Why the Midterms Matter

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Alter

The GOP's agenda has to be stopped.

Prediction is an addiction in the press corps. We can search for the key to the Keystone State with sophisticated cross tabs of projected African-American turnout for Joe Sestak in Philadelphia. We can offer the early read on early voting for Barbara Boxer in Alameda County. We can practically study the entrails of Kentucky possum to project Rand Paul's totals among white men under 30.

But elections aren't just about who wins. They're about what happens when one or the other party wins. We're so eager to promote ourselves with the smartest take on how President Obama and the Democrats got themselves in this pickle that we haven't done a good job explaining the stakes. We manage to sever cause from effect.

Let's say you're an independent voter who wants to send Obama a message on Nov. 2. Have the media told you what that would say? Here's a clue: moderate Republicans are extinct. With big wins, the Tea Party will transform itself from an insurgency into the driving force within the GOP. Gains in statehouses and legislatures will allow right-wingers to use the 2010 census to redraw district lines that will entrench them in power until 2020. Back in charge in Washington, they will likely block even centrist choices for courts. Extremist senators like Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn will move from being irritants on the fringe to players at the center of our politics.

A question for Democrats disinclined to work on congressional campaigns: do you know the GOP agenda? In brief: repeal health-care reform, so if you lose your job and your kid gets sick, you may have to sell the house; repeal financial reform, so Wall Street scammers and predatory lenders can return to doing everything they did before they wrecked the economy; maintain corporate-welfare subsidies that move jobs overseas; reduce spending by slashing education funding; and ending all clean-energy projects aimed at curbing our dependence on Mideast oil. Of course, these policies won't cut the deficit. Republicans insist on extending $700 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy and leaving the $500 billion defense budget un-touched. Entitlements would merely be "reviewed regularly," the GOP leadership says, which is code for doing nothing.

We've heard a lot of comparisons with 1994, when Newt Gingrich and the GOP last took control. …