Well, I can't exactly say that my prediction came true. A large shift towards Republicans in the House of Representatives did, in fact, come to pass. This is, though, a shift that comes largely because of public confusion, not public policy. The largest forces that have helped the country avoid an economic depression and collapse, federal spending, bailing out the auto industry, etc; are the very forces that voters have been convinced are a problem.
The "deficit" seems to be the largest problem for people, which strikes me as a significantly cynical piece of conservative slight-of-hand. By focusing voter anger on this issue, they have somehow hoodwinked the public into believing the Democrats ballooned the deficit (it was Republicans) and that the Wall Street Bailout was not done under Bush (and that even costs a fraction of what it was supposed to) and that deficit reduction, lower taxes and job creation can somehow co-exist easily in the same political universe.
In fact, lowering taxes helps balloon deficits and does not lead to job creation. Federal spending does not hurt the public...in fact, smart federal spending pays for schools, police and fire departments, provides public assistance during a major economic crisis, and keeps state governments from having to turn off the lights.
All that being said, the facts are not as cut and dry "good news" for the right as they might seem. First of all, almost half of their seat pick-ups were Tea Party candidates, who have all but promised to be a thorn in Republican leadership's side and to bring some truly wacky ideas to the table.
Also, Blue Dog Democrats largely lost. The Times notes that this lack of moderate voices might be a problem for Democrats...but I don't know. It seems like most voters discontent with Democrats was not that they lacked the desire to compromise. Instead, most progressives that were not energized lacked energy because their party was not hard-nosed enough about progressive values.
Republicans have now become tied to promises to reduce the deficit without raising taxes - which means cutting spending only. And of course, they have made no major suggestions about how they will do that - except completely absurd things like dismantling the Department of Education. They stated on the record that they will not touch entitlements or defense...which are the largest pieces of the federal pie. They've set themselves up - simply to gain power - to fail to match their rhetoric.
They've also said they would like to repeal health care reform...an impossible task without control of the Senate or a veto-proof majority.
Oh and ... the Senate. Suddenly small beer? I'm not so sure about that. Now that there is almost no way to achieve 60 votes in the Senate without crossing party lines, how will the Republicans use the filibuster to their advantage? Their own legislation will come up from the House and die in a Senate controlled by the opposite party. Frankly, more than 400 bills passed by a Democratic Congress failed in the Senate over the last two years. Do we expect that a largely splintered Republican-controlled Congress will have more success in Harry Reid's Senate?
The Tea Party, which helped the Republicans make massive gains in the House, actually did them serious harm in their bid to take the Senate. Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell lost in places that Republicans could have won (thank God). And it looks like, as of this writing, that Colorado and Washington State will remain Blue (very close races there), largely because of lunatic candidates.
Obviously, there's been a lot of bad news, mostly, to my mind, about how cynically and sadly the Republican Party has been able to - in only two years - convince voters to vote against their own interests yet again. But governance is a whole different animal. The great irony is that Democrats are not expert propagandists, but are better at governing. Republicans are great to obediently attacking and staying on message, but their actual ability to govern is deeply suspect. Let's see, now that some of the power in Washington lies in GOP hands, just what they do with it.
If the public was upset about gridlock, then we've done exactly the opposite of what will do any good. The "enthusiasm gap" was really the "Unfounded Rage At Imaginary Issues" gap. Rage might make you go and vote, but it's never stimulated the part of the brain that does us any good.
Things change fast in our country and your collective memory is getting shorter. I don't feel remotely like this bodes any which way for 2012, honestly. 2 years, as we can see now, is a very long time in politics.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.