In the Suburbs / Now the real work begins
Published 12:21 pm, Thursday, November 4, 2010
The American voter may be restricted by an electoral college decision in a Presidential election, but it's no holds barred in a mid-term election. And this week's Democratic bloodbath sent a very tough message -- the voters have spoken!
I heard numbers like 46 percent in terms of voters who turned out to make a difference this year and, indeed they did. Incumbent politicians at the state and national levels, who won, should pay very close attention to the results of this race and be on the lookout for a whole new breed of legislators this coming January. For those in the loss column, your constituents are cleaning house.
In my own precinct at McKinley, where I worked and we handled two districts, we finished the night with nearly 50 percent of the voters having turned out. I had said to my co-worker -- I handed out the ballots and she was checking in the voters -- after a busy start to the day, that I'd heard the turnout was going to be low. How wrong I was. Voting was intense and the voters were committed and serious.
By 4 p.m., our collective two districts were checking in roughly 50 or more people an hour and when we closed, the last rough number of voters was well over 1,500 (our list of registered voters was more than 3,000). My voice was hoarse from giving ballot directions and I had definitely exceeded the number of ballots I'd handed out at the primary in August.
Watching the early returns later on Tuesday evening, the screen turned blood red with the number of house seats that had gone to the Republican side. Clearly a new speaker of the house was going to be unpacking in January. The following day I saw that the Democrats had retained just 185 seats in the house.
The Senate was barely intact for the Democrats, at 51. And there were already some upsets in states where the hope was that incumbents would retain their seats and Harry Reid remained very questionable from that broadcast.
Clearly, anyone who makes jokes going forward about the Tea Party is going to be ignored, since a large number of winners from the elections were Tea Party Republicans. And some of those victors made speeches about what they plan to do when they arrive in Washington and, frankly, I believe they're going to succeed in changing the status quo. I think the Tea Party is fast becoming a formidable thorn in the side of its own party and the current administration.
I certainly wondered about the mood just two years later in the Obamas' sitting room at the White House as they watched the results of this election. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall. This voter message couldn't have been very pretty for them after they were swept into the D.C. environment on a wave of change and hope and knowing now they will have to regroup going forward. Clearly voters believed that the current administration has gone overboard on government involvement, handling the still hobbling economy and the ongoing concerns with the new healthcare bill, among so many other nagging issues.
While the pattern with these mid-term elections wasn't that different than with the Clinton and Reagan administrations, when voters did some house-cleaning, but both presidents were still re-elected, I have to say that I'm not as convinced that this president is going to be as fortunate. My hope is that now he will listen more to sage pundits and be really willing to work and compromise with both sides of the aisle and navigate the new Congressional and Senate landscape.
My worry is that some of his entrenched attitudes, arrogance and need to push legislation through at all costs could sink the SS Obama in the 2012 elections.
Here in Connecticut, I was pleased that both Dick Blumenthal and Dan Malloy won their races along with others in various state races. [Editor's note: As of presstime Thursday the governor's race had not been called. Check our website for the latest developments on this race.] And I was very happy that Cuomo, Schumer and Gellibrand won in the New York races. Palladino's angry rants and loose cannon comments on various issues would certainly scare me if I were a resident of New York. His platform and attitude obviously scared enough of those voters, who just weren't ready for an anger campaign.
And Nevada Democrat Harry Reid has a very long road ahead of him to repair damage from the past two years. While the good news is that his constituents gave him another chance, he still has to face a very volatile political environment in Washington.
While I was impressed with what Rand Paul of Kentucky was saying from his Tea Party perspective, I will be waiting to see what he does when he settles into his new legislative role in January. Let's see what really happens and whether that Washington heat is comfortable or searing.
Frankly, that's how I feel about any of these newcomers to the political scene. With athletes turned politicians in a few states, Tea Party winners from various kinds of backgrounds and regular Republicans and Democrats who ran as their party's nominee and won, we voters will all have to take a wait-and-see position.
I was joking with a good friend of mine about this whole political environment.
It's like a kid who wants instant gratification, he told me. If the problems don't get solved instantly, it will color our attitudes for the next two years until we decide to sweep the whole current administration out of office, bring in a Republican or Tea Party administration, line them up and say, "OK, you've got about 100 days to perform or we'll be looking for replacements for you too."
My friend added, "Do any of them really have the solutions to the problems?" His hope, like mine, is that in January everyone will roll up his or her sleeves, get down to business and truly recognize that they have to work together or "this dog simply won't hunt."
And I'd like politicians to stop invoking the American people in victory speeches. The American people, who voted, at least, aren't really telling you folks anything except that we're giving you a try. The American people just want the winners to get busy and start looking for workable solutions and stop blaming opponents. The election's over. Now the real work begins.
Steve Gaynes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org