Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Economy, Mitigated by the Tea Party

. . . unfortunately.
This was certainly a drubbing for Democrats, no doubt about it.  After making six years of gains they have lost the House in resounding fashion, lost a bunch of governorships, and lost a handful of Senate seats.  I have no problem with fluidity in political power, but when you take a look at the underlying factors in the Republican landslide last night, the picture isn't so neat and clear as it might seem.

Take a look at the polling that asks Americans which issues are most important to them.  The economy is always the most important by a wide margin.  In the most recent CNN poll 52% of respondents said it was the most important issue while only eight percent thought issues such as the deficit, health care, our lame wars, etc., respectively were the most important.  In a recent Pew poll 39% thought the economy was the most pressing issue, 25% said health care was, and 17% said the deficit was.  In a recent Bloomberg poll 49% listed the economy as problem number one, compared to 27% for the deficit and ten percent for health care.  In a recent CBS poll it was 57% for the economy, seven percent for health care, three percent for things like immigration and the deficit.  Exit polls from last night show the same thing.

When the economy is bad and jobs are scarce, the party in power loses.  When the economy is really bad, the party in power loses really badly (and when the American public gets upset . . . people DIE!).  It happens to both parties.  And since neither party is very adept at actually solving problems, voters are fluctuating randomly and widely, trying to find the right combination of people to get the country back on track.  I think we'll flop around between Democratic and Republican control of the various political institutions for a few years, to be honest.

But, in any case, the objective data show that this election had precious little to do with health care reform, or the budget deficit, or taxes, or anything else other than the health of the economy.  This was not a fundamental repudiation of liberalism or a fundamental acceptance of conservatism, just like the opposite wasn't true for the last few years.  This is an American public feeling lost and injured, trying to wend our way through the wilderness.  There are lots of liberals and lots of conservatives and even more moderates and it will be that way for a long time.

The election was also colored by the Tea Party.  Last night MSNBC was running a graphic showing how Tea Party candidates fared.  The last one I saw showed that about 35 had won and about 60 had lost.  I can't find anything on this today, if you can please put it in the comments.  So while they generally raised Republican enthusiasm during the election, they were at best a mixed bag.  In the Senate, specifically, they might have cost Republicans control.  It looks like the new Senate will have 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans, and two independents that caucus with the Democrats (giving them essentially 53).  The Republicans threw away three seats because of the Tea Party: Nevada, Colorado, and Delaware.  The thought is that if they had picked up those seats and brought the Senate to 50-50 they could have persuaded someone like Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson to switch and caucus with Republicans, giving them a majority.

In the end, Republicans can feel pretty good about this election, but they should stop with all the rhetoric about the American people finally waking up, repudiating Pres. Obama (who still has okay poll numbers, all things considered), or giving them some sweeping mandate.  We're actually totally depressed about our country and you are depressing, the Democrats are depressing, and we seem to be just randomly picking candidates at this point.

1 comment:

Architect said...

"The bigger the government the smaller the citizen." D. Prager