Shortly after Barack Obama’s inauguration as President following the 2008 elections, the conventional wisdom of the political pundits was that conservatism had “not only been defeated but discredited” as a result of Obama’s election. (Sam Tanenhaus’ The New Republic). Tanenhaus also believed that Republicans further damaged their “brand” by opposing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the $814 billion stimulus package designed to lift America out of the recession. (Today, the U.S. unemployment rate still hovers around 10 per cent).
In his 2009 book, Clinton political consultant James Carville predicted that the Democrats would rule the “next generation”, because Democrats had identified themselves with the hopes and dreams of young people, women, and Latinos (the nation’s fastest growing minority). Conversely, according to Carville, Republicans were only appealing to a limited, mostly southern base.
It is now clear, to paraphrase Mark Twain, that the demise of conservatism and the Republican Party in America was “grossly exaggerated”.
As I wrote this column on an early Wednesday morning, still sleepily giddy over historic 2010 midterm elections and fending off telephone calls from friends who naturally wanted to share their jubilation and share their opinions on why Republicans won such a resounding victory, the realization finally set in that a tidal wave has occurred and that Republicans had picked up at least 63 seats in the House of Representatives, the largest swing of Congressional seats since the midterm elections of 1938, during the Roosevelt era and during the heart of the Great Depression. It set in that the new Republican Congressional seats are not only located in Mississippi, where the GOP took back seats once held by Senators Roger Wicker and Trent Lott, but also included five Congressional seats in New York and Congressional seats throughout the northeast, the midwest, and all across America – even in California.
In looking closer at the Congressional results, I found that two African American Republicans were elected – one in South Carolina (where Indian/American Republican Nikki Haley was also elected Governor) and another in South Florida near Miami. Moreover, Republican voters effectively “fired” Nancy Pelosi and took over the leadership of the House of Representatives by electing a healthy majority of the House’s 435 seats. As Ronald Reagan once said in summing up his Presidency, “Not bad. Not bad at all.”
While the Republican takeover in the House of Representatives was the big story of the 2010 midterm elections, the ecstasy does not stop there. In the 37 Governors’ races decided on November 2nd, Republicans needed to pick up only three gubernatorial seats to win a majority of the governorships, nationwide. Instead, thanks in part to extremely effective leadership and fundraising by the Republican Governors’ Association and RGA Chairman Haley Barbour, new Republican Governors were elected in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Wyoming. These new Governors will play an effective role in making sure that the Democrats do not “gerrymander” the new Congressional and state legislative lines to be drawn by the states in 2011, based on new census figures. In all, Republicans picked up at least 6 or 7 new Governors on Tuesday evening, and 17 state legislatures “flipped” to majority Republican, including Texas and Alabama for the first time in American history. Again, not bad at all.
To complete the election results, Republicans also picked up at least 6 new seats in the United States Senate, with the Senatorial results in the States of Washington, Colorado and Alaska yet to be decided at this writing. Republicans needed to gain 10 new Republican Senators to win a majority in the Senate, and they failed in this effort (Harry Reid retained his Senate seat in Nevada and served free food near the voting precincts). However, Republicans were significantly elected to the Senate from unlikely places like Wisconsin (where Johnson defeated the prominent Russ Feingold); Illinois (by taking President Obama’s old Senate seat); and in Pennsylvania (where Toomey of the Club for Growth took Democrat switcher Arlen Spector’s seat). I predict that Republicans will cobble together a working majority in the Senate on many key votes in 2011 and leading up to 2012 Presidential elections.
The question for the morning after the 2010 midterm elections is what caused the tidal wave and the major governmental shift that has now occurred? Laura Ingraham said on Tuesday night that the vote represented a repudiation of Obama’s policies since his being elected President. Sarah Palin said that the message of the election was that people do not want an “over-reaching government” to take over their lives. Charles Krauthammer opined that the repudiation of Obama on Tuesday night represented a “return to normalcy” and a rejection of a brazen attempt to move America to a socialist-style European form of government.
I agree with all of the above. I also believe that public dismay with the slow pace of the nation’s economic recovery; the ineffectiveness of the stimulus; the public reaction to Obamacare; and of course the outrage and energy of the Tea Parties, all played significant roles in achieving the results that were realized in the wee hours after the midterm elections on Tuesday evening. I am sure all of us need more time to fully digest what happened as a result of this historic election. May we all hope and pray that our state and national leaders will learn from it. The future of our great nation depends on it.