Tuesday’s historic elections proved to be a mixed bag for the Washington elite. Republicans have reason to celebrate, having captured an almost unprecedented 60-plus seats in the House, a feat bested only by their own party 62 years ago. They also flipped at least 10 governors’ mansions for a net gain of about six or seven, but the surprising twist of this soap opera race was their dismal performance in the Senate.
The polls showed they would flip at least eight seats; some “analysts” even predicted upsets, which there were, but for the Democrats and not the GOP. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid had been trailing in the polls for weeks now with political analyst Nate Silver calculating his re-election prospects at less than 20 percent. Colorado’s Michael Bennett scored similarly poorly in his formula, doomed with a 65 percent chance of defeat and yet they ultimately survived their challenges, confirming the fallibility of polls.
The same is true of the Illinois governor’s race for that matter, but the two aforementioned Senate races are of particular significance as they both resulted in the defeat of two of the three most radical Tea Party candidates (the third being Christine O’Donnell who also went down in flames though that had been foreseen). The takeaway is that although the Tea Parties have managed impressive victories with Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida, the American people for the most part are unready to accept the “rape is a lemon situation” crowd, or comparisons of homosexuality to alcoholism.
The public once again proved to be quite liberal on social issues as evidenced by the failed ballot initiative in Colorado that would have defined a life as beginning from the moment of conception. As in 2008, the slickly worded backdoor abortion ban failed by a 30 percent-plus margin.
The implications for 2012 are vast. Republicans swept nearly all of the crucial swing states, including Florida, which elected criminal fraudster and amateur Skeletor impersonator Rick Scott. Seriously, does this guy even have pupils? As CEO of Wellcare, the now governor-elect paid the largest fraud settlement in history for defrauding Medicare. Additionally, he ordered the shutdown of the neonatal units, allowing “innocent babies” to perish. The fact that Floridians would ever give their vote to such a creature is proof of the GOP’s power in this wave election. And, of course, this is Florida, so the Democrats recognize the impact of the results all too well.
As for the president, this wave may have resulted in the most practical of results for his agenda as well as his re-election hopes. He needs a strong Republican force to contend with a nemesis, in this case presumptive speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). This will give Obama a punching bag as he had with Bush the last time around. The Republicans also took enough seats in the Senate to force the Democrats to the center, but in this case the Democrats were lucky to hold the majority, as it is the Senate that determines the makeup of the judiciary. And with Ruth Bader Ginsburg in critical health, the Democrats need all the senators they can get to prevent her place from flipping to another Scalia clone, which would hand conservatives a decisive majority on the court and threaten Roe v. Wade.
With this arrangement, Republicans could wield just enough power to hand Obama a second term, but not enough that they could block his judges.
For the Senate, given what the polls predicted, Tuesday was a victory they could have never conceived of. The Tea Partiers, with their penchant for crashing primaries, effectively cost the GOP at least three senate seats, forcing Republicans to grudgingly accept a bare six-seat gain, mostly in red states like Indiana and North Dakota, where they should’ve been winning all along. On the flip side, – and of particular embarrassment to the president – Republican congressman Mark Kirk won Obama’s former Senate seat. Were it not for Christine O’Donnell, the vice president’s Senate seat would have also flipped parties. The Tea Parties’ obstructive influence on the GOP could give the establishment something to fret about should they be similarly iron-willed in 2012, where a handful of “RINOS,” including Olympia Snowe, will be targeted for hunting season.
Oh, and nice going California in approving a ballot initiative giving redistricting authority to a nonpartisan commission. In a perfect world this would be done in every state but, as it stands, most of the other states get to gerrymander all they want while laughing at us losers for playing by the rules.
Tom Baudin is a third-year political science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.