We Democrats, progressives, and other liberals got “shellacked” in the words of President Obama, and maybe we did if we go by the standards of today’s 24/7 news cycle. But you know what? If we hold the 2010 midterm election up to the light of history, it becomes less of a shellacking by the Republicans and more of a Democratic victory! That’s just sour grapes and desperate political spin after a devastating loss, you say? Again, in the harsh light of American political history, not so!
In the 1982 midterm election during what was then the worst recession since the Great Depression, the Republicans under Reagan lost 27 seats in the House and the Senate stayed essentially unchanged. Congress stayed Democratic. In the 1994 midterm election with an economy that was still recovering from a recession that began under Bush Sr., the Democrats lost 54 seats in the House and two in the Senate. Congress became Republican-controlled.
So, how is this proof that this past Tuesday’s election wasn’t so bad for the Democrats, especially since we lost 60 seats in the House and six or seven in the Senate depending on how you count them? Easy!
First, a first term president’s party normally loses seats in the midterm election.
Second, when we lost 54 seats in the House in 1994, that was following a relatively mild recession as compared to the great recession.
Third, we’ve got a black president, and this does make a difference, since race does play a part in voting and white conservatives are much more likely to vote in midterm elections; witness the plethora of race-baiting which was almost exclusively committed by those on the right.
Fourth, we’ve got a president with a funny name, including a Muslim middle name shared with a tyrant against whom we’d just fought and won a frankly illegal war.
Fifth, the Citizens United decision opened up the floodgates of corporate money which could even be from foreign governments. As a result, more money was spent on this election than even the 2008 presidential election! And when the 527 non-profits are figured in, much more money was spent in support of Republican candidates than for the Democrats.
Sixth, this black president with the funny name is trying to lead America out of the great recession, by far the worst recession since the depression, and the Republicans were wildly successful in convincing much of the voting public to forget what they had done to drag America into the great recession, and that Obama should have been able to snap his fingers, wave a magic wand, and voila!, everything’s all good again!
Seventh, President Obama made a few serious mistakes in that he (1) didn’t trumpet every day how his efforts were indeed helping America out of the great recession, (2) didn’t make the stimulus big enough, (3) didn’t attack the Republicans day in and day out for what they’d done to the American economy during the Bush administration, and, in my opinion (4), didn’t haul many of the previous administration before the Hague for war crimes trials which were richly warranted by international and American law, which would, in my opinion, have damaged the Republican brand even further.
So my question, then, is this: why wasn’t the Republican victory in the 2010 midterms much bigger than it was? Given the above advantages they had, in my opinion they should have been able not only to take more House seats, but they should have been able to capture the Senate as well. But they didn’t, did they? What’s more, as of today, Obama’s approval rating (43%) is equal to the average of Reagan’s approval rating throughout 1982, despite all the advantages the Republicans have had this year over the black president with the funny name!
That’s why I love holding current events up to the harsh light of history. For by doing so, I see that the Republican victory in the 2010 midterm elections, this great mandate of the American people the Republicans are claiming in their quest to unravel the Obama agenda is nothing more than a sizable speed bump in the liberalization of America, for America as a whole is more liberal now than ten years ago, and far more liberal than a generation ago. Anyone with even a modest understanding of American history can see that from our very founding, our nation has undeniably grown progressively more liberal. Sure, we’ve faced other speed bumps of conservative obstructionism along the way, but in each and every case, said obstructionism has proven only temporary.