Posted by: Jeff | November 3, 2010


The dust has mostly fallen (well, except in MN, CO, AK, and WA) in the aftermath of the 2010 midterms, and the carnage was about as expected.  Democrats were roundly trounced all across the country, losing at least 6 seats in the Senate (and possibly two more currently too close to call), securing only 17 governor seats nationwide, and ceding a whopping 59 House seats to Republicans – a larger switch of power in the House than even the vaunted 1994 midterms that saw Democrats lose 54 seats.

So what have we learned from the midterms?  Well, the quick version is that Republicans outpaced expectations in both Governor and House races nationwide.  But Democrats did outpace expectations in the Senate.   Of the seven races labeled true tossups (CA, CO, IL, NV, PA, WA, WV), Democrats have either won or are currently holding a tenuous lead in five.  On a night where all of those seats could have swung to the GOP, that has to be a silver lining for Democratic strategists.

But beyond the numbers, it’s important to remember that though Democrats fared very poorly, there’s nothing especially significant.  The neat thing about the American system is that it’s designed to ebb and flow like this – the “Founding Fathers” have been politicized to no end in this country, but they designed the legislature with the intention that the House would reflect the fluid whims of the people and the Senate would remain more static to long-term objectives and trends.  That’s held true in this election, which is why it shouldn’t be seen as a total refudiation (it’s in our lexicon now!) of health care reform or anything else in the Democratic platform. The economy sucks, and the Democrats did a really horrible job of explaining how without the stimulus the economy would have sucked even worse. They deserved to get hammered a bit.

Beyond that, it’s not even particularly unusual that things swung so drastically.  An interesting disclaimer on a recent Gallup Poll projecting massive Republican gains pronounced:

In the early part of the 20th century, it was not unusual for an election to bring about a change in party control of 50 House seats or more. In recent decades, the partisan shifts have been more modest, with the Republicans’ 54-seat gain in 1994 a rare exception.

The more interesting part in all of this will be the in-fighting that takes place in the Republican leadership.  Talking heads on TV can be very annoying, but last night a question kept emerging that it appears the Republican leadership isn’t prepared to answer – what role, if any, will the Tea Party caucus have in a newly-Republican House?  Michelle Bachmann seems poised to cast herself as the Tea Party’s own mini Speaker, but her opinions certainly clash with the GOP establishment in many ways (e.g. liberal internment camps).  Will she get a role in the new Republican leadership?  If not her, then who?  And how will Republicans navigate the vast differences between their electoral base – people clamoring for lower taxes with those – predominantly seniors – who want no reduction in social or defense expenditures?  And what about the divide between libertarian allies with the Tea Party and evangelical conservatives – the prototypical base for Republicans in the past?

So far, the Republican leadership has appeared stymied by this issue.  MSNBC conducted an interview with Eric Cantor, the presumptive GOP Majority Leader in the House, last night.  When pressed about specific policies the GOP would push for now that they have control, he balked.  Multiple times.  When he finally conceded that an extension of the Bush tax cuts isn’t factored into current budget projections, he then balked as to how they would offset the reduction in revenue, giving some platitudes about how low taxes are pro-people.  That’s great, but governing is about choices, and the GOP is widely disparate in the types of choices they’d like to see made.  What Eric Cantor might choose to do is very different than what the Tea Party wants.  Cantor seems to realize this – so much so that Party leadership seems to be hoping they can get by without making any of the difficult choices that governing requires.

You can’t be all things to all people, even within an individual political party. Barack Obama found that out, and Democrats stayed away from the polls in droves yesterday.  I have a feeling the Republicans have a pretty big crisis of identity looming in the next six months.  Hopefully they’ll be able to govern and propose policies that make sense and help America.  I have a feeling, however, that this will be a do-nothing Congress that erodes a lot of the political currency Republicans just earned.  I hope I’m wrong.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeffrey Mervosh, Jeffrey Mervosh. Jeffrey Mervosh said: Aftermath #Politics #Election #Midterms […]

  2. Really good post Jeff — you should try and get picked up by someone for a weekly post!

    • Thanks, Greg! That would be a dream.

  3. First Ezra is off the market, then the GOP takes the House. What’s a girl to do?

    • AND the Vikings waived Randy Moss. Clearly it’s not your week!

  4. makes me want to drink alchoholic beverages

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