There’s a memorable scene in the 1972 disaster flick The Poseidon Adventure (my favorite movie of all time… when I was nine) in which the main characters come across a second group of survivors shuffling down a hallway toward the bow. Gene Hackman’s character tries to convince them to follow him toward the stern of the capsized ship, and counterintuitively up to the engine room, but to no avail. The unfortunate group is presumed drowned moments later when the deck floods.
That’s kinda how I view the 2010 election cycle.
No doubt this is going to be a very bad year for Democrats, an outcome as predictable and unavoidable as the fate of the doomed cruise ship Poseidon the moment the captain first got word of an earthquake off Crete. But while Republicans are looking forward to a Big Red Wave™, the surest path toward electoral survival is proving to be not so clear once your world is flipped upside down. Just ask the bevy of NRSC endorsed candidates who will be watching the November general election from the sidelines.
And yesterday’s primary results don’t add any more clarity. In a supposedly profoundly anti-incumbent year, embattled U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas managed to win a run-off election, a not inconsiderable feat, while establishment Republicans went on to win top of the ticket primaries in California. Yet in Nevada, former frontrunner Sue Lowden became the latest machine GOPer to fall victim to internecine rivalry with the Tea Party Express.
But, apart from a handful of high profile Republican incumbents defeated by challengers from the far right, and party-switcher Sen. Arlen Specter’s loss to a challenger from the slightly-left-of-center, this presumably anti-incumbent primary season has thus far produced little evidence of actual anti-incumbency. 395 House members have sought or are seeking reelection this year, and so far only three have lost their primaries. That’s less than one percent. Try reading them tea leaves.
The one thing that is clear is that the Democratic Party appears to be holding steady, at least ideologically, while its Republican counterpart is lurching wildly to the right, a shift that doesn’t help the GOP’s efforts to retake either house. I guess there are some states in which crazy wins; I mean, you can’t get much nuttier than retiring Sen. Jim Bunning, though in Rand Paul, Kentuckians appear to have found their man. But I’m not sure if the best way to exploit a throw the bums out mentality is to put up challengers who make Newt Gingrich look like Adlai Stevenson.
Like I said, it’s a bad year for Dems. A mid-term election in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Nothing good can come from that. But with the political tsunami capsizing Republicans and Democrats alike, the morning after the general election might not look as grim as a lot of folks expect.