2010 Election–the aftermath
Last night’s election was an interesting mid-term election in terms of how the electorate voted. While Republicans took back many seats they lost in 2008 it wasn’t the overall tsunami some had predicted, indicting that American has bought into an overall distaste of Obama and the Democrats. In Texas Rick Perry carried his lead to a victory over Bill White, possibly the best candidate Democrats could mount against Gov. Perry this election. However, even with White’s potential he could not overcome a negative sentiment against Obama, possibly counting as much as 6 points against White. But what about other aspects of the election?
It’s all about timing
It is very possible that timing could be the biggest advantage Republicans had with this election. Coming off the economic recovery which will most likely take more than a 2-year cycle, Republicans could benefit from the upturn in the economy and give them the buoyancy they will need in 2012 and beyond. “Should Republicans take control of one or both chambers of Congress, an improving economy in the next several years could bolster the profiles and credibility of some of the party’s younger leaders and their more innovative ideas,” according to an article in the the NY Times.
While some could claim that victories from Tuesday are a mandate for Republican style politics that is probably a stretch. Even with almost real-time news cycles and always connected Americans, the more likely explanation for a shift of allegiance is a negative reaction by the electorate to an aggressive agenda by Obama and Democrats in Congress. In an interview with the NY Times former FL Gov. Jeb Bush claims that Republican gains are a result of a “’disgust with the political class’ for its failure to cooperate and deliver results.”
Many people felt a disconnect with Washington, both with Pres. Obama and Congress. In exit polling by several news organizations disapproval of both showed what has happened during the past two years in Washington may have created a greater downfall for Democrats than that of normal mid-term defeats. However, several of the Republican winners coming to Washington are Tea Party candidates who face, according to the NY Times, “the challenge of channeling the energy it brought to the election into a governing agenda when it has no clear mandate, a stated distaste for the inevitable compromises of legislating and a wary relationship with Republican leaders in Congress.”
What happened to the young voters of 2008?
One of the challenges that has faced the president and Democratic Party has been the loss of enthusiasm of younger voters experienced during 2008. During Obama’s campaign new rules were written that included engaging young campaign workers through social media and other channels. However, as soon as the president took office that enthusiasm seem to die as the task of governing kicked in gear, shutting many across the nation out. “Post-inauguration, no equivalent ecosystem has emerged. Some former volunteers said that was inevitable, because governing is inherently less inspiring than a campaign,” according to an article in the NY Times.
The loss of that young foundation of workers and voters along with the rise of the Tea Party, a new grassroots movement that is definitely anti-Obama has led us to a mid-term that favors the right and frowns on the left. Both sets of voters are disenfranchised with the administration, albeit for different reasons. Nonetheless that sentiment has lead to an election that does not favor incumbents, especially those who sided with the president on the economic recovery.
Perry’s next move
One thing that is probably certain about Tuesday’s election is that this will most likely be Gov. Perry’s last election as governor. Several people speculated as to whether Perry would make a run for the presidency in 2012. During the debates and election Perry denied the allegations. However, several things are pointing at a Perry presidential run in 2012:
- Perry will be launching a national book tour to promote his new book “Fed Up” which is an indictment of the federal government.
- Perry would be 63 in 2012 which means that if he waited one more cycle and ran in 2016 he could be perceived as too old to run for the presidency. He would be the third oldest president behind Reagan and Harrison if he waited.
- Perry will most likely prefer to ride a Republican tide that would be anti-Obama in 2012. If he waited for 2016 it is possible he would be running against another Republican, not a popular move.
- Texans will most likely be tired of Perry by 2014, having served three terms already. He is already the longest serving governor in Texas.
What happened to Bill White?
Former Houston Mayor Bill White had been the best hope of a Democratic challenge against Gov. Perry. Having jumped from the senate race to the governor’s race last Thanksgiving after being recruited by Tom Schieffer to run for the office. White had the best statewide recognition of the candidates and had a good record coming from six years as mayor of Houston. However, White was never able to truly engage Perry in any head to head confrontation as Perry refused to debate until White released all his financial records. Even though White released most of his records he refused to release the records during his term as Deputy Secretary of Energy during Clinton’s administration. For whatever reason, White gave Perry the upper hand on that issue, leaving voters to question White’s integrity by not releasing the records.
Without that head to head engagement White lost any potential edge he could have gained on Perry with the governor maintaining a continuous polling lead against White. Personally I feel this was one issue that could have turned the tide of the election for White. If White refused to release on the issue of principal it was a bad move on his part. If White was truly hiding something then it’s all for the better since Perry would have made even more issue with the matter. Besides White was saddled with potentially a six point deficit because of the anti-Obama sentiment.
The irrelevance of the media
Another change that has also occurred has been the irrelevance of news organizations in the political debate. In years prior news organizations enjoyed the power of influence, including the recommendations they made prior to elections. However, in this day and age more and more people view the media as biased and unreliable in providing objective reporting. As a result, the media’s ability to influence voters has increasingly declined resulting in many candidates to shun editorial boards or debates. In the past that would have been taboo and potentially damaged a candidate’s image. These days it’s seen more as a badge of honor to shun the media and “go it alone.” Perry certainly felt so.
So what’s ahead?
Finally, this election cycle has shown me that we are far from a nation ready to work together and build a strong democracy and country. In a recent story on NPR it was amazing to find how much money non-profit advocacy groups had spent on to elect candidates. What is interesting, according to the report, is that for these groups to maintain their non-profit status they will have to spend large amounts of money to advocate their positions, most likely with Congress. This can only mean the next two years will result in more divisive politics in Washington instead of our Congress working together. K Street is about to be paved with gold.
Michael Kinsley, in an article in Politico, made a great statement about our democracy and how it works. “Democracy requires me to respect the results of the elections. It doesn’t require me to agree with them or to admire the process by which voters made up their minds,” said Kinsley. I completely agree with Kinsley in this election. I feel Americans have lost their ability to truly look at elections objectively and follow shallow rhetoric more than ever before. But that doesn’t matter at the end of the night. Our democracy survives because we will respect the results of the elections.
I will be attending a special election recap session in Austin hosted by the Texas Tribune on Thursday that will also look at the impact on the next biennium. I should have a blog entry after that session, providing some of the insight given by some of the best political reporters in Austin.