The Democrats lost control of the House and lost a number of key races on Tuesday, including the defeat of veteran progressive Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. But voters also rejected super-rich, conservative Senatorial candidates in New York, California and Connecticut. Nevertheless, a common narrative has emerged from Republican leaders and mainstream media: the midterm election represents a massive conservative trend sweeping the nation and a rejection of President Obama. Well, no and yes.
Obama and the Democratic leadership failed to stimulate the economy enough to help working Americans. Corporate America is on the way to recovery with higher profits and a booming stock market; ordinary people still face 9.6% unemployment. Exit polls show 80% of voters worried about the economy. Interestingly enough, only 25% blame President Obama for the recession, pointing instead to Wall Street bankers as the main culprits. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101103/ap_on_el_ge/ us_exit_polls
On a gut level working Americans understand that the top leadership of the Democratic Party is beholden to the same corporate/banking elite as the Republicans. That’s why polls indicate disgust for both parties. Lacking an alternative, people voted against the Democrats – not for the Republicans. Unfortunately, Demo leaders will interpret the losses not as a repudiation of their lily-livered centrism and Wall Street butt smooching, but as a sign that they have to move even further to the right. Domestically, Obama is likely to give up on significant government stimulus in hopes that the economy undergoes spontaneous regeneration. In foreign policy, Obama will try to maintain a permanent troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, driving up the federal deficit and alienating the majority of Americans who now oppose both wars.
People of the US are fed up. Tea Party adherents and traditional Republicans took full advantage of that anger and stoked it with right-wing populism. They denounced Obama as an elitist while funding their campaigns with unprecedented corporate largesse.
And therein lies a ray of hope. The Tea Party represents grass-roots disgust with American politics – albeit from a white, middle aged and middle-income perspective. Tea Partiers won’t be very happy with the traditional Republicans who continue to dominate the party.
Conservative Jonah Goldberg, writing a commentary for USA Today, notes the sharp political differences within those factions. “The coming GOP congressional surge will inevitably lead to infighting, bickering and charges of betrayal aplenty.” So it’s not too late. Republicans may well line themselves up in a circular firing squad. Keeping Obama to a one-term presidency isn’t much of a program for change, and voters will figure that out by 2012. Obama and Democratic majority in the Senate could pressure the House to provide job programs, help fund local governments, rebuild crumbling infrastructure and rapidly withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Nov. 2 wasn’t an electoral disaster nor a tectonic shift in American politics. It was a warning, however, and it remains to be seen if the Democratic Party leadership will listen.
Freelance foreign correspondent Reese Erlich’s new book is “Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire.” This week his national book tour takes him to Philadelphia, Harrisburg, PA, and New York City. For details, see www.reeseerlich.com. His blog appears normally appears on Tuesdays on The Real News.