Thursday, November 11, 2010


November 5, 2010

This week’s election results – especially the sweeping Republican gains in the House of Representatives and governorships across the country – will be analyzed for years to come. Many observers attribute the Republican tsunami to widespread anger with the Obama/Pelosi agenda. In particular, health care and cap and trade legislation are often singled out. Yet health care divides the American public pretty evenly between those who want to repeal Obamacare and those who like it and even want it to go farther. Cap and trade, of course, died in the Senate and may not revived soon, if ever. It has not adversely affected anyone’s household or corporate budget.

Others single out the stimulus measures as the cause of the Democrats’ debacle. Exit polls confirm that voters divided evenly between those who thought the stimulus measures – some of which are still to materialize -- had helped the economy, those who believed it had hurt the economy, and those who felt that it had made no difference.

Voting decisions are complex, of course, and I’m sure there is some validity to all these factors and many more. My own take is a bit different, however. Consider the following answers to three questions reported by the Wall Street Journal on November 3:

• When asked which issue was the most important in determining their vote, 62 percent responded the economy. Health care was a distant second at 18 percent health care, followed by immigration at 8 percent.
• When asked who was to blame for the poor economy, 35 percent answered Wall Street, 30 percent George W. Bush, and only 23 percent Barack Obama.
• Those voters living in a household that had experienced unemployment voted Democrat by a relatively slim 51-48 percent margin.

These answers are not surprising. They suggest that voters, while not holding the Obama administration principally responsible for the economic mess we’re in, do hold it mainly accountable for failing to provide a strategy for getting out of it. Throwing more stimulus money around the economy helter-skelter is not seen as the answer. The perceived added cost of health care and energy is similarly rejected as a response to our economic woes, as some Democrats tried to portray their health and environmental reforms.

Rather than angry, voters seem to me anxious. Rather than “frustrated with the pace of our economic recovery,” as Obama put it the morning after, they are fearful that government hasn’t got a clue about how to change the structure and functioning of our economy so that we can resume the growth of investment, jobs and income on a sound basis without endless borrowing from foreign creditors.

This election was, sadly enough, too much about the past. Democrats lost in part because they failed to produce a viable economic strategy; Republicans won despite their failure to produce one of their own. Together, the parties demonstrated that it is difficult and dangerous to move forward while gazing intently into the rear-view mirror. Both parties need to do better – and soon – so that America can do better.

Charles Blum

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