"In contrast to the vitriolic rants you'll find on some political blogging sites, Palmer gives in-depth analysis and commentary." --Dan Cook, The Free Times


How the Religious Right is Politically Wrong

Readers of The 7-10 know that I currently live in South Carolina while I pursue my doctoral studies. South Carolina is probably the most conservative state on the East Coast and is the only state on the coast that has not voted for a Democrat in a presidential election since 1976. Blacks constitute about 30% of the state's population, but the state is overwhelmingly Republican and conservative. South Carolina has a Republican governor, a Republican lieutenant governor, two Republican senators, a Republican-controlled state legislature, and a majority Republican congressional delegation (4 out of 6 congressional members are Republicans and one of the Democrats represents a majority Black district). There is currently only one Democrat holding a statewide elected office, and that is the superintendent of education.

Needless to say, the Palmetto State is a conservative stronghold. This state is full of military veterans, active duty servicemembers, gun owners, fiscal conservatives, and descendants of the old Confederacy (the Confederate battle flag still flies in front of the Statehouse in Columbia). There is nothing wrong with any of these demographic and ideological constituencies. However, there is one component of the Republican Party that is threatening the party's long term viability. This constituency is alive and well in South Carolina, throughout the South, and in rural areas in general: religious conservatives, also known as the religious right, or more specifically, Christian conservatives.

The paradox of Christian conservatives as they pertain to politics is that they comprise the bedrock of the Republican Party. So the Republican Party can ill afford to leave them behind when it comes to policy. However, the issues that Christian conservatives rally behind are often polarizing cultural wedge issues that people who would not describe themselves as Christian conservatives either don't care as much about or hold views that Christian conservatives find unacceptable.

Thus, the dilemma that Republican politicians face is whether to keep their base satisfied or risk angering it by trying to appeal to a broader coalition of voters in the political center. The Washington Post's David Broder aptly observed that the regionalization of the GOP to the South, the Western Plains, and the Upper Mountain West has pushed the party considerably more to the right, potentially at the expense of the electorally rich Midwest, the Pacific Coast, and the Northeast.

As I mentioned earlier, South Carolina has a large Christian conservative population. The power of this constituency is reflected in local ordinances (e.g., blue laws), local advertising, and media reporting. South Carolina's largest newspaper, The State, recently filled its opinion pages with letters to the editor about the never-ending debate between "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" and whether South Carolinians should be allowed to purchase Christian-oriented license plates from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The problem for the religious right is not their socially conservative views. Their problem is that they commonly get mired in cultural issues that nobody will ever reach a consensus on while issues that affect far more people's lives are ignored.

Every year, Christian conservatives claim that there is a "war on Christmas" and that "God is being removed from the public square." And with the license plate controversy, these same Christian conservatives believe that a judge's refusal to allow the sale of license plates with the words "I believe" and a golden cross on them is an attack on their religion. South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer is aggressively pushing for these license plates to be allowed under freedom of speech grounds even though no other license plates for followers of other religions exist.

Meanwhile, South Carolina is experiencing a $600 million budget shortfall (which is ironically being attributed to too many tax cuts) which is resulting in harsh cuts in funding for all state agencies, including public schools and universities.

Which issue is more important? Being able to purchase a special kind of license plate to allow you to express your Christian faith, or finding ways to improve the state economy so that school bus routes don't have to get canceled, new teachers can get hired to serve in public schools, and university courses don't get dropped? (One of the courses required for my own degree program was cut, thus potentially delaying my own graduation.)

It would seem that the license plate issue could easily be remedied by purchasing a Christian bumper sticker and that one could get around the December salutation issue by saying both "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" together, or simply choosing the greeting you feel more comfortable with. However, this personal freedom does not seem to satisfy Christian conservatives, as many of them wish to have their religious views become public policy. They use their religion to justify their political views and suggest that if you disagree with their views, you are somehow attacking their religion or are somehow "anti-God" and "anti-family."

Critics may say the left is guilty of the exact same thing--thinking they are right. But there are several obvious problems with this thinking.

First of all, there are many people who do not share the same faith. Rising immigration and changing demographics are changing this nation's religious balance. This does not mean that traditional Christianity is under attack. It just means that it's not the only game in town anymore. So using the Bible to justify a political view has little meaning to someone who does not read or follow the Bible at all. Using the Torah or the Koran to justify public policy would likely be met with scorn or outrage, so why should it be any different with Christianity?

Critics would predictably reply by saying the United States is a Christian nation. It was founded on Christian principles and has a majority Christian population. But there are several ways to refute this argument. To start, the "Christianity" on which this nation was founded included denying women the right to vote and allowing millions of Blacks to be torn apart from their families and forcibly held in chains for generations. (This is why the "Christian nation" argument doesn't work with people of color.)

This "Christian nation" also attacked and invaded a country under false pretenses, thus leading to the deaths of over 4,000 Americans and perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. (This is why this argument doesn't work with liberals.) This "Christian nation" also dropped two atomic bombs on nonmilitary targets that killed or sickened tens of thousands of civilians. (This is why this argument doesn't work with immigrants and young people who didn't grow up with Vietnam, the Iranian hostage crisis, and the Cold War.) These are not my criticisms of the United States, but they are indeed facts that seem to contradict the tenets of Christianity.

Secondly, having a majority does not automatically make it right for this majority to do whatever it wants, regardless of how the minority is impacted. Slavery and Jim Crow laws (passed by presumably Christian politicians) are the most obvious examples, but there are other more recent examples of the tyranny of the majority. Majorities of Americans supported legalized segregation and bans on interracial marriage just a few decades ago. President Bush and congressional Republicans spent the first 6 years of the Bush presidency governing as if the minority (Democrats) did not matter, but the 2006 and 2008 election results showed that this was not wise. In an apparent contradiction, when it comes to abortion rights, the will of the majority apparently doesn't matter to the religious right. So why should it matter if the majority of Americans are Christians if the religious right wishes to overrule the majority of Americans when it comes to abortion rights? One cannot selectively cite majority opinion as the reason why certain policies should be adopted.

Third, this thinking assumes that this Christian majority is monolithic. And that leads to my next point. There are many people who interpret the same religion differently. There is a large percentage of Americans who do not attend church regularly. Some only attend it on religious holidays. Others consider themselves "believers," but do not attend church at all. There is even a growing number of people who consider themselves "spiritual, but not religious."

Christians who fall into these categories fear that their religion is being hijacked by the religious right and take offense to equating religion-based social conservatism with "Christian policies." This is why the Republican Party is virtually dead in the Northeast and dying in the Midwest. Social moderates who are more concerned with economic issues (i.e., country club, suburban, and Wall Street Republicans) are being pushed into the Democratic Party because of the religious right's emphasis on issues like gay marriage and the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance at the expense of pocketbook issues like jobs and health care.

Even worse, these Christian conservatives are now training their fire on their ideological allies. Conservative commentator Glenn Beck recently had an article pulled from the website of the conservative Focus on the Family because of his Mormon faith. Never mind the fact that Glenn Beck is far closer to the cultural and political right than the left. The fact that the path he chose to achieve spirituality differs from theirs is enough to warrant silencing him or attacking his faith as a "cult."

Of course, all political groups and constituencies are free to behave as they wish. But the same Christian right that brought Republicans to power in the 90s is now threatening to keep them locked out of it in the future. The Christian right is shrinking the GOP tent and making it less appealing to voters who may share some of their conservative sentiments even if they don't share the same interpretations of the same religion. This, combined with the fact that Republican Party officials are still boneheaded enough to create songs called "Barack the Magic Negro," practically ensures that Republicans will become increasingly irrelevant while cannibalizing themselves at the same time.

The fact that Christmas is over means that the "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" debate will now lose its salience until next December. But South Carolina's budget cuts still exist and will affect millions of South Carolinians for months or years to come. Where is the Christian conservatives' outrage regarding this issue? Do they have any solutions? The fact that voters around the country are looking for political leadership and solutions in these times of crisis make these cultural issues seem very small and unimportant. Republicans would be wise to focus their attention on issues that actually matter to people's lives. And unfortunately for the Christian right, their agenda is not it.


Criticizing the Criticism of Obama's Cabinet

President-elect Barack Obama has finished making the selections to his Cabinet. Per the Washington Post, Obama's Cabinet will have nine White males, five women, four Blacks, three Latinos, two Asians, and two Republicans. While this Cabinet's diversity has been praised by the media, there have been significant rumblings from several liberal groups who somehow feel underrepresented.

For example, feminist groups have sharply criticized Obama for not choosing enough women for his Cabinet. Out of the 20 Cabinet positions Obama has announced, five of these positions have been filled by women. Women's groups' reactions to this have ranged from disappointment to outrage. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, said, "When you are looking at a Cabinet and you have such a small number of women in the room when the big decisions are being made, there need to be a lot more women's voices in this administration." New Agenda co-founder Amy Siskind asserted that "this constituency does not matter to the president-elect."

Obama would be wise to ignore these criticisms and not buy into this rhetoric.

First of all, the assertion that women "do not matter" to Obama is both ridiculous and stupid. As the father of two young girls, the husband of a professional woman, and a child who was largely raised by his mother and grandmother, women have played an integral role in Obama's life. By his biography alone, women obviously matter to Obama.

But it goes beyond that.

Obama had been bedeviled by Hillary Clinton for months during the primaries. He was dogged by her after she suspended her campaign. And he was still being haunted by her after the party conventions. He had to deal with the rogue women-led PUMA faction that was threatening to support the McCain-Palin ticket because Obama did not choose Clinton to be his vice president. And he was criticized for not helping her retire her debt fast enough. How did he react to all of this? By asking her to serve as Secretary of State.

Secretary of State is one of the top three Cabinet positions in any administration (with the other two being Treasury and Defense). By choosing Clinton for State, he immediately silenced the PUMAs (if they were even still relevant after the election), bolstered his standing among women (who may feel a fictive kinship with Clinton even if they might not agree with her politics), and helped strengthen unity among Democrats.

The selection of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to be the Secretary of Homeland Security is also a very big deal. This high profile Cabinet position entails a tremendous amount of responsibility. Judging from its name alone, many people would probably stereotypically associate "homeland security" with "men." But Napolitano will be the first woman to occupy this position. And as the popular governor of a border state, she is certainly qualified for this job. Therefore, women's groups should be enthusiastic about this selection.

But it seems that these critics are thinking more about numbers. President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush had similar numbers of women in their Cabinets, so these feminist groups may have expected more in terms of "progress." But they aren't the only ones who have been critical of Obama's selections.

Again, Obama named five women to his cabinet. This very easily could have been four because New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was lobbying hard for Clinton's new job. Obama eventually tapped Richardson to be his Secretary of Commerce, but that selection was met with warnings from Latino groups that Obama needed to choose more Latinos. Selecting Richardson for Secretary of Commerce didn't sit too well with columnist Ruben Navarrette who claimed that "the way [Richardson] was treated doesn't say much about Obama's respect for the Hispanic community."

(Perhaps Obama's support for "comprehensive immigration reform" instead of mass deportations is less important to Latinos than I originally thought.)

So it seems that Obama is in a no-win situation. If he chooses someone from Group X, he risks offending Group Y. And if he chooses someone from Group X and another person from Group Y, then members of Group Z become upset because they were somehow left out.

And therein lies the problem.

If diversity is reduced to mere numbers, that cheapens the qualifications of the people being selected. Pending confirmation, Hillary Clinton will be a Secretary of State who is also a female, not a female Secretary of State. To view Clinton strictly in terms of her gender trivializes her obvious qualifications and experience. The same could be said for Bill Richardson. As a governor, he has managed budgets and dealt with trade issues. So he is qualified to be Secretary of Commerce. But he risks being turned into a Hispanic Secretary of Commerce, as if his skin color matters more than his knowledge of budgeting and economics.

This overemphasis on identity politics is a common criticism of Republicans and conservatives when it comes to diversity. However, the problem for Republicans is that too many of them don't seem to take this issue seriously. "Diversity" is often met with derision in conservative circles because it is either equated with the abuses of affirmative action or is seen as a threat to their own cultures and beliefs.

Conservatives claim they see no skin color or gender. They want everyone to "assimilate" and become "Americans" just like "the rest of us." Of course, this thinking is an affront to people who wish to retain their culture and don't like being pressured to change who they are just so they can satisfy some criteria that is being set by their equals. Guillermo Gonzalez in Pueblo, Colorado, is just as American as Jim Jones in Paducah, Kentucky. But Republicans seem to argue that more people should be like Jim Jones because he speaks English as his first and only language, says "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays," and eats hot dogs instead of hummus.

Of course, the problem is that skin color, gender, and diversity are very real issues that matter to a lot of people. Until Republicans realize that they can't exist as a viable national party if they continue to marginalize so many groups of people by not respecting their identities or reaching out to their communities, they will continue to remain in the political minority.

What makes this debate over diversity in Obama's Cabinet unique, however, is that it is liberals who are doing the bulk of the complaining. Obama has obviously thought carefully about these selections. All of his choices are competent and qualified individuals from diverse backgrounds. But there are only so many positions available. Where will it end? Is Obama about to experience backlash from left-handed voters? How many of Obama's Cabinet selections come from Vermont or South Dakota? Will cat owners be the next group to blast Obama's "diversity?" How will he rectify the fact that there aren't any Buddhists in his Cabinet? Or is that secondary to the fact that there aren't any third-generation biracial Laotian immigrants in his Cabinet either?

These constituencies should relax and give Obama a chance to at least take the Oath of Office first. The policies his administration advocates will be a lot more important to these groups than the identities of the people advocating them. President Bush's Cabinet is about as diverse as Obama's will be, and experience has shown that the Bush Administration's policies are having a more profound effect on far more people than the skin color and anatomy of the people making the policies.

Obama has an approval rating of almost 80%. Partisan Republicans and hardline conservatives will automatically disapprove of everything Obama does, so that should not be a surprise. But if his Cabinet picks alone are enough to make people disapprove of his leadership, then some liberals will be in for a long four or eight years.

But maybe Obama is actually happy to be attacked by the left. Ironically, these complaints from liberals are actually making Obama more politically powerful because the more liberals criticize Obama, the more difficult it is for Republicans to paint him as a leftist radical. And many Republicans who had reservations about Obama's ideology because he was "the most liberal member of the Senate" may actually be pleasantly surprised.

Obama's electoral landslide and a second consecutive congressional Republican wipeout should force Republicans to reassess how important diversity is and how they should reach out to people of color and other demographic minorities. But by the same token, Obama's presidency should force Democrats to reassess what diversity actually means and how it should be achieved. Reducing his Cabinet to a sterile assortment of demographic statistics runs contrary to Obama's message of tolerance, unity, and respect. It seems that some unhappy liberals may need to reassess their own tolerance and heed these calls for unity because their unfounded criticisms and laughable hyperbole threaten to marginalize them just as much as the politicians Obama defeated on November 4.


On Overstating Republican Strength

The normally reliable Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post recently wrote a column arguing that Republicans could be making a comeback. He cited Saxby Chambliss's victory in the Georgia Senate runoff, the surprise defeat of Democratic Congressman Bill Jefferson, and the Republicans' ability to narrowly defeat a conservative Democratic challenger for an open seat in a conservative Louisiana congressional district as reasons why Republicans should be optimistic.

However, this is the type of journalism that political scientists and mass communication researchers dread. Cillizza's story seems to be more about creating news where no news exists, or at the very least inflating the news so that it seems more significant than it really is. His story about a possible Republican comeback may make for good political discussion and speculation for junkies, but it does a great disservice to more casual voters who rely on the media to provide them with factual information.

The long and short of it is, Republicans should have been able to win all of these elections.

In Saxby Chambliss's case, he hails from conservative-leaning Georgia. Georgia voted for John McCain by about 5 points. Montana was more competitive than Georgia on November 4. It is also more conservative than North Carolina, which actually voted for Obama and lost its incumbent Republican senator Elizabeth Dole. Dole was dogged by her own lackluster campaign and an ill-advised attack on challenger Kay Hagan that tried to link her to atheists. Chambliss did not make any fatal mistakes and was serving a more conservative state than Dole. On top of this, Barack Obama's name was not on the ballot. This obviously dampened turnout among Democrats and Black voters. Also, runoff elections tend to benefit the candidate who has the better organization. Obama had some field offices in Georgia, but he did not challenge the state in the final weeks. Chambliss also had the advantage of a strong state Republican Party that could help turn out the vote. Thus, this was an election Chambliss should have won comfortably.

On a related note, some pundits have wondered how much Governor Sarah Palin impacted the race because of her multiple campaign appearances and ability to draw large crowds. This is very difficult to measure because of all the variables listed earlier. Dole's defeat in neighboring North Carolina is big news. Chambliss's comfortable victory in conservative Georgia isn't. Conservative Republicans win elections in conservative states, regardless of Palin's campaigning. Both Mississippi senators, both Wyoming senators, and one of Alabama's senators all won their reelection bids on November 4 with ease.

The same rule applies to Louisiana's 4th District. This seat had been held by a Republican, but Democrats thought they had a chance to steal it because it was an open seat. Paul Carmouche, a socially conservative Democrat who had served as a parish (county) district attorney did indeed have a chance to win this election, but it was ultimately a bit too heavily Republican for him. This district gave John McCain 60% of the vote. So it should not be much of a surprise that conservative Republican Paul Fleming was able to win this election, although a recount is expected. And if Republicans are looking at this victory as evidence of a Republican comeback, the fact that the Republican House candidate performed more than 10 points worse than John McCain should also signify Democratic strength in Republican areas.

One point to keep in mind is that one of the few incumbent Democrats to lose her reelection bid last month was Nancy Boyda of Kansas. Her victory in 2006 was considered one of the biggest surprises of the cycle, especially since moderate Republican Chris Shays had survived. But Boyda's district (KS-2) was solidly Republican, so she would have had great trouble holding this seat in any political climate. So how can a Democrat's defeat in a conservative district in Louisiana signify Republican strength while a Democrat's defeat in a conservative district in Kansas not signify the same thing?

The defeat of Rep. Bill Jefferson by Republican Ahn Cao is definitely a bright spot for the GOP. However, this election had unusual circumstances and looked a lot more like 2006 than 2008. Bill Jefferson (of frozen money infamy) was one of the main embarrassments of the Democratic Party that was giving House Speaker Nancy Pelosi headaches. While voters in his New Orleans district were willing to give him a pass in 2006, they had clearly had enough in 2008. Jefferson almost certainly would have won reelection had the election taken place on November 4 with Obama at the top of the ballot. But because of Hurricane Gustav, the election was rescheduled. And like Georgia's runoff Senate race, turnout was down.

Republicans are right to look at Cao, who is of Vietnamese descent, as the future of the party because it needs to find a way to become competitive among people of color and in big cities and the suburbs again. However, he now represents a congressional district that was specifically drawn to elect a Black (Democratic) candidate. So it is likely that Cao will be defeated in 2010, just like Nick Lampson was defeated this year. Lampson was elected in 2006 to represent Tom Delay's old district in Texas. That district was simply too Republican for Lampson to hold even though he voted like a conservative Democrat. Under normal circumstances, a Republican doesn't stand a chance in a majority-Black district because Blacks overwhelmingly vote Democratic. But it is most definitely not normal for scandal-plagued politicians to keep winning elections. Just ask Alaska's Ted Stevens.

One other point about Fleming's victory and Cao's shocker is that they both occurred in Louisiana, a state that is becoming more Republican because of demographic changes. Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav have caused many New Orleans residents to leave the state. New Orleans was a majority Black city before Katrina, but it is about evenly split now. This is not to minimize the Republicans' victories in Louisiana, but there were certainly several institutional and demographic variables working in their favor.

The most important fact that Chris Cillizza missed is that Republicans should not measure their strength in terms of their ability to win elections in their base states. Kansas, Lousiana, and Georgia are all solidly Republican states. And almost any credible candidate can beat a corrupt congressman if the timing is right. Republicans have far more serious problems to worry about in other states that matter a lot more than the South and the rural Plains. A Democrat narrowly won a seat in Ohio last week that had been held by a Republican for more than 40 years, another Democrat defeated a Republican incumbent in another contested election in Virginia, and Republican Norm Coleman is in very real danger of losing his Senate reelection bid in Minnesota.

Republicans' problems aren't in Louisiana, Georgia, and Kansas, so they shouldn't be looking to those states for solace. Their problems, as I noted shortly after the election, are in Virginia, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, and the entire Northeast. Until Republicans start winning in these electorally rich purple and blue areas again, they are in a world of trouble. And it is for this reason that Cillizza's latest column seems to be more about giving political junkies something to chew on during a slow news time rather than providing an accurate analysis of what the political landscape actually looks like.


Senate Math: The 60-Seat Mirage

As an observer of politics and the media, I have noticed that one of the dominant storylines in the media over the course of this election cycle is the possibility of the Democrats making it to 60 seats in the Senate. The media have correctly reported that it takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster, thus allowing the Senate to function more like the House in that legislation can pass more easily. The media are reporting that this would be a boon to President-elect Obama, whom Democrats and liberals would love to be given a Senate supermajority because it would mean he could get his agenda passed much more easily.

However, there are several flaws with the media's reporting on the importance of 60 Democrats in the Senate as they relate to Obama's presidency. And a 60-seat supermajority may actually be worse than coming up just short. Given the bipartisan overtures he has expressed since the election (e.g., nominating Robert Gates and Jim Jones to his cabinet), it appears that Obama may be too smart to be distracted with the 60-seat mirage.

To start, even if there were 60 Senate Democrats, they would first be Democrats in name only because the past two elections have seen the Democratic Party become the home of liberals as well as moderates. There are broad ideological differences within the party, so not all 60 of these Democrats would vote with their party on all issues. A gay rights bill supported by Barbara Boxer of California would probably not be supported by Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a conservative Democrat, will likely not vote the same way on cultural issues as Charles Schumer of New York. Virginia's Jim Webb will be more likely to oppose bills restricting firearms than Washington's Patty Murray.

So in order for the Democrats to be able to block a Republican filibuster, they will need to attract enough moderate Republicans to offset the likely defections of members of their own party. Republican moderates like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania will wield a lot of influence in the upcoming congress. These moderate Republicans may be more likely to vote with the Democrats because the Republican Party has become much more conservative over the past two election cycles as a result of the defeats of fellow moderates and the confinement of the party to the culturally conservative South, Plains, and Mountain West. For these moderates to consistently block Democratic legislation would erode their own bipartisan credentials.

Secondly, Obama ran on post-partisanship, unity, and consensus. Relying on bills that sail through Congress with minimal Republican support would seem antithetical to his campaign platform. Obama wisely noted that even though he had won a mandate for change, he stressed the importance of "humility" because about 47% of the voters supported John McCain. This realization would seem to keep Obama in check in terms of how far to the left he should govern. By attracting significant Republican support on key bills, Obama could deliver on his campaign promise and allow both parties to take credit for legislative victories while getting important work done at the same time.

So in this context, Obama is thinking more about 60 votes instead of 60 Democrats. Running too far to the left may play right into the Republicans' hands and cause the Democrats to lose seats in the critical 2010 midterm elections. 2010 matters because congressional districts will be redrawn based on the latest census, so if the Democrats govern intelligently, they could cement their grip on power for years to come.

But just as 60 seats may be a trap for Democrats, 41 seats may also be a trap for Republicans. Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss won his reelection bid yesterday. One of the central arguments of his campaign was that he wanted to stop Obama's liberal agenda and use the filibuster to do so. This may have played well in conservative Georgia during a runoff election against a weak Democratic opponent, but it is a dangerous trap for Republicans to adopt this strategy in the next congress.

Republicans lost in 2006 because of their scandals, but they lost in 2008 because they did not offer voters much of an idea of what they stood for. In 2008, the central Republican argument boiled down to the idea that they were "real Americans" and that Obama and his liberal allies were "socialists" who had to be stopped. It was difficult to identify any specific new Republican idea or policy from the 2008 campaign. It was the same script of warning voters that liberals wanted to raise their taxes and take away their guns.

Even though he was pushed to a runoff election, Saxby Chambliss holds a relatively safe seat in a relatively conservative state. Simply opposing Obama and trying to block all of the legislation he supports will not do much to grow the party. Obama's bipartisan overtures so far seem mature. If Republicans want to complain at every turn, they will seem petty. And they will not win seats in future elections. The Democrats learned in 2004 that you can never beat something with nothing. John Kerry ran as "not Bush" and lost. In 2008, Republicans ran as "not liberal" and lost. If Republicans adopt Chambliss' rhetoric of "not Obama" in the next congress and are blamed as obstructionists, they will lose again in 2010.

So 41 seats for Republicans would seem to be a useful tool in that it allows them to filibuster, but they must be careful with how they use it. And they have to consider the fact that the more moderate Republicans might not join some of these filibusters from time to time. So in short, while 60 Democrats may be as politically important as 41 Republicans, it is an oversimplification on behalf of the media because in the end, votes matter a lot more than party and sometimes a little bit of power can be a dangerous thing.

Copyright 2007-2010 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.