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It's more gong show politics
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In the bipolar gong show of Washington politics, it's the Republicans' turn. Count on them to opt for televised spectacle over governing. It's what they do.
You think a guy like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will be dutifully attending committee meetings and painstakingly crafting legislation? Not as long as President Obama's still in the White House and there are TV cameras on the premises.
Looking ahead to 2016, does anybody imagine the pendulum's stopped swinging? Here's the deal: the GOP made big Senate gains in 2004, 2010 and 2014; the Democrats, in 2006, 2008 and 2012.
Come the 2016 presidential election year, 24 of 34 incumbent Senators will be Republicans -- seven in states that Obama won twice.
Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich is so old he can remember back when Rush Limbaugh's personal hero became Speaker of the House:
"I was in the Clinton administration Election Day 1994 when Democrats lost both houses of Congress and Newt Gingrich became king of the Hill," he writes. "It was horrible. But you know what? It created all sorts of opportunities. It smoked Republicans out. They could no longer hide behind blue-dog Democrats. Americans saw them for who they were. Gingrich became the most hated man in America. The 1994 election also marked the end of the coalition of conservative Republicans and southern Democrats that had controlled much of Congress since the end of the New Deal."
Alas, Gingrich's demise took several years. He was simply out-maneuvered politically by Bill Clinton, while widespread exposure to his grating personality and gigantic ego eventually forced him out. The Clinton impeachment doomed him.
Meanwhile, count me among those who think that even "red state" Democrats who ran away from President Obama as if he had Ebola made a big mistake. Remember Ebola? It's so last week, I know. However, I await apologies from readers of the Chicken Little persuasion who objected to my writing that politicizing a disease was contemptible and the danger of a serious outbreak extremely small.
But back to Obama. It's true that his overall approval rating stands at 43 percent. Also, however, that the Republican Congress checks in at 13 percent. The president remains quite popular among the kinds of Democrats who mostly sat out the 2014 election.
True, many voters don't understand how deep and dangerous a hole the U.S. economy had fallen into in 2008; nor that unemployment's dropping sharply; the stock market's more than doubled; and that the federal budget deficit's dropped from 9.8 percent to a fiscally sustainable 2.9 percent of GDP on Obama's watch. But they'll never know if Democrats don't tell them.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons can be reached at eugenelyons2@yahoo.com.