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Throw the bums some red meat

Okay, the election is over, well almost, and that’s about the best thing we can say about it. By this time we political junkies are all a little loopy from following every obscure election story and projecting our hopes and dreams on an outcome that never seems to be what we truly wanted or expected.

Wall Street Journal 11/03/2010

Sure, I’m disappointed in most of the outcomes. I followed the polls and I had some small hope that voters would come to their senses at the last minute. There was some of that, Crazy Carl lost in New York. Tom Tancredo got bounced in Colorado. But a lot of just outright idiots got elected as well. Somehow, the good people of Arizona think that loony Jan Brewer should stick around. Chistine O’Donnell went down hard in Delaware, but 40% of the electorate thought she was a fine candidate. Even absolutely insane people like Derek Skees will be given a chance to display their insanity in the state legislature. What does it all mean? Is the country headed down the rabbit hole? Who knows. The WSJ had a good perspective article on it’s front page today that kind of reminds us that there is really nothing new under the light of the election full moon. The article attempts to point out that “American voters make mistakes, but in their wisdom they usually correct them. Four years ago they gave the Pelosi Democrats another chance to govern. Yesterday they revoked their liberal license.” Along with the article was this table. I think the table makes it abundantly clear that American voters make lots and lots of stoopid mistakes and spend lots and lots of time, effort and money correcting those mistakes and wisdom hasn’t a thing to do with it.

In the last two election cycles, Democrats picked up 54 seats in the House of Representatives, the exact same number stolen by Republicans in 1994. This time around it’s looking like about a 60 +/- gain for the GOP. According to history, they will hold that majority for a couple of years and then we voters will spit ’em out again like a wad of old gum. What the table really shows is that there is a soft spongy core of American voters who aren’t sure what the hell they want from their government. They get most or all of their information from mass media and will spin on a dime if you can develop the correct message to feed them.

So go ahead, bask in the brilliant sunshine of the great “mandate” handed to the Republican Tea Party or soak your aching head in a large flagon of Canadian Club. Next time around the roles will likely be reversed and the other side won’t know what to think. Republicans will spend the next year or so, as they usually do, flogging their social agenda, holding hearings on the President’s birth certificate and moaning about smaller government, but nothing will really get done. Then everyone will realize that there is another election coming up and a spate of meaningless bills will get quickly passed and each party will begin to crow on their accomplishments. The electorate however, will be listening to the party with the largest advertising budget and the best spin machine and will begin to lather themselves into a “throw the bums out” fervor and we will start all over again.

No matter what the outcome of the current election cycle, or the next, or the next. The real amazement of each and every election to me is that there are hordes of people out there who care enough to take time out of their lives to show up at their designated polling place and make a selection, no matter how misguided. Go to the polls and you will see your friends and neighbors as well as your most hated enemies drawing little circles on a piece of paper and all they get for their effort is one of those 2-cent stickers that will show up on every parking meter in town declaring “I Voted!“. Thank you for taking that time and making that effort even though this time around you really missed the mark in my opinion. See you same place, same time in two years.

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2 Responses

  1. Well, one shouldn’t pretend that it’s the same people showing up each time. I think, for example, that most of the people voting Republican in 2010 did so in 2008, just as most of the people who voted Republican in 1994 had done so in 1992. One thing that different is that a whole lot of the people who voted for Democratic candidates in 2008 and 1992 didn’t vote in the off year.

    On a related note, here’s an interesting stat from exit polling of the Ohio senate race:

    Do You Have Children Under 18?
    Fisher /Portman
    Fathers (16%) 29%/69%
    Mothers (19%) 51%/ 47%

    Other than the obvious Star Wars point, I don’t know what it means.

    • Thanks Charley. Good comments. I would add a couple of points. There is a core of voters who show up for every election, almost evenly divided between Rs and Ds. Elections are most often decided by those occasional voters from one side or the other who can be persuaded to turn out. In this election, the turnout was very similar to 2008. Slightly older and slightly whiter and independents went big for republicans. Republicans are much more adept at motivating the occasional voter. Hope and change younger voters don’t vote in midterms. Never have, never will. They vote for people, not policy.

      Republicans found long ago that the easiest way to get voters to turn out is to use fear and democrats have no counter for that strategy. Health care reform was relabeled to the much scarier Obamacare. Clean energy reform became Cap and Tax. Democrats chuckled and some even came to use those terms themselves. Democrats continue to believe that minds can be changed using reason and facts while the reality is that those things never motivate anyone. In 2008 much of the fear and anger was muted by a strong positive message of hope and change. That message never showed up again after the election. This year, much of that fear and anger was shared by occasional Democratic voters due to the economy. Not being willing to vote against the policies of the president they helped to elect, they just didn’t show up which hurt all Dems.

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