The best take on yesterday’s election that I’ve found thus far came from the folks at Think Progress. Here’s what they had to say:
Riding a wave of discontent, Republicans overtook the House of Representatives by great numbers, but foundered in the U.S. Senate, where the media spotlight on Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado, and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware turned off voters. Newly ascendant Republicans are full of advice for where the country — slowly recovering from the economic collapse caused by President Bush’s deregulatory policies and tax cuts for the rich — should now go. “[T]here’s a Tea Party tidal wave and we’re sending a message,” senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) said, “that government cannot create prosperity.” “Across the country right now, we are witnessing a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government, and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people,” said a tearful presumptive Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH). “We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course and commit to making the changes they are demanding.” Obama “and his fellow travelers in Congress” should cut taxes on the superwealthy and pay for it by slashing Medicare and Social Security, Mitt Romney advises. “Voters have resoundingly rejected more government spending, higher taxes, and more burdensome regulations that have caused crippling uncertainty for businesses,” argued the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s right-wing CEO Tom Donohue. “Americans are waking up and they’re saying, ‘No, smaller, smarter government is the only way that the country can get back on the right track,’” opined Sarah Palin. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), poised to become the House Majority Leader, said the election results are “a clear mandate for smaller government, less spending and new jobs.” Cantor promised to try to repeal health care reform “right away because that’s what the American people want.” The Koch Industries front group Americans for Prosperity has launched the November Speaks website, which claims that “class-warfare, tax-the-rich ideas were decisively rejected in a national election.” FreedomWorks’ Matt Kibbe declared on Fox News this morning, “I think we have a clear mandate.” Despite these claims, the American public did not really demand a government that cuts taxes and regulations for the rich and slashes social programs and economic investment for everyone else.
ANGER AND DESPAIR: Continued economic despair drove most voters to cast their ballot against the majority party. “Eighty-eight percent of voters today say the national economy’s in bad shape, nearly as many as the record 92 percent who said so two years ago. Only 14 percent say their own family’s financial situation has improved since 2008.” Exit polls also found that the “differential among angry voters — those favoring Republicans over Democrats — is huge this year,” as “those who described themselves as angry voters went 84-14 percent in favor of Republican candidates for the House.” Other strong indicators of votes against Democrats were age and race: “47 percent of those 60 and older” said they support the Tea Party but “only 26 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 saying they support the movement.” Women over 65 voted 57 percent Republican, the reverse of young women. Every one of districts the Democrats have lost so far in the House is over 57 percent white and less than a third black — and 60 percent of whites voted Republican. “The percentage of youth voters dropped by half, and the black vote also edged down by at least a fifth.” The Democratic Party “continues to hold a large advantage in party identification among Latino registered voters,” with “just 6% of all Latino registered voters and 18% of Republican Latino registered voters” seeing “the Republican Party as more concerned about Latinos than the Democratic Party.”
UNHAPPY WITH RESULTS, NOT POLICIES: Despite the pundits, the progressive mandate remains strong. The vast majority of voters — 64 percent — continue to blame either Wall Street (35 percent) or Bush (29 percent) for the troubled economy. Although only 35 percent of voters think the country is on the right track, that is a marked improvement from the 21 percent in 2008 that felt that way. Forty-five percent of voters approve of Obama’s job performance, though “just a third say the administration’s economic stimulus program has helped the economy. “Fully 78% of all voters support comprehensive immigration reform,” with a path to legal status “by far the most popular.” “Voters from Connecticut to California and Michigan to Florida are more likely to support candidates who support an energy bill that cuts climate change pollution,” polling shows. California’s outsized results for progressive policies and ending gridlock — the defeat of the oil industry’s Proposition 23 and corporate conservatives Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina — show that strong government action resonates in our troubled economic times. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — who said last week that his goal for the next Congress is to defeat President Obama in 2012 — noted that Republicans “need to view this [election] with humility and gratitude. This is not about us…there is no poll data showing the public is in love with us.” Americans “have some concerns about the direction that Republicans will then lead when we take control of the Congress in 2011,” Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele admitted, when asked about Jeb Bush’s statement that “not a validation of the Republican Party at all.”
A THROWBACK AGENDA: Republicans “need to become partners in governing our nation,” writes CAP Action’s John Podesta. “Republican leaders must craft serious legislative proposals to match the serious problems our country faces today and in the future.” Given a new responsibility to govern, however, the Republican Party so far has offered little more than opposition to the President and support for Bush-era policies. Even though election night was upon them and a new majority was secured, House Republicans claiming a smaller-government and balanced-budget mandate are still unwilling to lay out specific spending cuts they would make. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that the most important thing that Congress can do is extend the Bush tax cuts. But when Matthews pressed her for spending reductions, Blackburn only named parts of the budget that she has deemed off-limits for cuts. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) did the same, refusing to name a specific cut in two separate interviews. The lame-duck Congress will likely take up the challenge of tax policy reform, under a steady call from Republicans to blow up the budget by extending Bush’s enormous tax cuts for the wealthy, including the elimination of the millionaires and billionaires’ estate tax. Reform, however, “must produce strong growth and put the country on the path to fiscal discipline; and reform must be fair for the majority of Americans and their families,” writes Podesta. “Meaningful tax reform must meet both tests. President Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy failed both.”
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