Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The After Party

For the most part the results from the mid-term elections are in and it went pretty much the way most of the pollsters and pundits said it would: the Democrats lost the House, retained the Senate by the narrowest of margins, and once again the electorate, for the third time in a row, turned out the majority party. People, make up your minds already.

I say that with a touch of humor because in some cases it’s necessary. There were some surprises, both good and bad, for both parties, and here in Florida it looks like we’re going to have a man with a criminal record as our next governor, and Marco Rubio, the “son of exiles,” has won his chance to “reclaim America,” whatever that means. Across the country some long-time names are heading for retirement, including Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, but in California, it looks like Jerry Brown will come out of retirement to pick up where he left off in the 1980’s.

There are a lot of other races that as of this writing are still undecided, such as the Senate race in Washington state between Patty Murray and Dino Rossi, the race in Colorado between Michael Bennett and Ken Buck, and the Alaska race between Joe Miller and any number of write-ins. Although Fox News would like to think of this as a gigantic tidal wave of Tea Party goodness and a massive repudiation of President Obama and the liberals are looking for a lot of ponies under all the manure, there’s a danger in seeing too much in this or any election. If you’ve been paying any sort of attention for the last few decades, you know that this sort of shift in a mid-term election is neither new or extraordinary, and it happens regardless of who is in power.

So for those who are predicting that this is the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency and the rise of the Tea Party triumphant, remember that in 1982 Ronald Reagan and the GOP lost a lot of friends and allies and Bill Clinton got his head handed to him in 1994. Both went on to win re-election two years later, thanks largely in part by the winners thinking that what happened in the House and Senate translated into a trend for the White House. Wrong. It also didn’t hurt that both Mr. Reagan and Mr. Clinton very effectively used the Congress as their foils for all of the gridlock that came after, and Mr. Clinton especially had the joy of having Newt Gingrich’s ego to play with. With any luck, Mr. Obama will have the same kind of antagonist in John Boehner and the wonderful gift that keeps on giving, Sarah Palin.

I also think that there are a lot of people waking up this morning who will, in the cold light of day, read the papers and the blogs, blink, and say “Holy crap, what the hell happened here?” They’re like stoners waking up on a Sunday morning gazing at the aftermath of their party from the night before. They’ll look around at the litter and the discards, the overflowing trash cans and the smears of ground-in chip dip in the carpet and the distinct odor of bong-water in the potted plants, and think, “Wow, we did all of this? How come I don’t remember any of it?”