Election Arithmetic for Dummies

Fewer houses, fewer cars, fewer luxury goods. U.S. citizens, who have been very keen to consume during the previous decades, are economizing. An irrepressible, pioneering spirit and unflappable optimism once characterized the country that knew no borders other than its own ambition. Today, many citizens in the “land of the free” are taken aback by the economic crisis. And this crisis has lasted a long time by American standards.

It was only a matter of time before the economic crisis began to affect campaigns leading up to the congressional elections in November. Not surprisingly, Democrats are offering little to address the issue. The campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” which was introduced in 1992 by James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign manager, is still valid. In hard times it is the economy that counts, stupid. Once voters feel the ache in their wallets, incumbents will feel the precariousness of their own position — like George Bush did in 1992.

There is hardly a remedy for this crude election arithmetic, especially 100 days before the election. During his visit to car factories in Michigan this week, Barack Obama will want to try to explain that without his $800 billion stimulus package, the U.S. economy would have fared much worse. Along the same lines, the Democratic Party plans to spend $30 million in an effort to retain the loyalty of the 15 million young and first-time voters that helped Mr. Obama win the 2008 presidential election. Yet according to surveys, the majority of U.S. citizens believe that the president is doing too little on economic issues. Only 10 percent of citizens polled claimed to have benefited from the White House’s economic policies.

That judgment may be unfair, however, given the economic difficulties Mr. Obama inherited. But just like a president can benefit politically from an economic boom that he did not engender, he must also atone in bad times for a situation that he cannot entirely control.

The sloth of the U.S. federal system also bears some responsibility for these difficult economic times. Many Republican governors have not made use of federal funds, even though they could use every cent. There is not much to see of the millions of promised green jobs or improvements to U.S. infrastructure. (No firm decision yet about how to spend the $16 million allocated for investment in rail traffic.) At best, this money will create jobs long after the midterm elections.

There is ample time before the November elections to determine whether or not the Republicans will be able to reach the 39 seats in the House of Representatives and the 10 seats in the Senate that they need to reverse Congress. The time before the election and the requisite number of seats are both part of election arithmetic for dummies. No matter how it all adds up, it is clear that public opinion and the economic situation in the U.S. will barely influence the outcome of the election.

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1 Comment

  1. Oh, good heavens…Obama has spent his entire presidency paying off supporters with borrowed money…and now he is trying to bribe people to vote Democrat with borrowed money. Even most Democrats have figured out that this administration and congress are a bunch of ignorant, ill-mannered thugs and criminals.

    Everything he has done has prevented and thwarted recovery. It is deliberate and a promise met to foreign campaign donors to subdue the American people. (Yes, it’s illegal for American election campaings to accept foreign donations, but the Obama team disabled all of the security on his website allowing anyone to contribute less than $200 as many times as they wanted as long as they “said” they were American.)

    It won’t work.

    Best to all,

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