Political Bloggers: Nothing's Permanent In 2010

The new year promises to be very busy in politics. The health care overhaul is entering its final chapters, and midterm elections in the fall could serve as a referendum on the Obama presidency. Guest host Ari Shapiro speaks with Michelle Cottle of the New Republic and Erick Erickson of RedState.com about the year ahead in politics.

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ARI SHAPIRO, host:

2010 promises to be a very busy year in politics. The health care overhaul is entering its final chapters and midterm elections in the fall could serve as a referendum on the Obama presidency. To help us look ahead at the year in politics, we're joined by two political writers. Michelle Cottle is the senior editor of the New Republic, and she blogs for the magazines Web site. She joins us here in our studios. Welcome to the program, Michelle.

Ms. MICHELLE COTTLE (Senior Editor, New Republic): Oh, thanks so much.

SHAPIRO: And Erick Erickson is the editor-in-chief of the political Web site RedState.com. He joins us from Carrollton, Georgia. Welcome, Erick.

Mr. ERICK ERICKSON (Editor-in-Chief, RedState.com): Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Okay. So, if health care was the biggest political story of 2009, what do you each expect to be the biggest political story of 2010? Michelle?

Ms. COTTLE: Well, I think the midterms are going to be what everybody...it's the prism that everything's going to be looked at through. So, everything from health care to whether there's financial regulation to foreign policy, it's all going to be looked at through the prism of how it's going to affect the midterms.

SHAPIRO: What do you think, Erick? Is this the midterm's year that defines everything else?

Mr. ERICKSON: Well, I still think we're going to be talking about health care for a while, but definitely everything is going to be viewed through the prospective of the midterms. And we're going to hear a lot of stories about where the Independents are falling. They seem to not be fans of the growing deficits but then do they really trust the Republicans, who started the deficits growing, to go to them in November?

SHAPIRO: You know, as we look ahead to these midterms, it seems as though many people are predicting that the Democrats will lose seats in Congress. And I know not long ago, people were crediting Karl Rove and Tom DeLay with creating a permanent Republican majority and then President Obama was elected and Democrats won Congress and people were talking about a permanent Democratic majority.

Now that it looks like the Democrats may lose seats, Erick, have we heard the end of talk about a permanent majority in either party?

Mr. ERICKSON: God, I would hope so, but I very much doubt it. I think that we probably are at a point where if Democrats recognize, and Republicans are not yet at the point of recognizing, that there are such things as permanent policy victories but there is no such thing as a permanent political victory.

And when both sides start realizing that they can have permanent policy victories but not hang onto power, I think the game changes significantly.

SHAPIRO: Michelle, do you think this is a premature assumption, that Democrats are going to lose seats in the 2010 elections? Do they have a chance of hanging on to the significant majorities they have now?

Ms. COTTLE: Well, look, historically you have the party that's in power. They almost always have a problem with the midterms. And there has been a lot of controversy over the health care, there's been a lot of back and forth, and there's a lot of competitive seats that are going to come open here.

But the idea, again, that this is going to be a permanent anything - you know, journalists in particular like watershed moments and we are willing to latch onto that whole storyline of nothing's ever going to be the same again and run with it. But that's never the case; politics are cyclical.

I mean, you have the state of Virginia, which almost always votes for whoever's not in power. That's just what they do. I mean, they have that kind of generally discontented streak - and there's a lot of that. It's always kind of like, well, what's the other guy going to do for me? So, that's what we're going to see.

And the Democrats, you know, we'll just have to kind of try and hold damage to a minimal on some level.

SHAPIRO: I'm speaking with Michelle Cottle of the New Republic and Erick Erickson of RedState.com about the year ahead in politics.

And I want to ask you both about the tone in Washington, which a year ago, President Obama promised to change the tone and bring an era of bipartisanship. Things have been incredibly partisan in the last year. Republicans blame the Democrats for that; Democrats blame the Republicans for that.

Setting aside who's to blame, Michelle, do you have any expectation that things will get any better in the near future?

Ms. COTTLE: No. And I'm not sure why anybody who voted for Obama thought that this was going to be the big thing. I know that we talked about the Independents during the campaign were, like, so ready for a new era of bipartisanship. Politics in the U.S. is a blood sport on some level. And that's just, you know, especially with the way we have things districted, where you don't have a lot of moderates in Congress. So, appealing to your base is a huge part of how you win. Appealing to your base during a presidential election to get through the primaries is also very important. So, it's not going to get -we're not going to sing Kumbaya at any point in time.

SHAPIRO: But, Erick, is there something wrong with the system in which the minority party always has an incentive to fight legislative accomplishments, because those legislative accomplishments are what will keep the minority party in the minority?

Mr. ERICKSON: No, it's called politics. It seems like we have this conversation as much as we have the conversation about the permanent political majorities. At least we no longer have Aaron Burr gunning down Alexander Hamilton. Now we just go and stand in front of cameras and talk bad about the other side. We're much more civil than we used to be.

But it's a game. I hate to say that. It turns Independents off and makes me sound more cynical than perhaps I am. Well, no, I really am that cynical. Politics has become a game. It is a strategy and science and knowing what buttons to push and Frank Lutz polling to watch what line goes up and which line goes down on the polling. And this is never going to change.

SHAPIRO: Well, let's look briefly at international politics. We have so many different playing pieces active in the game, from Afghanistan to Iran, to the drawdown in Iraq. What do you see as the top international story of 2010?

Mr. ERICKSON: The destabilization of Pakistan is, I think, going to be the most important story in 2010.

Ms. COTTLE: I totally agree. I think Pakistan is a looming problem, it's been a problem for a while and it's been overshadowed by, you know, domestically people were paying more attention to what we were doing in Iraq or, you know, toward the latter half of the year, in Afghanistan. But I think in terms of threats, Pakistan is going to be something that is going to be kind of on the front burner this coming year.

SHAPIRO: Michelle Cottle is senior editor of the New Republic and Erick Erickson is the editor-in-chief of RedState.com. Thanks so much to you both and Happy New Year.

Ms. COTTLE: Happy New Year, Ari.

Mr. ERICKSON: Thank you.

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