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We learned a few things over the holiday season. First we learned terrorists don’t take time off, while apparently our security infrastructure does. We learned that while we’re gearing-up to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, the real enemy al-Qaeda is shifting operations to Yemen. And we learned that our fearless leaders will use even this situation as political fodder for their partisan agenda.

There have been so many lessons learned in the past few months. We now have confirmation that conservative rhetoric claiming that Barack Obama is everything from a socialist to a nazi isn’t just brainless strategy: it is real brainless paranoia. The crazed struggle against health care reform has left no doubt that the right-wing has a few loose wing nuts.

We learned that the Democrats think symbolic timetables are more important than substantive reform of the health care system, as shown by their willingness to gut reform to buy the votes of political hypocrites like Joe Lieberman. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid really seem to think passing the Senate health care bill before Christmas was a huge victory. Instead it was a revelation as to Democrat timidity and willingness to sell substance for PR.

Now that the holidays are over, these “leaders” are desperate to clean up the mess they’ve made of their own agendas. The Democrats have announced they will lock Republicans out of the negotiations to merge the House and Senate health care bills. Even so they may still manage to lose the public option, to lose premium caps, and to screw-up the byzantine tax schemes meant to pay for it all. It is a truism that the only person a Democrat likes to argue with more than a Republican is another Democrat.

The Republicans have thrown up their hands in disgust and moved on to the next phase of “Operation Screw The Country To Make Obama Look Bad”: the 2010 congressional and gubernatorial elections. Today Democrat jefe Chris Dodd of Connecticut announced his retirement, and just in time because Republican rivals were beating his brains out in pre-election polls. As many as four Democrat senators are stepping down before the elections. Republicans are making big noises about taking those seats.

They aren’t making noise about the no-less-than six seats Republicans are vacating at the same time. Maybe they’re hoping no one will notice.

It looks like a train wreck of an election coming up this year for both parties, but Republicans have a good historical reason for their confidence. Traditionally Democrat voter turnout is low in off-year elections, while Republicans can count on those absentee ballots that so often save their electoral behinds. The wildcard is the rift in the party between right-wing “Tea Party” ultra-ultra-conservatives, and more moderate elements in the party who seem to grasp the reality that the American political landscape has changed, and no matter how hard you believe Ronald Reagan is not coming back to save us all.