Monday, 8 November 2010

Reflections on the US Mid-Term Election

One Last Shot at Redemption

The analysis and prognostications are starting to come in from the US mid-term election. The dominant narrative from Obama and the left is that the shellacking of the Democrats, which descended down to state governorships and congresses, was due to frustration over the economy. This is a self-consoling blameshift. It allows the left to excuse the defeat. The narrative runs as follows: obviously the economy is bigger than the government. The powers of government are limited. Obama and the Democrats did the best they could under the circumstances. Ordinarily the economy would be turning upwards by now, but this recession was particularly bad because of Bush's destructive machinations. So voters, knowing that things were not so good, took their frustration out upon the ruling party via the ballot box. In two years time things will be very different.

This narrative was enunciated in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other left-leaning media.
Tuesday’s election was indeed a “shellacking” for the Democrats, as President Obama admitted after a long night of bad news. It was hardly an order from the American people to discard the progress of the last two years and start over again.

Mr. Obama was on target when he said voters howled in frustration at the slow pace of economic recovery and job creation. To borrow his running automotive metaphor, voters threw the keys at Republicans and told them to drive for a while, but gave almost no indication of what direction to drive in.

Paul A Rahe comments upon the liberal narrative:
To believe this, one would have to be convinced that the voters were unaware that the Republicans were committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare, to extending the Bush tax cuts, and to reducing federal expenditures to the level of 2008. To argue its truth, one would have to ignore the Pledge to America – which is, of course, what our President and our erstwhile newspaper of record did.

This was, in fact, an election fought regarding first principles. Knowing that, the Democrats desperately sought to localize the conflict, and where they succeeded in demonizing individual Republican candidates, they won. In most districts, however, the results turned on national public policy. Over the last two years, the Democrats have been united for and the Republicans united against a set of measures that the voters were well aware of, and no legerdemain practiced on the polling data can obscure this fact. To say, as E. J. Dionne did in The Washington Post yesterday, that, “in fact, Democrats held onto moderate voters while losing independents,” is to avert one’s gaze from the obvious.

Now, it would be naive indeed to argue that all who voted against the government were therefore signing up for the ideological and philosophical principles lying behind the Republican positions. But many commentators remain strikingly tone deaf--and one can only conclude--wilfully so, to the conservative, limited government ideology articulated by the Republicans and particularly the Tea Partiers. When the topic of Sarah Palin was raised on a liberal chat show just recently, Woopi Goldberg actually said she did not know what Palin stood for and what policies she was advocating. Is this wilful deafness, or a gratuitous slur, or what? Politeness requires that one reject the option of a gratuitous slur. It seems that Goldberg screens out what Palin has been talking about.We believe this is typical--what the comics would call a "derangement syndrome". 

One liberal commentator has the gumption to face the truth. William Galston, who was Bill Clinton’s domestic adviser, analyses the Democratic defeat this way:
Here we reach the nub of the matter: The ideological composition of the electorate shifted dramatically. In 2006, those who voted were 32 percent conservative, 47 percent moderate, and 20 percent liberal. In 2010, by contrast, conservatives had risen to 41 percent of the total and moderates declined to 39 percent, while liberals remained constant at 20 percent. And because, in today’s polarized politics, liberals vote almost exclusively for Democrats and conservatives for Republicans, the ideological shift matters a lot.

To complete the argument, there’s one more step: Did independents shift toward Republicans because they had become significantly more conservative between 2006 and 2010? Fortunately we don’t have to speculate about this. According to the Pew Research Center, conservatives as a share of total Independents rose from 29 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2010. Gallup finds exactly the same thing: The conservative share rose from 28 percent to 36 percent while moderates declined from 46 percent to 41 percent.

Here we come to the nub of the matter. Independents outnumber registered Democrats and Republicans respectively. And those who are independent are predominantly conservative.
The 2010 electorate does not represent a disproportional mobilization of conservatives: If the 2010 electorate had perfectly reflected the voting-age population, it would actually have been a bit more conservative and less moderate than was the population that showed up at the polls. Unless the long-term decline of moderates and rise of conservatives is reversed during the next two years, the ideological balance of the electorate in 2012 could look a lot like it did this year.

But there is a big "if" in all this. What was a landslide for Republicans this week could turn just as completely against them within two years, if that party fails to accept the re-conservatising of the party. In order for this to happen deeply entrenched and privileged Republicans are going to have to change or go.  This, in turn,  implies that Marco Rubio, elected to the US Senate from Florida, is right. He claims that conservatives do not like "big government". They do not like deficits. They do not like high taxes. They do not like federal government intruding into local and state affairs. They abhor troughing and government sleaze. They have been disgusted with the Republican party because that party for years now has been little more than democrat-lite. Rubio said on election night that it was not a Republican victory or triumph. Rather it was the voters giving the Republican party one last chance to be true to its stated principles. If it fails now to be truly conservative, the party will disintegrate, and eventually be no more.

Time will tell.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

20% of the electorate is simply not enough to sustain a National political party in the United States.

This explains the rapid dissolution of the Democratic party, and the realignment of the two-party system between RINOs (and perhaps the Rump Dems from the effectively communist states) and Tea Party.

The Alaskan Miller vs Murkowski race is the face of US politics for the next 50 years.

The other half - of course - is systematic fraud and corruption. How else do you explain policies supported by no more than 20% of the people still holding on to seats like Harry Reid & Chris Coons?

And the only way to beat that is to take the 2nd.