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Ed Driscoll

All Midterms Are Now Nationalized

November 11th, 2013 - 4:42 pm

I was tempted to call this post “All Elections Are Now National;” on the other hand, running for local dog catcher is still probably safe. But when it comes to the midterms, as Mickey Kaus writes, “Name a recent midterm election that hasn’t been nationalized:”

Bill Keller [of the New York Times] calls on Obama to ‘nationalize the midterm elections” in a campaign to end divided government:

“Norman Ornstein, the veteran Congress-watcher, points out that the last time someone succeeded in nationalizing a midterm election was 1994, when Newt Gingrich led a Republican uprising …”

That chestnut of Beltway wisdom isn’t really necessary for Keller’s argument, but it’s still BS. Name a recent midterm election that hasn’t been nationalized. You can’t. Here’s a list, followed by the national issue at stake:

1998: Lewinsky, impeachment, GOP overreach

2002: War on terrorism

2006: Unpopularity of Iraq War

2010: Tea Party revolt against Obama programs

A truer bit of punditry would be that all midterms are now nationalized. This makes sense–we live in a national media market with national obsessions and a powerful national government. Everything moves faster (except government procurement). It seems like an eternity between elections. Why shouldn’t voters seize on whatever opportunity they have to shift the national debate?

Obama won’t have any problem nationalizing the midterms! The problem (for him, and Keller) is that the balance of national issues–specifically Obamacare–seem likely to run against him and his party. On the one hand, Democrats righteously reorganized a sixth of the economy, affecting nearly everyone’s lives, and screwed it up! But hey, on the other hand if we had less partisanship and division Congress might pass the immigration amnesty that K Street and newspaper editorial boards want. Doesn’t really seem close.

Especially since, as Peter Suderman writes at Reason, it’s “Time to Start Considering Obamacare’s Worst Case Scenarios:”

How does this all work out for the millions of Americans who have lost their plans as a result of Obamacare? The White House has suggested that it’s working on an “administrative fix” to aid individuals whose plans were cancelled, but the options for an executive branch fix are limited at best. Cancelled plans generally can’t be reinstated. Tweaking the law’s grandfathering rules won’t work, because of the start dates of many of the plans and because insurers, who have spent months if not years preparing their systems for the changeover, can’t rapidly reorganize their computer systems to accommodate a sudden change in policy. Expanding subsidies to individuals above 400 percent of the poverty line in order to mitigate the cost of buying a new plan wouldn’t be legal, and also wouldn’t help much if the online enrollment systems are still malfunctioning.

This could still be turned around, perhaps even soon. But it’s time to start considering the worst-case scenarios: that the exchanges continue to malfunction, that plan cancellations go into effect, that insurers see the political winds shifting and stop playing nice with the administration, and that significant numbers of people are left stranded without coverage as a result. Rather than reforming the individual market, which was flawed but did work for some people, Obamacare will have destroyed it and left only dysfunction and chaos in its wake.

But back to Keller and the Gray Lady. As Jay Cost tweets:

Regarding the first half of Cost’s tweet, I’ve been meaning to link to this Bloomberg.com headline for several days now, but haven’t found the hook, so I might as well hang it here: “New York Times Struggles to Replace Print Ads With Digital Sales.” That seems doubly appropriate, since so many Times lifestyle-oriented articles over the last decade have been built around the theme that global warming* is destroying the world; we must give up our creature comforts, not to mention our cars, air conditioning and heck, even our toilet paper. Pay no attention to the fact that all of those creature comforts are sold by retailers whose advertising pays our salaries, in-between generous bailouts from Carlos Slim.

And like Obama, the Times hates everyone who doesn’t have a Park Ave. zipcode. To Obama, they’re bitter clingers; to the Times, flyover country equates to “the dance of the slow-sloping foreheads.” Who cling to their guns and strange, unfathomable religions — “fervid subsets of evangelical Christianity,” as Bill Keller dubbed Catholicism and the Lutheran faith in 2011, in his infamous editorial smearing the respective religious beliefs of Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann.

No wonder, the Times’ appeal, like that of Mr. Obama’s polling and Spinal Tap’s audience pull, is becoming increasingly selective, adding further prescience to the forecast this classic 2004 video predicted for the Times’ future. Or the lack thereof:

* QED.

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