The map of America is looking very red indeed at the moment. While splashes of blue are to be found, red is the dominant colour throughout. For the politically naive, red is the colour of the Republican tsunami which has just rolled over the United States, while blue is the colour of the decimated Democrats.
This midterm election has been a conservative landslide in many respects. Although the Senate is still in Democratic control (only just), in every other area the Republicans have taken decisive control. This is how the numbers seem to stack up (with a few seats still to be decided).
In 2008 there were 257 (out of 435) Democrats in the House of Representatives. Now there are only 191. The Republicans went from 178 to 243, a massive gain of 65 seats. That makes this the biggest election win in 70 years. Even Obama’s former Senate seat in Illinois was lost to the Republicans.
In 2008 there were 59 Democratic Senators (out of 100; this included two so-called independents). Now there are just 51 Senators. They retain control of the Senate, but only by a thread. One change (eg., a death) could result in a drawn Senate.
In 2008 there were 29 Democratic governors. Now there are only 18. Thus we now have a sizable majority of 31 (out of 50) Republican governors. Some of these wins involved some decidedly pro-life governors. Also, a number of radical initiatives were voted down. For example, a pro-marijuana measure in California was soundly defeated. And Oklahoma passed Question 755 which banned the implementation of sharia law.
As mentioned, the pro-life movement did well, and they made some big gains in the Senate. In my home state of Wisconsin there were a number of conservative wins, including the defeat of long-standing pro-abortion Senator Russ Feingold. Unfortunately Amendment 62, the pro-life Personhood amendment in Colorado failed.
Of interest is how minority groups fared in the Republican victories. There were at least three governors – two Latin American and one Indian American – and two black Congressmen from America’s deep South. And by Indian I mean a woman whose parents were born in India.
The conservative grassroots Tea Party movement did quite well all around the country. They scored not only victories over the leftist Democrats, but put establishment Republicans on notice that conservatives voters are tired of the wishy washy direction the leadership of the Republican Party has taken.
For those unfamiliar with how the US system works, here is a very brief outline:
-The President has a four-year term (and can only go for two terms).
-Those in the House of Representatives have two-year terms (435 members in total).
-Those in the Senate have six-year terms (100 Senators in total). These are staggered so that around a third are elected every two years.
-Governors’ terms vary from state to state (50 Governors in total).
-This was a mid-term election (in between the main presidential election).
With the swing to the right in the Congress, Obama remains in the White House, but his ability to carry out his radical agenda will be severely curtailed. He still has veto power, and he can also cause damage by appointing radical Supreme Court judges and the like. But he will now have to learn how to work with the Republican-controlled House, and the Republican majority of Governors.
Political commentators have remarked on what all this will mean. Philip Klein says this: “While Obama’s presidency is shaping up to be a spectacular failure from a political perspective, he may view it as a smashing success from a liberal ideological point of view. Instead of squandering Democrats’ time in power by playing small ball, he went bold.
“His efforts culminated with the passage of a national health care law, which has been a primary goal of American liberalism for decades. Even if Republicans ultimately succeed in repealing it (which remains an uphill battle), they will have expended so much political capital to do so that it will inhibit their ability to advance conservative policies.
“So what does this mean for the incoming Republican majority in the House, especially if eventually joined by a Republican Senate and president? When Republicans controlled the House from 1995 to 2007 (and the presidency for six years of that time) they failed to live up to conservative principles. The GOP will have to decide whether they will act boldly and truly attempt to rein in government while they have the chance, or play it safe. In this sense, the true test of the Tea Party movement will be whether it can successfully pressure Republicans to actually govern as conservatives once in power.”
Richard Viguerie, commenting on the rise of the Tea party said this: “The last time the GOP was in power, it became the party of big spending and Big Business special interests. Tens of millions of mainstream conservatives, future members of the Tea Party movement, gave up on the Republicans, leading to the party’s defeat in 2006 and 2008.
“This year, members of the Tea Party movement provided almost all the excitement and energy, and 90% of the grassroots volunteers and small contributions that made a Republican victory possible. Now, Tea Partiers have the power and the responsibility to rebuild the GOP into a party that represents mainstream working-class and small-business-class Americans.”
Terence Jeffrey put it this way: “In the redistributionist America that Obama would build, it would not be government that paid for anybody’s college education or health care, it would be the other class of Americans – those who believe in freedom and self-reliance, who take care of themselves and their own, who lead industrious and productive lives, and who value freedom over security.
“In Obama’s America, members of the self-reliant class would have ever greater portions of their hard-earned income and savings taxed away so redistributionist politicians could give more to the dependent class, which they would continue to nurture and build until there was no one left but the politicians and government dependents – in a bankrupt country.
“The lesson of the 2010 campaign is that most Americans do not want more government in their lives, they want less. They do not want handouts from President Obama. They want him and other politicians like him off their backs and out of their wallets.”
How the new political reality in Washington plays itself out remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure – it can no longer be business as usual, at least for the Democrats.