Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Bryant: Rebel Yell

It’s been several weeks since the 2010 midterm elections, and the anti-incumbent insurgency continues. Conservative leaders in both parties have recently expressed dissatisfaction with their leadership, seeking to direct the wave of anti-incumbent sentiment to come crashing down on their own houses. Some conservative Democrats sought this week to take down their party’s leader in the House and the nation’s first female Speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi – along with her top lieutenants. Democratic North Carolina Representative Heath Shuler ran for a party leadership post against Pelosi in order to plant a more conservative voice at the head of the House Democratic caucus. Dissatisfaction with leadership isn’t limited to the wound-licking Democrats, either. Gaffe-prone RNC Chairman Michael Steele has also drawn challenges to his authority from both inside and outside of the organization, and his reelection as party head is by no means certain. Republican South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint blamed Steele on Fox News for botching Republicans’ Election Day ground game and announced that he is “looking for some alternatives right now” in the GOP leadership. Oh, how those Carolinans love their rebellions.

The challenges to leadership on both sides of the aisle indicate a desire to jump out in front of a political trend. Both DeMint and Shuler apparently perceive the results of the 2010 midterms as a national lurch to the right, and they are aching to capitalize on it politically and personally. But DeMint’s and Shuler’s readings of the political tea leaves should be somewhat circumspect; the two conservative legislators’ ideologies were not exactly validated at the polls this cycle. For his part, Shuler is a member of the Blue Dog coalition, a group of conservative Democrats that lost more than half of its membership and two of its key leaders on November 2nd. Blue Dogs lost these seats despite being granted political cover from Speaker Pelosi to preserve their reelection bids by voting against the health care reform bill. Apparently Representative Shuler hasn’t gotten the message that an intraparty circular firing squad is not what voters want to see. The truth is that if Shuler wants to read the results of the elections as a referendum, he should question the electoral viability of his own conservative wing of the party instead of pointing fingers at the leadership.

Senator DeMint has aggressively courted the Tea Party, endorsing many of its Senate candidates. He seems to fancy himself a conservative kingmaker within the Republican Party. But the South Carolina Senator, like Representative Shuler, would be wrong to read the results of the midterm elections as a mandate for remaking the party in his own image. Unfortunately for DeMint, most of his handpicked Tea Party candidate lost this cycle (and all but one of those losing candidates received fewer total votes than DeMint’s own laughably underwhelming Democratic opponent, Alvin Greene). Though the Senator likes to blame Michael Steele for the Republicans’ failure to take over the upper chamber, those DeMint-endorsed losers meant the difference between a Republican-controlled Senate and the 53-47 Democratic advantage we actually ended up with.

Both Shuler and Demint are part of an increasingly delusional conservatism: one that has convinced itself that the recent rise of the Tea Party and the results of the 2010 midterms are symptomatic of a new desire for purely conservative stewardship of the country. They’re lashing out at their own parties’ leadership because of it. The truth we can glean from the last few election cycles is decidedly more complex than that: the anger is not with progressives across the board in America; it seems to be with the perceived role of government, the tone of our political discourse, and the crappy economy. Both legislators should take heed that turning inward on their own kind is not going to fix any of that.

J.D. Bryant is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Bryant: Rebel Yell