No Country for Old News
Bipartisanship may be making headway in Washington, D.C., where President Obama and Republicans have at long last agreed on a two-week budget extension, but it’s nowhere to be found in Wisconsin. The standoff in Madison continues unabated— a dead heat between Democrats and Republicans, as well as between Republicans and state workers.
It all began on February 11th, when Republican Governor Scott Walker proposed his Budget Repair Bill, which tries to reduce the $137 million deficit in the state budget by severely limiting public workers’ rights to collectively bargain. It would also require state workers to pay 12.6% of the total cost of their health care premiums and put 5.8% of their pay towards their pension benefits.
But state workers weren’t happy, and it didn’t take them long to show it. For more than two weeks now they’ve been staging protests—as the New York Times puts it, the state Capitol building in Madison has been turned into “an elegant sleepover for a resilient band of protestors.”
While state workers’ unions have agreed to pay more for their health care and pension, they refuse to concede the right to collectively bargain about their benefits. When asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” why he didn’t just accept a compromise, Walker spewed a flood of rehearsed answers. His proposal, he said, was less restrictive than Obama’s, adding that he used to work as a local official and therefore personally understood the costs of collective bargaining.
Answers like these only fueled Democrats in the state’s government, who see no solid connection between collective bargaining and the deficit, and think this is merely a ploy by Walker to hurt state worker unions. After the assembly passed the bill, the Democrats fled to Illinois on February 17th, leaving the Republican-led state Senate without the quorum needed to vote; while Republicans hold a 19-14 majority, without a 20th vote they can’t pass any bill that spends money.
The result of all this is a state government stuck in limbo, a Capitol that’s been turned into a pajama party, and a national debate about state workers’ unions and what should be sacrificed in this age of enormous government deficits. And as we saw in Washington with the federal budget battle, neither side is giving in.
“This is a battle to the death,” Mordecai Lee, a political scientist, told the Associated Press. “Unless one party can come up with a compromise that the other party will buy, which I doubt, this really could go on indefinitely.”
Walker and other Republicans have bee trying to lure the Dems back from Illinois, passing a resolution to charge them a $100 fine for each day they are missing, but to no avail. Walker has also been using scare tactics, threatening the loss of funds and a massive layoff of state workers.
“This is the Senate Democrats’ 24 hour notice,” said Walker’s spokesman on February 28th. “They have one day to return to work before the state loses out on the chance to refinance debt, saving taxpayers $165 million.”
But as Richard A. Oppel points out in this article, Walker’s threats have little basis in the bill. In fact, the state government doesn’t really have to pass anything to pay its bills until at least May.
“I could see this going on until the summer,” said Lee.
That may very well happen; in 2007, under similar circumstances, the Wisconsin state government didn’t pass a budget until October.
In the polls, meanwhile, the majority of people in Wisconsin, and the country, are siding with the protestors, and Walker is coming out as the big loser in all of this. A website called “Scott Walker Watch” has popped up, voters in Wisconsin are collecting signatures to recall him and other Republicans, and, in the meantime, the state Senate has been reduced to passing “legislation,” like a resolution congratulating the Green Bay Packers for winning the Super Bowl.
The budget battle down in DC is getting nasty. Neither President Obama nor Republican House Speaker John Boehner is willing to compromise. With both men digging in, the possibility of a government shutdown grows closer by the day.
The disagreement is twofold. First Issue: the budget proposal for fiscal year 2012, which Obama released on February 14th. The proposal includes cuts to nearly 200 federal programs. Republicans say that isn’t enough; they want to cut more spending. And they’re calling Obama out for not even mentioning entitlement programs in the proposal (ie. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid), which account for the biggest part of the government’s budget. Democrats, on the other hand, think that the proposal includes enough cuts to spending, maybe even too much; they’re not happy about the elimination of summer Pell Grants and loan interest subsidies for graduate students, among other things.
The second—and more pressing—issue: the “continuing resolution,” or spending plan, for the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, which must be passed through Congress by March 4th to avoid a government shutdown. The Republican-controlled House is adamant about cutting spending; on February 19th it passed its version of the continuing resolution that would cut about $60 billion from the current federal budget, were it to get passed through the Senate and signed by the President.
The Democrats have been quick to point out the negative aspects of the Republican spending plan—specifically, the job loss it would cause. But Boehner, speaking a few days before the measure was passed in the House, seemed indifferent to the issue.
“Since President Obama has taken office the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs, and if some of those jobs are lost, so be it,” he said. When asked if he had an estimate of how many jobs would be lost, he simply said, “I do not.”
Over at the Washington Post, Dana Milbank decided to find out just how many jobs would, in fact, be eliminated. Speaking to a budget expert, Milbank concluded that the Republicans’ proposed budget cuts would lead to the loss of 650,000 government jobs, and the indirect loss of 325,000 more jobs, as government workers spend less money.
“So be it?” wrote Milbank, responding to Boehner’s nonchalant attitude.
The federal deficit seems to bring out the worst in both parties. Republicans claim to be all about job creation, and yet they’ve passed a spending plan that would cut thousands of jobs. Obama has always been about bipartisanship, and yet he has vowed to veto the spending bill if it gets to his desk. The continuing resolution still needs to go through the Democratic-controlled Senate, where it is likely to undergo numerous changes, if it is approved at all.
The result is a budget “war” that may well lead to a shutdown. If the government were to close up shop, even briefly, Obama said it would prevent senior citizens and veterans from getting their benefit checks. But Boehner has also flat-out rejected a temporary extension of the current budget without any cuts, which would give the government more time to compromise, and would prevent the temporary closing of federal agencies.
“When we say we’re going to cut spending,” said Boehner, “Read my lips: we’re going to cut spending.”
Such is the stubborn attitude that’s taken over the budget debate. Republicans see this as their chance to put Obama in his place—to change the way he’s run the government for the last two years. The Democrats, however, see it as irresponsible and extreme.
It’s still not certain who will cave—Obama or Boehner. And, if neither does, expect the first government shutdown since 1995, when a different Democratic president clashed with a different Republican Congress over very similar reasons. They each blamed each other—as Obama and Boehner are doing now—but, in the end, President Clinton came out on top with public opinion heavily in his favor.
Boehner had better watch out. Picking a fight with the president is a ballsy move. And more often than not, history repeats itself.
These past few weeks have been the most tumultuous ones in Egypt since the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. The news media covered this month’s protests closely, but it was still hard to follow what, exactly, was going on in Cairo. For those of you who had a hard time following the stream of events, here’s a quick breakdown:
Monday, February 7th
For the first time in nearly two weeks, the streets of Cairo began returning to normalcy. Media reports described traffic jams, shops open for business, and long lines at banks. The protest in Tahrir Square lingered, but was not nearly as strong as it had been. It seemed likely that the demonstrations against Mubarak were reaching an end—or at least that’s the impression the Egyptian government was trying to give us.
Tuesday, February 8th
Protestors returned in droves, rejecting attempts by Mubarak to curb resistance. The resurgence was partially due to a live television interview with Wael Ghonim, the Google executive and activist who was imprisoned on January 28th for his role in organizing the protests. He appeared on television Monday night to describe his “kidnapping” and encourage protestors to persevere. It worked—Egyptians flooded the streets on Tuesday.
“The government wanted to say that life was returning to normal,” said a young protestor to the New York Times. “We’re saying it’s not.”
Wednesday, February 9th
The protests continued—it was the largest crowd of protestors since the demonstrations began two weeks before—while the Mubarak administration tried to quell the resistance and take “steps” towards democracy. The Obama administration, meanwhile, was trying to put its two-cents in: Vice President Joe Biden called Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, asking him to lift the emergency law that has denied Egyptians freedom of speech, due process and assembly for nearly 30 years. And, while technically Obama hadn’t thrown his support behind either Mubarak or the protestors, many believed he was going to support Mubarak, so long as his administration took steps towards democratization.
Thursday, February 10th
Egyptians, and onlookers everywhere, prepared for President Mubarak to address Egypt in a televised speech. Many expected him to announce his resignation. Instead, Mubarak reiterated that he will not leave office until elections are held in September. As he spoke, and it became clear that he was not resigning, the crowd of protestors in Tahrir Square exploded with anger, shouting, “Leave” and “Get Out” before heading to the presidential palace. In his speech, Mubarak did say, albeit briefly, that he will hand most of his power over to Suleiman—but he didn’t specify exactly how much. The US government remained relatively neutral, with Obama merely saying, “America will continue to do everything that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy in Egypt.” He didn’t elaborate on what, exactly, America was doing or was planning to do.
Friday, February 11th
As Mubarak left Cairo for his vacation home in Sharm el-Sheik, the Egyptian military asserted its leadership in a “communiqué” and pledged to oversee the constitutional reforms that Mubarak had promised in his speech the night before. Then, during evening prayers, Vice President Suleiman made a brief televised statement:
“Taking into consideration the difficult circumstances the country is going through, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the post of president of the republic and has tasked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to manage the state’s affairs,” he said.
Thus ended Mubarak’s 30-year rule of Egypt. A council of military leaders is in charge of the country for now. Protestors, meanwhile, were jubilant, shouting “God is Great” and “Egypt is free” as fireworks exploded and cars honked incessantly. Ghonim, the Google executive who was imprisoned, expressed the hope of all when he said, “Egypt is going to be a fully democratic state.”
Egypt has been through a whirlwind of change, but, now that it’s beginning to calm down, the excitement of protestors is giving way to worries from the West.
“There are risks with the transition to democracy,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on February 5th. “It can be chaotic. It can cause short-term instability. Even worse—and we have seen it before—the transition can backslide into just another authoritarian regime. Revolutions have overthrown dictators in the name of democracy only to see the political process hijacked by new autocrats.”
Clinton is right—we have seen it before. Iran is the best, and most worrisome, example; after its own revolution in 1979, the Iranian movement was “hijacked” by radical Islamists. This is exactly what we don’t want to happen in Egypt.
But Egypt is different than Iran, and the revolution we just witnessed was unique. Protestors came from a wide range of economic classes and age groups, brought together by social media websites and a basic demand: let the opposition be heard. Mubarak’s government oppressed the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s Islamic opposition group, just as much as anyone else these past decades. And while the organization does command many Egyptians’ support, it will have to prove that it is worthy—just like any other Egyptian— to win a seat in the government.
“It is their right to participate as much as it is mine, as much as it is anyone else’s in this country,” Amal Borham, a protestor, told The New York Times on February 12th. “They are part of this society, and they have been made to stay in the shadows for a very long time.”
Such is the democratic idealism that has taken hold in Egypt. But it is still uncertain as to whether or not Islam and democracy can coexist; historically, the combination has almost never been successful. Yes, this year’s Egyptian Revolution was different than what we have witnessed in the rest of the Middle East—but just how different is yet to be determined.
“It is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders—only the Egyptian people can do that,” said President Obama on February 1st.
But anyone who pays attention to the news knows that the entire world is talking about Cairo these days.
Political unrest has intensified since the people of Egypt began their demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak’s 29-year rule, making it increasingly clear that the Egyptian government must undergo some serious changes before the violence can come to a halt. Despite Obama’s message that Egyptians should decide their own future, he has become involved in the process of repairing the country’s leadership.
It began with a simple message: don’t harm the protesters. If violence is used to quell the demonstrations, Obama warned, the US would put a stop to the billions of dollars of aid that it currently gives to Egypt. As the protests strengthened, words like “transition” and “democracy” began floating around the Obama administration. But when President Mubarak announced that he would not run for re-election later this year—indicating that he would continue to rule until elections are held—Obama amped up his message to the Egyptian president.
“An orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now,” he said.
Emphasis on the “now.” While Obama doesn’t want Egypt, one of the more developed countries in Africa, to devolve into utter anarchical chaos, it is clear that he wants President Mubarak’s presidency to come to an end, and soon. Still, Obama’s words were cautious. As the New York Times puts it, if Obama “pushed Mr. Mubarak, he did not shove him.”
He might need to, as Mubarak is proving himself to be very strong-willed for an 82 year-old. Appearing on national television after three days of protests, he promised to replace the ministers in his government— an attempt to subdue the protestors and retain his power. It didn’t work. He then made the announcement that he would not run for re-election. But that’s not enough for Egyptians, and it’s not enough for Obama.
The revolutionary fervor has put the US government in an awkward position, though. A number of news articles describe Obama as “charting a delicate course” or “walking a very fine line,” as other countries in the region may be undermined by his support of the Egyptian protesters. Obama doesn’t want to be too involved—but he may have to be if he wants his words to resonate. His administration’s ultra-cautious response—an attempt to please both regional allies and the protesters—is not enough. The anti-Mubarak group is clearly determined, but so is Mubarak. For the violence and chaos to end soon, Obama needs to use his influence and take a more vocal stance.
If Mubarak won’t step down, someone may have to shove him.
On Green Technology and the Environment
What Obama Said: “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.”
What It Means: Obama seems to think that this is the time to dive full-force into green technology, and he set forth an ambitious goal: to have 80% of America’s electricity come from clean energy sources (wind, solar, nuclear, clean coal, & natural gas) by 2035. The government would reduce the amount of money it gives to big oil, and instead “invest” money in clean energy technology. The proposal will run into problems with both Democrats and Republicans, though—Dems will oppose the construction of new nuclear power plants, and Republicans will say that “investing” is really just another word for spending, which, they say, won’t help the federal deficit. Oil executives will also be crying—about the loss of government subsidies. Expect some money to go into cleaner energy technology, but not as much as Obama suggested.
On Health Care
What Obama Said: “ What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition.”
What It Means: Obama is willing to have another look at the health care legislation that passed last year and revise parts of it. But that’s where he’ll draw the line. His statement was a veiled message to Republicans who just last week, under the direction of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), voted to repeal the legislation. The vote was merely symbolic; with a Democratic-controlled Senate and White House, don’t expect the health care to actually be repealed. But the issue is far from resolved; expect revisions—and plenty of partisan bickering—to continue this year, too.
What Obama Said: “We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.”
What It Means: This is something Obama’s been trying to get for a while—a public works program that, he believes, will increase our nation’s economic competitiveness, connect everyone to the “Digital Age,” and create new jobs, especially for the “hard-hit construction industry.” Yet again, he set forth an ambitious goal: to give 80% of American access to high-speed rail within 25 years. But many politicians, mostly Republicans, aren’t keen on spending more money with the federal deficit so high. And even if the money is there, deciding which projects should be granted money is always a hot issue. Since this is something that Obama’s been touting for at least a year—he brought it up at last year’s Address as well—it may finally be put into legislation and pushed through Congress, but it’ll be toned down.
What Obama Said: “If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child—become a teacher. Your country needs you.”
What It Means: Education reform. Plain and simple. The No Child Left Behind Act, the Bush administration’s attempt at education reform, is set to expire this year. Obama wants to replace it with more “flexible” legislation—something similar to Race to the Top, the initiative that offered money to states that submitted the best proposals for education reform. Race to the Top has actually been popular amongst Republicans and Democrats alike, so his plans for education reform could be made into legislation and signed into law. His proposal also included another goal: to train 100,000 new teachers. Despite education reform’s popularity, I still wouldn’t expect an easy battle—the two parties are sure to disagree on the status of students born in America to illegal immigrant parents. The more progressive parts of his plan will probably go, but education reform still looks good for this year.
The political world is crying out about one word this month: civility. Since 22-year-old Jared Loughner shot six dead and injured thirteen others in Arizona on January 8th, politicians and political commentators have tried to explain away what could have caused such a terrible event. The conclusion, we are told, is that we, as a society, need to be more civil towards one another—especially when it comes to political differences.
President Obama set the tone with his words1 at the January 12th memorial service for victims of the shooting. Following days of political finger-pointing over who was to blame, Obama avoided politics and stuck to one simple message: the call for civility.
“At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized—at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do—it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds,” he said.
Though Obama didn’t address the current political climate directly, his message was clear. In the days after the shooting, a kind of political blame-game had commenced, with Democrats blaming Republicans for their violent rhetoric, and Republicans blaming Democrats for using the shooting as political leverage.
Finger-pointing was most notably directed at Sarah Palin. Liberals and pundits wasted no time in blaming her for the way she has allegedly inflamed political discourse over the past few years. There was, indeed, evidence2 to blame Palin—she had put a map on her Facebook page that literally placed crosshairs on certain House Democrats who voted for health care reform and who were facing tough reelections. One of those Democrats was
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the target of the assassination attempt in Arizona.
On the other side of the spectrum was Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who was accused of using the shooting for his own political benefit when he cited it in a fundraising letter. His words suggested that conservative extremism was to blame for what happened in Arizona.
“Have right-wing reactionaries, through threats and acts of violence, intimidated people with different points of view from expressing their political positions?” wrote Sanders.
Obama put an end to the back and forth between the two parties with his speech in Tucson. No matter how gun-happy Palin’s words may be, or how eager the Democrats are to blame right-wing conservatives, the President tried to avoid placing blame and instead encouraged self-reflection and common courtesy.
Of course, it is questionable how long this call for civility will actually last. In an article3 titled “Any Pause in Harsh Rhetoric May be Short-Lived,” the Associated Press cites the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which prompted lawmakers to vow that they would unify the nation; less than a year later, a partisan argument over the budget caused the government to be temporarily shutdown. David Brooks, columnist at the New York Times4, also cast doubt on this new, hopeful attitude:
“Of course, even a great speech won’t usher in a period of civility,” wrote Brooks.
It’s not that words don’t hold power. Obama’s speech certainly impacted Americans all across the board—even Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly halted their criticism and applauded his message. But it’s quite possible that this moment of national unity, of a common drive for more civility in political discourse, is only temporary. Sarah Palin, for one, didn’t waste any time returning to her old ways. Days after the shooting, in a home video from Alaska, she used the term “blood libel,” a phrase that has long been linked to anti-Semitism. Oops.
Just a couple months ago, President Obama seemed forlorn as he admitted that his party had been “shellacked” in the midterm elections. But now he and the Democrats are enjoying sudden success during Congress’ lame-duck session, as both his tax cut compromise with Republicans and a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy were passed.
The extension of the Bush-Era Tax Cuts represents more of a political success than anything else. Democrats were originally opposed to the deal that Obama struck with Republicans, which included extending tax cuts for wealthier households as well as for working-class families. They believed that Obama had caved on his campaign promises and his own principles.
“I don’t think it’s a fair deal,” Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) said after it was announced in early December. “I think a ransom was paid, and it was a very high price.”
Despite the Democrats’ initial dissatisfaction, though, the compromise was passed by Congress and won the majority of votes in both parties. More groundbreaking than the tax cut legislation was the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the 17-year old policy that allowed gays to serve in the military as long as they kept their homosexuality under wraps. Since the legislation was passed in 1993, more than 12,500 service members were discharged for being openly homosexual, according to The New York Times. Congress finally revoked this injustice with a vote of 65 to 31 in the Senate; eight Republicans voted with the Democrats.
“I don’t care who you love,” said Senator Ron Wyden (D- OR). “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.” The reversal of this long-debated military policy is already being described by the media and news commentators as “historic,” and has given Obama yet another success to be proud of in the wake of the embarrassing midterm elections. The House also passed a less contentious measure that would increase the amount of money spent on child nutrition and allow more poor children to receive free meals at school.
“Suddenly, [Obama] looks like a dealmaker who can reach across party lines to get things done, and, perhaps, make progress that Americans found lacking when they went to the polls in November,” said one L.A. Times article.
Such was the media’s attitude towards Obama in recent days—he seems to have redeemed himself. The ultra-productive lame-duck session was rounded off when the Senate approved a new start arms control treaty on December 22, which will force the US and Russia to reduce nuclear arms production and resume mutual inspections. The treaty caused some controversy earlier this month when most Republicans were vowing to vote against it; in the end, 13 Republican Senators joined the unanimous Democrats to approve the treaty—another triumph for the Obama agenda.
If one thing is certain, it’s that Obama doesn’t easily accept defeat. He’s revved up his administration since his big loss in November, and it doesn’t appear he’ll be backing down soon. Republicans have been acting like they’ve got the upper hand since the midterms, but Obama’s not having it. In the lame-duck session, he reminded everyone who’s boss.
In 2001 and 2003, Congress passed controversial tax cuts, now known as the “Bush-Era Tax Cuts.”i In 2008, Obama ran for president and said he would end the tax cuts for households that make over $250,000 a year. And two weeks ago, he announced a dealii with Congressional Republicans that would extend those now infamous tax cuts for two more years—including those for high-income families.
Many Democratic Congressmen weren’t happy, and the President received a lot of negative media coverageiii for caving in to the Republicans. In his defense, Obama did work a 13-month expansion of unemployment benefits and what he described as “key tax cuts for working families” into the deal. He also acknowledged that he was going back on campaign promises, and that he didn’t actually agree with the Republicans who want to “make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.”
Speaking from the White House, Obama tried to play the part of a martyr, forced to sacrifice his beliefs and campaign promises for the sake of Americans. Describing the deal in the simplest possible terms, he boiled it down to this: if he hadn’t given in to Republican demands, they would have blocked tax cuts for all Americans, including the low-income households and middle-class families who need it the most.
“That would be a chilling prospect for the American people,” Obama said. “I am not willing to let that happen.”
Though most Democrats continued to express anger and frustration with the President—many threatened to vote against the deal—the tax cuts have since been passed by Congress, and even won the majority of votes in both parties. But the lesson learned is clear. In response to his own party voicing discontent with the decision, Obama gave another news conference where he explained the deal further and, rather emotionally, defended his decision.
If people refuse to compromise, Obama said, “People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of pre-existing condition, or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.”
Obama thus defended deal-making in Washington, which, two years ago, he promised to end. Between that and the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts, it does seem like the President has fallen back on a lot of his campaign promises. But those promises were never very feasible. Wanting to change “politics as usual” is admirable, but the fact is that deal-making is deeply embedded in our government. No one party is ever going to win, and no one is ever going to be happy. Politics is all about compromise.
Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina has apparently crowned himself the ringleader of the Blue Dogs, causing a political stir over the last few days with his bold announcement. “I’ve said all along I’m hoping that Nancy Pelosi will step aside,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” this Sunday. “Because of her being at the very top right now, no one’s willing to throw their hat in the ring. And if it comes down to this coming week and she doesn’t step aside, then I will challenge her.”
But he wasn’t very convincing, perhaps because he knows that even if he runs, he will lose.
“I can add and subtract pretty well — I don’t have the numbers to be able to win,” Shuler added.
He would therefore be running for purely symbolic reasons. But I’m pretty sure that’s not the kind of symbolism Democrats need right now. No one wants to support a party that is fraught with internal bickering — and nothing says that like challenging a party leader. It’s always better to have a unified front, which is why the GOP has been pretty pissed with the Tea Party and why Democratic leaders aren’t pleased with the Blue Dogs right now.
What’s more troublesome is the fact that Shuler’s announcement doesn’t resonate with the current mindset of voters. Like a lot of Republicans, he’s interpreted the midterm election results as a sign that Americans don’t agree with Democratic policy. But, unlike the Republicans, Shuler has taken this to mean that we need more moderates in the government.
Au contraire! Exhibit A: The Blue Dogs were murdered this election season. Twenty of them lost bids for reelection, and six retired, leaving their numbers almost cut in half. In fact, one of the biggest surprises this election was the way voters ran to either political extreme — either ultra conservative or ultra liberal. The middle road isn’t in vogue right now, which is why the moderate Blue Dogs are on their way out and the more radical Tea Party is on its way in.