However one chooses to evaluate the mid-cycle 2010 election, there is only one logical conclusion: the repudiation of President Obama and his policies.
It was not only what happened at the polls and the transfer of power in the House of Representatives, but investors led a rally with the Dow industrials rising 64.10 points the day after the election results were announced.
President Obama’s ascent from obscurity to prominence was predicated on a calculated expression of bipartisanship, of bringing Americans together. His descent from prominence to political ignominy is based on narrowly focused partisanship, willful debasement of “enemies,” and a display of arrogant leadership.
The wholesale Republican victory in the House represents a shift as significant as any in the last 60 years. Moreover, Republicans gained gubernatorial seats and Senate seats as well, albeit Senate control was beyond their reach. Most significantly, those Democrats who ran in relatively safe seats, but were ardent supporters of President Obama were defeated.
For example, Virginia Rep. Rick Boucher, a rock solid supporter of the president, went down to a surprising defeat. Rep. Alan Grayson, a hard-charging liberal and ardent Obama acolyte, also lost, despite national support from liberal organizations.
What this portends for the future of this republic is unclear. Will President Obama triangulate, as Bill Clinton did after his electoral loss in 1994, or is he so driven by ideological passion, he cannot do so? Will a divided government set the stage for stasis with little legislative activity or will this lead to a bipartisan alliance of the moderates in both parties leading to surprising activism?
The one overarching issue that seemingly untied Republicans with many independents and tea partyers is opposition to Obama’s healthcare legislation. Whether accurate or not, there is the widely-held perception that a bureaucrat in Washington will be determining the nature and duration of your treatment, should it be necessary.
As a consequence, many believe freedom is imperiled and the expansion of government into a command economy is the direction of the future. Will the House leadership take advantage of this sentiment by refusing to appropriate funds for Obamacare?
What this election indicates is that the public does not accept the “change” Obama promised and has acted on it. America is a place different from the president’s understanding. Most people are patient and reticent to turn on a president they once supported, but Mr. Obama has introduced reforms so extreme and a financial commitment so dire that John and Mary Q. Public are in open rebellion.
It is instructive that the president has consistently made claims he has been unable to justify. For example, the stimulus package was brokered as a way to create jobs, but the unemployment rate has actually increased despite the federal expenditure. The president has consistently ignored or repudiated America’s allies and has embraced the nation’s enemies, but there isn’t any evidence this has reduced global tensions.
At the moment, President Obama has opened a credibility gap as wide as the Grand Canyon. The independents who initially supported the president and accounted, in no small part, for his electoral success, have turned against him. They do not accept his rhetoric and question his decision-making capacity.
The question that remains is whether the Republican Party is prepared to take advantage of this electoral shift. Can the party design an agenda consistent with “the tail wind” this election has provided? Can the Republicans be more than the party of no? Can they avoid being the villains in a scenario the president constructs which sets the stage for his re-election in 2012?
It is hard to answer these questions at the moment, but the election opens the door to electoral opportunity. It is now encumbent for Republican leaders to walk through it.
Herbert London is president of the Hudson Institute and author of the book Decline and Revival in Higher Education (Transaction Publishers).
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