On November 4th, Americans trudged off to the ballot box to cast their votes in the midterm election. The Republican Party won decisively, taking the Senate, while increasing their numbers in the House. This means that for Obama’s last two years, he will face a hostile Congress that will not be receptive to working with him.
Generally speaking, midterm elections—typically—have significantly lower turnouts than years with presidential elections, so it is a bit tougher to draw lessons about the electorate and the future of American politics. However, there are some lessons to be drawn from the outcome on Tuesday night.
1. The Obama Era Is Over
It has been a tumultuous six years, but the Obama era is over. Obama has two years left as President, but he is the lamest of lame duck Presidents. Congress is firmly controlled by the Republicans and Obama’s supporters are as dispirited and demoralized as they have ever been. Outside of national crises, foreign policy, and Supreme Court nominees, his tenure as President will end with a historical whimper.
It has been an amazing run for Obama. From his historic election in 2008, the “shellacking” his party took in the 2010 midterms, followed by his fairly convincing reelection in 2012, it certainly has been a curious run for the man. He has gone from the golden boy of the West to a president who will end his tenure with the opposing party in control of Washington.
His crowning legislative achievement—Obamacare—is highly controversial. Unlike other important legislative acts—such as the American’s With Disabilities Act—it was a decidedly partisan bill that is still vehemently opposed by Republicans. It’s roll-out was a disaster and is little more than a doubling down on the dubious concept of employer-sponsored healthcare.
His presidency, much like his predecessor George W. Bush, will not be judged kindly. Much like Bush, he will spend his last years with the opposing party controlling Congress with a firm grasp, while he is left to ponder his legacy for America.
2. Republicans Have A Great Chance To Lay The Groundwork For 2016
The Republicans have not been handed a mandate by the people. Simply put, the Republicans have been handed an opportunity to make the case to America that they are committed to enacting policies to improve the economy, address social malaise, and correct the excesses of the Obama administration.
Without Obama on the top of the ticket, the Democrats got buried. A sluggish economy coupled with Democratic misdiagnosis of the issues at hand gave the election to the Republicans. Without Obama’s star power to lift mediocre Democratic candidates, they collapsed at the hands of highly organized Republicans who kept hammering Democrats about the economy.
In order to most effectively deal with the possibility of Hillary getting the nomination in 2016, Republicans needs to take advantage of this situation fully. They need to emulate what Democrats did after seizing control of Congress in 2006: Pass simple legislation that reflects the core ideological values of the party. Republicans need to prove that they can get things done.
They should start by directly addressing the voiced concerns of the average American. They need to avoid partisan recrimination—the sort of recrimination that hurt Republicans in Clinton’s final term—and prove they are first and foremost interested in advancing America’s progress.
3. The “War On Women” Talking Point Was Not Successful
In their inability to divine what exactly is bothering America, Democrats doubled down on the “War On Women” talking point. Access to abortion and governmental subsidization of birth control did little to sway voters—especially female voters.
With the economy in the tank, coupled with stagnant wages and a deteriorating social fabric, Democrats failed to prove to they are “the change we can believe in.” Their fall-back to naked appeals to women smacked them right in their face. Women need jobs and are worried about their social climate, not just their ability to balance a working life with their sex life.
Greg Abbott roundly stomped Wendy Davis in Texas for the governorship, all the while beating her by nine points with female voters. Even female voters got tired of the heedless and inflammatory rhetoric around the “War On Women.” Women voters are much more than their uteruses, and Democrats should have found that out in this election cycle.
4. The Republican Party Is Not Dead
As is to be expected with political hubris, Democrats have been calling the Republican Party dead the past couple years, as a doctor might prematurely pronounce a patient rushed into the ER. Examples are here, here and here.
Democrats—much like their Republican counterparts in the wake of George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004—vastly overplayed their political hand and assumed their political dominance wasn’t temporary, but rather spoke to eternity.
There is no such thing as a permanent, ideological majority.
While Republicans certainly didn’t win this election outright, Republicans reminded the nation why they are relevant and the growing party going forward. Democrats combined an out-of-touch campaign strategy with a level of lethargy and got smacked in the mouth, rightfully.
Republicans have a chance to change America for the the better. Whether they will, only time will tell. I’m not holding my breath.