Wednesday, November 10, 2010
ONLY four years after the voters sent them packing, handing both chambers of Congress to the Democrats at the 2006 mid-terms, the Republicans are back. Voters then (and again in 2008) decided that Republican policies had blown up the deficit with unaffordable tax cuts, let the banks run wild, dragged America into two costly wars and produced a wretched harvest of stagnant wages, rising job insecurity and soaring health-care costs. Now they seem to have decided that they like Barack Obama and the Democrats even less.
The mid-term elections on November 2nd saw the biggest swing to the Republicans for 72 years (see article). With a few results still to come, they have picked up over 60 seats in the House of Representatives, for a solid majority of at least 50. In the Senate they gained at least six seats, though they will fall short of control there.
From Barack to Boehner
The mid-terms: The latest thumping Nov 4th 2010
For Mr Obama, the lesson is simple enough: sharpen up, and prepare for a tough two years. Yes, this was hardly an enthusiastic vote for his opponents, more a howl of rage against incumbents from citizens struggling after the worst slowdown since the 1930s. And he has a string of legislative achievements to his name. But plenty of centrists plainly fear that he has drifted too far to the left, that he dislikes business and that he does not understand middle America. He looks a far less competent figure than he did two years ago. With a hostile House and a gridlocked Senate, the chances of passing any big new laws are remote; and Republican victories in crucial swing states such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania will make the president’s re-election battle in 2012 a lot harder. If Mr Obama is to win again, he needs to move back to the pragmatic centre of what is still a pretty conservative country. […]
Mr Boehner is from the more sensible end of his party. He is surely aware that American elections are won in the centre. The tea-partiers, for all their energy, threw away at least two Senate seats, in effect, by imposing unelectable oddballs (including a self-confessed ex-witch) in states where Republican victory had been assured. But he will be under pressure to keep his base happy. And there will be the additional distraction of various Republicans, including perhaps Sarah Palin, jockeying for their party’s presidential nomination.
Who wants to live in a town called Nope?
It is easy to tell Speaker Boehner what not to do. Impeaching Mr Obama, for instance, as some of his newer recruits are keen to do, would be a huge mistake: a pointless distraction from far more serious issues. Blocking everything in sight in the hope of denying Mr Obama re-election may work against the Republicans, just as shutting down the government hurt them in 1995 after their last congressional takeover, and helped Bill Clinton to re-election the next year. Sabotaging Mr Obama’s health-care plans, as Republican leaders say they plan to do, is risky as well: the reforms are unpopular, but creating chaos, which is all the Republicans will be able to manage thanks to Mr Obama’s veto pen, could prove even more so.
The Economists: The Republicans Ride In