Political Inconsistency?

February 16th, 2010 by rubenr

I was struck today by this article in the New York times describing a Tea Party activist who supported federally-subsidized housing programs.  It made me think of the stories coming out of Massachusetts after the Brown/Coakley campaign describing how Scott Brown received substantial support from rank-and-file members of labor unions.  If you assume people are going to vote based on their own rational self-interest, this all seems pretty inconsistent.  One of Scott Brown’s first actions was to block Obama’s nominee to the NLRB; and while the Tea Party doesn’t have an organized platform, I’m pretty sure there’s a consensus within it against federally-subsidized anything.

So what’s going on?  People are angry, and that anger comes from multiple places.  You have bona-fide ideological conservatives who are simply angry at Obama policies and Democratic rule,  but then you also have people angry at their own economic situation (or that of friends and loved ones) who are less interested in positions on issues or ideology.  This anger is aligning itself in unprecedented fashion to fuel a strong anti-incumbent sentiment across the nation.

And candidates are starting to cash-in on it.  The Scott Brown campaign is the clearest example, but others have started to exploit inconsistency to their favor.  Here in Wisconsin, Terrence Wall, a GOP challenger to Senator Russ Feingold, has been using ads calling Feingold an obstructionist and himself “real change”.  There’s little merit to the claim that Feingold is obstructionist, and most of the hold up in Congress these days arises out of Republican-threatened fillibusters rather than Democratic inaction (though the Democrats have failed miserably in messaging this properly).  That said, this line of attack is brilliant given the current sentiment.

But it’s likely not going to last.  Economic indicators suggest that the Recession has likely peaked and that the economy is improving.  While unemployment numbers are still high they’ll likely get better throughout the spring and into summer.  As this happens I imagine we’ll see a lot of anger dissipate, and with it general anti-incumbent sentiment.  By the time the midterms roll around this fall, political inconsistency might be dead, and candidates who’ve waged campaigns relying on it will probably be in trouble.

One Response to “Political Inconsistency?”

  1. [...] This Editorial Cartoon from earlier this week does a good job of capturing the sentiment I was getting at in my post on Political Inconsistency: [...]

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