Midterm Elections: No Tsunamis, No Earthquakes

The system of checks and balances has been strengthened; victories as well as defeats for the tea party; Democrats will have to change their message

The Republican tsunami has struck the Democratic Party and the political landscape of the U.S. is shaken by the earthquake. Those or similar words are being used by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News to describe the midterm elections in the United States. Media outlets were quick to resort to using superlatives to make the moment seem more dramatic. But what do the midterms really mean?

Checks and Balances

Of course it was a Republican victory. In the run up to election day, all the major polls — Gallup and Huffington, for example — came to similar conclusions: major gains for Republicans. But it wasn’t quite that dramatic. Conservatives made major gains but not to the levels they had expected. And Democrats were able to hold their majority in the Senate. Republican power gains can also be seen as a strengthening of democracy, now that one party no longer dominates all branches of government.

And the tea party movement didn’t take off as dramatically as expected. While Marco Rubio in Florida and Rand Paul in Kentucky won Senate seats, flashy types celebrated as rising stars of the movement such as Christine O’Donnell (Delaware) and Linda McMahon (Connecticut) fell to Democrats in their election battles. Factors such as high unemployment make voters vulnerable to populist groups like the tea party. Exit polls showed that 29 percent of those asked personally knew someone who became unemployed due to the economic crisis.

Democratic Strategy Change

Barack Obama, hailed almost as a messianic healer two years ago, will now have to deal more seriously with the Republicans than he has in the past. He will have to make concessions that were unnecessary up until now. Dissatisfaction among members of his party will grow. These are reasons why Democrats, who won the presidency in 2008 with such a passionate campaign, will have to rethink their message. In the Republican-controlled House, Democrats now have an opponent with a face; that’s something party strategists can use to their advantage. Now is exactly the time that Obama needs a Chief of Staff like Rahm Emanuel, but Emanuel would rather be Mayor of Chicago so he’s no longer on Obama’s team.

He needs someone who, for lack of a better term, is more aggressive; someone who can come up with a strategy necessary to regain those lost independent voters who tipped the scales for him in 2008. They did the same for the Republicans this time, and they need to be brought back into the fold for the 2012 presidential election.

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