As Americans, politicians and pundits sift through the results of the voting yesterday, the one thing heavy on everyone’s mind is the question: What’s next?
President Barack Obama in a one-hour nationally televised press conference that found him at times reflective and somber but still able to laugh, particularly after taking what he called a “shellacking” at the polls, refused to accept that the vote was a rejection of his policies.
Instead, the president described voters’ decision to hand control of the House of Representatives to Republicans as a demonstration of “their great frustration that we have not made enough progress on the economy. They can not feel progress and they cannot see it,” Obama said. “I’ve got to take direct responsibility. We have not made as much progress as we could have made.”
The president added that now it is a matter of the Democrats and the Republicans sitting down to develop core areas of agreement on issues they can agree on such as alleviating our dependence on foreign oil, and educating American children so that they are equiped to compete in the global economy.
David A. Bositis, Ph.D., senior research associate with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and an expert on national Black Electoral Politics in Washington, D.C., agrees with the president that the election results were about the economy.
“If you look at the exit polls, you will see that it’s about the economy, especially insecurity about the economy. Eighty-five percent of people who voted said they were worried about their personal economic situation and half of those said they were very worried,” pointed out Bositis.
“This election was about punishing the people in power, and the people in power were, of course, the Democrats,” added the political observer.
Why Democrats lost depends on who you talk to.
Lorenzo Morris, Ph.D., a political science professor at Howard University, says the Democrats really did very little to mobilize the youthful base that help them win the presidency in 2008. He also said they waited too late to begin the kind of heavy-duty stumping done in the final two weeks before the election. They were also tremendously outspent in terms of campaign advertising money pumped into Republican races by corporate interests.
But don’t consider these election results a replay of 1994, admonishes professor Morris, who said that loss was a huge setback for Clinton and was followed by two years of immobility and impasses as he battled Republicans to push his agenda.
When he was re-elected two years later, Morris said his agenda turned more conservative.
Morris does not think that Obama will face the same kind of partisan divide that Clinton faced, in part, because he believes the conservatives elected to office this term are much less organized than those elected by Newt Gingrich and his Contract for America brigade.
“This group of people, they are so disorganized. They’re like free electrons knocking into each other. They just lucked out,” contends Morris. “They are not connected by any sense of party unity. The Republicans will be lucky, if they have an impasse.”
Bositis agrees that this Republican victory does not at all resemble what happened in 1994.
“First, in a lot of the victories, the republicans had very, very close elections . . . when politicians have close elections like that, they get scared, and it makes them cautious,” noted Bositis, who pointed out that there’s a difference between getting elected and getting rejected, which is what he thinks happened with Democrats.
He also believes that while Republicans may never admit it publicly they are probably definitely saying to themselves: “Let’s not kid ourselves that these people love us. They don’t. As a matter of fact, they hate our guts.”
The political researcher points to Harry Reid’s reelection in Nevada as a case in point.
“Do you think Harry Reid was being embraced by voters in Nevada? This was his biggest victory.
But people in Nevada don’t like Harry Reid. I don’t know if it’s his personality or what, but they voted for Harry Reid because the Republicans nominated one of the Tea Party nuts,” explained Bositis. “Voters in Nevada say there is no way we are going to have this person as our senator. They were not voting to say I love Harry Reid. It was just that voting for the alternative was unacceptable.”
While the president in his press conference stressed that the key to making the next two years productive was for the, top democrats and Republican leaders to sit down and find areas of agreement and to work on moving those items forward, Bositis and Morris are much less optimistic about how much is going to get done.
“If I would guess, my guess would be no,” said Bositis. “On the other hand, if the more sensible Republicans start to take a look . . . I think one of the things they are going to discover, is that they’re not very popular. They also know that come 2012, the electorate is going to be a lot younger, and a lot more minority than it was this time around.”
Howard University’s Morris sees the situation as potentially dismal for African Americans. He thinks Republicans will attempt to cut back on things that are vitally important to Blacks such as the unemployment structure (particularly in urban areas); educational subsidies; welfare; criminal justice; and catastrophic health programs used by people who are the least likely able to afford them and fight back.
Bositis also believes the change will hurt African Americans, because Republicans are going to be more influential in the budget process.
“In terms of money for unemployment, for social services and things of that sort, those guys’ attitudes are going to be “hey, who cares if you’re poor; it’s your own fault. If you’re sick, it’s your own fault.
“Remember something. In terms of unemployment Blacks consider White unemployment a joke. African American employment is really bad now. If the government starts to cut back on spending, that’s only going to make unemployment worse,” Bositis said.
There are a number of other critical issues to note as a result of the mid-term elections: First, for the first time in years there is no African American in the Senate; the majority of seated Democratic governors are up in age in comparison to their Republican counterparts. This is noteworthy because often governors move from running state houses to serving in the Senate and eventually the presidency. A large marjority of the Democrats will be too old to make that move.
By contrast all the newly elected Republican governors are at the right age to make the move.