Did America Vote for Change Again?

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell left, House speaker-in-waiting John Boehner centre, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour right

America voted, so now what? After all the hype and drama that was the midterm election campaign of 2010 we are left with some surprising and not so surprising outcomes. Today’s post will focus on the House of Representatives, while Thursday will cover the Senate and Friday the races for Governor.

While 2006 and 2008 were disappointing outcomes for Republicans in the House, they finally bested the Dems to take control once again. The GOP effectively capitalized on the discontent present within the country with the economic hardships that are still present. They also effectively held off the Tea Party interlopers, at least in this instance. Before this evening, the Democrats held a 256 to 179 seat lead over the Republicans (with 218 being required for a majority). At the time that this post was published, the GOP had a 235 to 181 seat lead over the Democrats, with many ridings still not called. The projections are looking at a 243 to 192 seat total for each party, but that of course is speculative. Regardless of the outcome of the remaining constituencies though, it is clear the Republicans have a majority and will control the House for the next two years.

The House does not get as much election coverage during campaigns when compared to the Senate. This is largely due to the fact it is impossible to cover all 435 races throughout the country. However the GOP correctly emphasized their Democratic opponents’ ties to President Obama. Two years into his presidency, the country is still struggling. Yes it is possible to point to improvements, but the country is desperate. It is easier to toss the Democrats in favour of the Republicans than to actually understand and fix the problems undermining the country’s economic recovery.

For the President, this is without question a reflection of the sentiment towards him at the moment. It is also going to make the next two years even more difficult for him. He struggled with control of the House and Senate to achieve what he wanted, and now the task will be even harder. You will no doubt see Obama move towards the centre in an effort to work with the GOP.

However, it is important not to overstate the outcome of this election. Did the United States vote for change? I honestly don’t know, because that word has lost all meaning from overuse. But either way, it is far from uncommon to see a President’s party lose control of the house two years into a term. It happened to Bill Clinton in 1994. In fact the outcome of 1994 mirrors 2010 quite closely. Voters always take out their frustrations on the incumbent party by electing their rival. While Obama’s opponents are growing, it is likely that either way the GOP was set to make gains in 2010. The emphasis should not be on the fact that the party made gains, but on the fact that they made significant gains. They do have a mandate upon which to stand and will no doubt be vocal in their opposition.

So what does that mean for the next two years. House Republican Leader John Boehner will take over as speaker of the House. The GOP will push forward with its agenda, which includes reduced spending and government intervention, repealing some or all of Obama’s healthcare bill, tax cuts and new jobs. It is no surprise that the Republicans want reduced spending, intervention and tax cuts. And I will argue that both parties want to get people back to work (they would be foolish not to). So the one big change we will see right away will be how the Republicans handle healthcare. It is no secret they are not in favour of Obama’s plan, and I think they genuinely have support from the electorate in changing it. This was one issue that seemed to come up in local campaigns and was harmful to many Democratic candidates.

President Obama speaks Wednesday morning

In his press conference following the election, President Obama acknowledged the thumping that his party received, stating they got a ‘shellacking’. He stated that he must do a better job, and in an effort to respond to the terrible economic situation, his government may have overstepped their boundaries. He went on to say he will work with the GOP to get things done but he said he is not willing to compromise on healthcare and tax cuts (hmmmmm). Boehner echoed a similar sentiment stating that the party will work with Obama, but is not going to compromise on the principles they were elected on (hmmmmm).

There is no question that Obama has had a difficult two years in office so far. If he struggled with a Democratic House and Senate, he will definitely struggle with a GOP House. His one saving grace is that the Democrats managed to hang on to the Senate, which will be discussed Thursday. Ironically, they have the Tea Party to thank for that, which split the right vote in many areas, hurting the GOP.

The focus now turns to 2012. While the Dems try to recover, the momentum is fully behind the Republicans. It is going to be an interesting two years in Washington!



About Chris James

A student of political science at a Canadian University sharing stories of interest on Canadian and American political and social issues.

Posted on November 3, 2010, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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