Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who won in the elections?

As I'm not registered w/either party, I voted for candidates from both parties. But did the GOP really "win"?

We all received negative ads and flyers in our mailboxes. The nattering nabobs of negativism won. The political consultants, the media gurus, the pollsters and the lobbyists. It’s all sound and fury signifying nothing but the inchoate anger of the American voter.

In the political hubris of an off-year election victory where the GOP took the U.S. House, won eight Senate seats, and captured governorships and legislatures, it’s easy for the GOP to claim they have a mandate to govern. I'm not so sure.

The turnout of voters, as is the norm in such elections, was ~40% of registered voters nationwide (even less of those eligible to vote). So the voters who bothered to go to the polls were an "unrepresentative" sample of Americans. They were older, whiter and more upper class - i.e. the classic GOP demographic.

In the 2008 presidential election, turnout was over 60%. This "turnout factor" is the normal yin and yang of American politics. I will readily admit the GOP winning back the House with 60 more members and reducing the Democratic majority in the Senate is an historic victory.

But I disagree with those who claim the GOP has a mandate to wipe out Obamacare, extend the Bush across-the-board tax cuts and whack away at federal programs.

And to embrace the Tea Party’s mantra of "constitutional government" – a return to Hoover’s pre-Great Depression America – is troubling.

President Obama said it well in his press conference. To use his own words, he and the Democrats suffered a "shellacking." But Reagan and Clinton had the same experience in their second year in office and survived to win a resounding re-election. What appeared to be a mandate turned out to be a major bump in the road, not a vehicular "total."

This election is the a halfway post in a "political" Kentucky Derby now headed into the 2012 campaign - which started Nov. 3, 2010. The key to the nation’s health is whether this GOP victory can lead sober minds to reach across the aisle to do the people’s business or whether the incivility of the campaign will give us a winter of discontent.

The president seems willing to reassess and to reset his agenda in recognition of the new reality. The question is, will the GOP leadership be up to the task of meeting the president halfway? Their record over the last two years is not promising. And the divisions within the ranks of the "Tea Party-ed" GOP makes this even less likely.

The president has offered the GOP leaders an olive branch. Will they reciprocate? The NPR talking heads on election night concluded by asking a very important question: who wins? Is it those who want to change the culture of DC, or "Washington?" The answer was instantaneous: "Washington" always wins. Get ready for 2 years of gridlock.

Election politics is all about demographics. The GOP victory can be attributed to the 60/40 phenomenon. The GOP victory came because only 40% of registered voters showed up for the dance. In 2012, it could turn when 60% show up. Elections are all about simple math. This year GOP math trumped. In 2012 with Obama on the top of the ticket, Democratic math could very well trump.

That is small comfort to progressives now. But it’s just a matter of time before there is a political backlash. Many of those GOP governors and legislators who just got elected will be forced to make huge budget cuts at the state level with no stimulus money to soften the blow.

You think folks are mad now. Wait until 2012. Public employees, the new & continued unemployed, senior citizens, college students and people who depend on human services programs will be on the march. You will then see a “progressive” Tea Party movement rise up and say enough is enough - throw the bums out.

My message to the GOP and the Tea Party: be careful what you wish for.

1 comment:

  1. It is true that the Republicans made historic gains. Big time. To show you how out of favor they were, though, the biggest gain in history only got them back the House - not the Senate.
    Voters sent Obama to do a job. Same with the Senators and Representatives. Every man has a mandate. And maybe that's the real lesson, Allen: it's time for a little bipartisan bromance in DC.