving has for the Democrats. That is, of course, if the voters will even notice.