The Perfect Storm

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What creates a perfect storm for an election? In 1994, the Republicans had it by taking control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. The capitalized on unpopular social issues (gays in the military, proposed nationalized health care) and entrenched incumbents. In 2006, the Democrats thought they had it by taking control of the Congress (House and Senate), and stunningly taking back the Michigan House of Representatives. But it turned out that the Dems were wrong because 2006 was precursor to 2008, which was the perfect tsunami!

What makes the perfect storm in politics that leads to a landslide for one party or the other? My thoughts:

The Economy. “It’s the economy, stupid.” Thanks, James Carville, for pointing that out to us. What held true in 1992 still holds true. But this time, it was not just the economy. That has been depressed for a while, while trying to make a rebound. Jobs losses are common and people are leaving the state. Leaders, whether governmental or business, are doing all they can to bring jobs back. But no one saw the financial market mess coming. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac collapsing was big, but when real people see that that they can’t get bank loans or refinance mortgages then it really comes home to roost.

The Bailout. People really can’t believe that the American public gave so much money to Wall Street. Was it the right thing to do? Probably. But when you default on your loan, no one bails you out. When you make bad decisions, no one bails you out. Corporate America got bailed out, though, and people are sick of it. This reflected on President Bush and his administration, though, and not on the candidates nor on the Congress. People just seem to believe that we wouldn’t be there in the first place if not for President Bush.

The War. Going on so many years, people are sick of tremendous spending on the war. They want to bring the troops home victorious, but they see the incredible expense of the American people for a never-ending and potentially losing effort. Why not spend those dollars here at home? Or close the federal deficit and debt? See above, The Economy.

Change. People want change. They need it. People want to know that the country has new ideas to move forward. That is what brought us John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Whether you believe in the new ideas of the youth (Kennedy), or supply-side economics with the trickle-down effects (Reagan), or a plan to do something rather than staying the course (Clinton), you want change. New ideas, not the status quo.

None of these on their own creates a “perfect storm” but these all taken together created the perfect storm this year. Oh, and the addition of race to the mix. Barack Obama drew out African-Americans in droves. Young, old, men, women. Some thought that race would also be a factor in discouraging people from voting for Obama, and maybe it was. But I think the new voters greatly outweighed those that wouldn’t vote for him because he is African-American.

12 comments:

Smitty 4:16 PM  

The effects just in Michigan were extraordinary. 9 additional Dem seats?? Chief Justice of the SCOM loses? OAKLAND COUNTY flips to Dem control?

Some of that was coat-tails. But a large part of that was Dems getting out the vote; outworking their counterparts in key areas.

Obama was the catalyst but it took local candidates to use that excitement rather than just coast on it.

Hey...for some truly hilarious reading, read this. Believe it or not, the comments section gets even funnier.

steves 6:03 PM  

Good points Andy. History shows us that when the economy is in the shitter, this tends to help the opposition. It helped FDR beat Hoover and helped Reagan beat Carter.

People really can’t believe that the American public gave so much money to Wall Street. Was it the right thing to do? Probably.

I am not so sure. Most mainstream economists think it was better than nothing, but still thought that it may not have been the best idea. Time will tell.

People just seem to believe that we wouldn’t be there in the first place if not for President Bush.

People are stupid, I guess. You can blame Bush for a lot of things, but this mess is the fault of a lot of people. I am not convinced that people don't blame Congress. Their approval rating is even worse than that of Bush.



I was kind of bummed about Cliff Taylor. He was pro-gun and consistently supported that position. Some PI lawyers I know are happy, though, so maybe there is some good to come out of this.

steves 6:08 PM  

Hey...for some truly hilarious reading, read this. Believe it or not, the comments section gets even funnier.

That was funny and kind of scary. Not surprising though, there were always be people that don't accept losing. Just look at all the goofballs that threatened to move to Canada when Bush won or said he really wasn't the president or some. I was pleased when one of the conservative forums that I still like locked a few of these threads and put up a posting that said no "Obama derangement syndrome" posts and that if you were going to say anything, make it productive.

Bob 6:28 PM  

"Hey...for some truly hilarious reading, read..."

So of course these folks have to believe that Obama pulled the wool over everyone's eye, because they cannot believe that it is actually their candidate's ideas that lost.

Take responsibility people, or continue to loose.

B Mac 6:50 PM  

Bob, I vote for the latter.

steves 7:04 PM  

Take responsibility people, or continue to loose.

No shit. Conservatives need to revamp the party or they will have a hard time gaining back power. They have a lot of work to do. I have some ideas, but I may put them into a blog entry when I get a chance.

An interesting tidbit from Brian Kalt:

When a president does not run for reelection, it is difficult for his party to keep control even in the best of times. Since World War II, only Ronald Reagan has managed the feat. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Clinton, and now Bush have all been succeeded by members of the opposing party.

B Mac 10:28 PM  

Andy, The Onion agrees with your analysis.

Smitty 9:00 AM  

I have some ideas, but I may put them into a blog entry when I get a chance

Me too, actually. This would be a fun post, steves.

steves 9:26 AM  

Despite whining and doom and gloom from some on the far-right, most of what I have been reading from conservatives has been productive. I'd like to see an almost total revamp of the Republican Party.

Smitty 9:58 AM  

I'd like to see an almost total revamp of the Republican Party

The conservatives who are truly, totally honest with themselves agree.

B Mac 10:16 AM  

We're likely to see a debate between the Contract with America coalition/social conservatives and the libertarian/budget-control spending hawks. Winner gets the soul of the Republican Party.

Frankly, I think they CAN go either way. There is still a market for either brand (at least in a typical year; nothing would have saved their asses this time around). But right now they don't have a coherent message.

The Democratic platform was fairly clear. Middle class tax cuts, improve the availability of health care, improve America's standing abroad.

Republicans didn't have a "compassionate conservative" or "stay the course, boots vs. flip-flops" message hammered into people. Can anyone tell me what the Republican message was this year? Socialism is bad? Paris Hilton is not a good candidate? Plumbers are the only ones who have received Total Consciousness?

For the first time in a while, the GOP lost the message battle, and it stems from a lack of a coherent philosophy.

steves 12:46 PM  

b mac, you are right, but I think the lack of a coherent policy comes partly from a two party system. There is just no way that two parties can be everything to everyone. Unfortunately, this often results in making a multitude of promises and trying to suck up to everyone. Ultimately, there is no way they can deliver.

Preaching to the base is important, but elections are won and lost in the middle. Obama just did a far better job appealing to this group. Reagan did the same thing in the 80's, when he completely destroyed the opposition in the Presidential elections.

There will always be some level of disagreement between the social conservatives and the libertarians. Like it or not, the Republican party needs the evangelical vote. Both Nixon and Reagan knew they couldn't win without them. Personally, I think they can get this group without making gay marriage and abortion the biggest issue.

Can anyone tell me what the Republican message was this year?

They did a decent job with fear in the other elections, but that just didn't work this time. Like Andy said, people are tired of the war. Socialism was just lost on the average voter that probably has no concept of what socialism really is.

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