Saturday, September 04, 2010

Pre Pre-Election Analysis

Now that all the primaries are done and the story lines are set, we can be definitive in our analysis for the upcoming elections. All done that is, except for the one on September 4 in Guam. And let’s not forget about the one a week later in the Virgin Islands. Then there are the ones on September 14 in DC, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. And of course, Hawaii weighs in on September 18. But that’s it. Honest.
In the non-stop news cycle that we live in, it is indeed the season of the endless election. Everyone started running the day after the last one, and has been trying to validate or disprove any trends that emerged way back in the distant past that was just 20 months ago. And even though these are the just the midterms, they have been held up yet again as the "most important elections in history." And so, seeking to be the absolutely last word in analysis before Labor Day, or at least the absolutely last word before the next one, following are the dominant themes that seem to have emerged and their veracity in light of the results to date.
The Year of the Anti-Incumbent. With dissatisfaction with Washington at an all time high, the early word was that those in power would be toppled. Indeed, some high profile names, like Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania got knocked out of the process, and Lisa Murkowski is on the ropes in Alaska. But money and organization won out in most cases, from the high profile, where establishment figures like John McCain hung on in Arizona, to the low profile, where all 7 current US House members in Florida won against challengers. By some counts, 95% of incumbents cleared this hurtle towards reelection, which proves once again that all members of Congress are horrible, except yours.
The Year of the Woman. With Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina in California, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Nikki Haley in South Carolina and Linda McMahon in Connecticut, many think that women will finally be moving to center stage. Or as Samantha Bee put it on The Daily Show, "Last night, America, scared and with a poopy in its diaper, cried for its mommy." But as to whether or not it’s a trend per se, perhaps it bears remembering what Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski said the last time this proclamation was made: "Calling 1992 the Year of the Woman makes it sound like the Year of the Caribou or the Year of the Asparagus. We're not a fad, a fancy, or a year." More to the point, as in all of politics, the winners are likely to be strong, well financed and well organized. Or as Janet Reitman reported, also back in 1992, when she asked the Alabama delegates to the Democratic Convention about the topic, they replied, "Steel magnolias? Honey, forget that stuff. We're bitches from hell."

The Year Where Nothing Is Different. While there are precious few truths in politics, the following are as close to gospel as they come. 1) The president's party usually loses a slew of seats in the first midterm elections of a presidency. 2) Voters take out their frustrations on the party in power. 3) A president's party will suffer at the polls if his job performance rating is below 50 percent. 4) Above all, the economy is the dominant driver of voting patterns when the unemployment rate is high. If you’re going to put money on any facet of the election, those are the hole cards that tell you how it’s going to break come November.
The Year of the Vote. The 1948 movie "The Naked City" ended with the tag line, "There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them." And so it is with political narratives: there are a lot. But they are also much like Rorschach tests, in which you see in them what you want. For some it’s a matter of conservatives vs. liberals, while for others it’s a proxy fight between Obama and Sarah Palin, while still others view it as a contest between progressives and traditionalists. However, as Chuck Todd pointed out on MSNBC, the defining characteristic of all the elections to date has been that the candidate who got the most votes was the winner. It’s that simple truth that will likely once again be validated. And at least for me, in that light, November 2 can’t come soon enough.


Marc Wollin of Bedford is seriously thinking of not listening to television or radio news until November 3. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

No comments: