Thursday, November 4, 2010


Here is a brief analysis of the results of this week's midterm elections:

1. The elections were a referendum on Obama, but...

The 2008 electoral campaign centered as much around Obama's character and personality as it did around the notion of breaking with a stale politics. It is no surprise that the midterms in part reflected the country's opinion of the president's demonstrated ability to translate his (often vague) promise of change into tangible results.
The first half of the Obama presidency was characterized in part for its stunning and unexpected lack of communication. Focused on quick action and assured of the eventual success of their programs (health care, stimulus package), the Administration failed to adequately reach out to the electorate to explain the stakes and expectations of any particular program. This led to a vacuum of leadership, an opportunity the Republicans seized to define then drive the discourse right through Election Day.

2. ...they were mostly a natural corrective measure in American politics

In 2006 then in 2008, Americans voted as much for the Democrats as they voted against the status quo (multiple wars, sinking economy, poor image in the world). Democrats made mighty electoral gains to acquire their largest Congressional majority in decades. Two successive electoral victories perhaps created the sense of having been given a mandate larger than it was in reality. A misread mandate together with economic freefall, the opacity surrounding the health care legislation, and the absence of sufficient presidential visibility thus motivated a skeptical and tired center-right votership to rearrange the political landscape.

3. Domestic issues trumped all and will continue to monopolize the American voter's attention

Remarkable is the total absence of international issues throughout the electoral campaign. America's longest war, Afghanistan, went largely unmentioned as did terrorism, Middle East politics, and America's image in the world. With the exception of the bluster surrounding the proposed mosque at Ground Zero and mild reaction to the recent harmful packages sent from Yemen, foreign policy remained squarely in the shadows as the economy took center stage.

- Amy Greene