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November 3, 2010


What we can learn from the election

Maybe exit polling and statistical analysis has gotten a lot sharper in the last few years: yesterday's election went pretty much as everyone expected, i.e. Republicans took more House seats from Democrats than ever before, and probably the only reason we didn't lose the Senate as well is that only 1/3 of it was up for vote.

The American political system is designed to be in a constant state of rebalancing, allowing voters to move in one direction, then make incremental corrections to head back in the other direction. But in this graphic in today's Times, it looks like these incremental corrections have turned into an electroencephalogram of insane, reactionary panic:

NY Times graphic of the House majority party

We've gone nuts. Our country has decided that it doesn't trust anybody anymore, so rather than allowing our government to try new policies and create change over time, we're just blindly hurling ourselves to one extreme, freaking out, then hurling ourselves back the other way.

This is not the way to get anything done. Our system of allowing an infinite number of two-year terms for House members only encourages this kind of wild overcompensation that looks like a 16 year-old's car fishtailing out of control down an icy highway. Voters clearly aren't handling it well.

But here's what I've learned: voters are probably going to keep zig-zagging all over the place every two years, so a) nothing is forever, and b) whichever party is in power has to do whatever it takes to push their policies through, because they're going to be kicked out soon.

Here's another thing: The maniacal ad that played in West Virginia featuring a Senate candidate shooting a piece of paper labeled "Cap and Trade Bill" with a rifle was actually by a DEMOCRAT. Joe Manchin. He won. Guess I should have read the press about him more closely. Anyway, ads like this and people like Joe Manchin remind me that party affiliation isn't everything: this guy is a Democrat, and Olympia Snowe is a Republican.

One more thing: While watching the results scrolling along the bottom of the screen last night, I noticed the results of the Idaho governor's race, which was won by a man named Butch Otter. Who has just become my favorite governor in Idaho's history.

categories: Media, Politics
posted by amy at 1:56 PM | #

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Probably I've just become numbed over the years- but for some reason I'm not immediately as queasy about things as I was in, say, 2004.

I'm not saying it isn't scary to have a Republican majority in the House, and yes, that'll have tragic consequences as they try to reconstitute various myths of bygone eras, but for some reason, right now, I feel sorry for the Tea Partiers and the people they represent. I'm sure that'll pass as their small mindedness and xenophobia are in high relief, but if they're correct about anything, it's that neither they nor anyone is in much control of their future.

I look at a graph like that and imagine the swings represented a few points of the 'independent voter', that is- the reactionary and/or the semi-apathetic. I wonder how many of the Tea Partiers bearing signs that said 'Keep your Government Hands off my Medicare' are the same seniors who turned on Bush in 2006 after he'd tried to privatize social security. Is that the 'Big Government Republicanism' that Bush gets tarred with when they explain what he did wrong, while the Tea Party is instead about 'Reagan populism'?

The people that understand the least are going to be the most volatile under these conditions. It seems the best thing that can be said about House sweeps is that it's better to have this back and forth than actual civil war, and that ain't nothing.

But then there're these stopped-clock-is-right-twice-a-day moments, such as Sarah Palin's lashing out at Politico's unsourced takedown piece of her:

Palin is, of course, entirely correct to believe that an insider rag is seeking access to central party insiders in exchange for a hatchet job on the insurgent. As predictable as it was that Rahm Emmanuel and not Howard Dean be given credit for the 2006 midterm, Palinism will be undermined by 2012. Liberals will see that as the silver lining, pundits will project the interests of solipsistic institutions as what independents want, material existence will be a function of the Fed, and, sigh, things muddle on.

Posted by: ooghe at November 3, 2010 6:24 PM

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