Election Night 2010

Ok guys, the votes are tallied (mostly), the results are in, and things went pretty much as expected. Which is why I'm confused why the media is treating the whole event like some kind of SEA CHANGE. Yes, the Republicans overwhelmingly took the House, but they didn't take the Senate, which means that, substantively, they still don't have any real power (as John Boehner wimpily noted in his 'victory' speech).

The Tea Party didn't take any seats that weren't already conservative strongholds, thereby negating this whole 'populist outrage throws the government out' narrative that has been obsessing pundits for months. There is no 'seismic shift' as The Guardian so outrageously claims. Nor is it a 'historic shift,' as the New York Times proclaims loudly on p1. The fact of the matter is, Americans (and the founding fathers) fundamentally distrust government power, and when one party holds the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, the party in question always gets thrown out in the midterms.

That said, in an election season where coverage simultaneously was more shrill and more cynical than ever before, there are as many things to celebrate as there are to regret.

Perhaps Citizens United has not had quite as disastrous effect as opponents (myself included) predicted. Jerry Brown's victory over Meg Whitman in California has shown that you still cannot buy major elections outright. A Whitman victory would have been problematic for a number of reasons, but none more disturbing than showing that inept politicians don't have to explain their attitudes or policy, they just need to spend more money.

Tea Party meltdowns: What the crushing defeats of Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle, and (probably) Joe Miller have illustrated is that despite the fever pitch hoopla, the Tea Party has not had any effect on the body politic, it has merely caused a thousand headaches to the Republican establishment. Where they did win was in districts/states that are already heavily conservative, so their far-right positions are reflective of the existing populace; they didn't turn them rightward.

I think I speak for people on both sides of the aisle who care about honesty and fairness in saying one of the major losses this year is Russ Feingold, the only Senator that I can say with any certainty is a man of integrity, and can be trusted to make decisions based on principle and not political expediency. In spite of this, he still managed to reach across the aisle and create one of the most significant pieces of legislation in recent history, the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reforms (many of the provisions have now been overturned in the Citizens United case, but the Reforms were remarkable accomplishments when they came into effect).

The other worrying development is the unceremonious dismissal of three Supreme Court justices in Iowa. All three judges had voted to overturn the ban on gay marriage (and ironically, two were appointed by the old Republican governor in Iowa). While gay marriage remains legal in Iowa, it's very disconcerting to see what happens when the job of justice can be affected by political fancies (and a boatload of spending by The National Organization for Marriage, a misnomer if I ever heard one).

All in all, I think this may be the shot in the arm that Obama needs to actually LEAD.

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