Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Results don’t reflect voter distaste with Congress, failure to compromise

By Isaac Simon

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(Nicolas Raymond/Flickr)

(Nicolas Raymond (www.freestock.ca)/Flickr)

The tables turned in American politics Tuesday night as the Republicans took control of the United States Senate for the first time in eight years. .

With only 51 seats needed for a GOP majority, meaning six pickups in order to have control, Republicans had already picked up seven seats at press time. In South Dakota, Mike Rounds defeated Democrat Rick Weiland. Republicans also got crucial senate pick-ups in West Virginia and Arkansas where Shelley Moore Capito defeated Natalie Tennant and Tom Cotton defeated the incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor. Cory Gardner beat out incumbent Sen. Mark Udall in Colorado. Sen. Kay Hagan lost to challenger Thom Tillis in North Carolina, and Joni Ernst defeated Democratic candidate Bruce Braley in Iowa. Earlier in the evening, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell handily defeated Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell both raised and outspent Grimes by $10 million and was dubbed the winner with 56 percent of the vote. In Louisiana, the election goes to a December runoff as neither Republican challenger Bill Cassidy nor Sen. Mary Landrieu won more than 50 percent of the vote

Whether it be CNN or MSNBC, a variety of political strategists have been using the mid-term election results as a pre-text for President Obama’s job performance. Now, as it currently stands, the president’s job approval rating is at 44 percent, roughly equivalent to that of President George W. Bush when he was starting his sixth year in office. Approval ratings aside, the question should be asked: what do the midterms really forecast?

Based on the current political makeup of the electorate, the country seems pretty split between Democrats and Republicans. Historically speaking, how common is it for a blue state to become red and a red state to become blue? Wendy Davis received a lot of national attention ever since she put herself on the map as being at the forefront for women reproductive issues. She lost the Texas governor’s race to Republican Greg Abbott.

According to a poll reported on the CBS Evening News on Nov. 5, only 19 percent of the country has a favorable opinion of the job being done by Congress. It should follow from this that incumbents would face an uphill battle throughout the midterm election. But, in fact, probably somewhere close to 90 percent of incumbents will be reelected. Why? Either voters are not that unhappy with Congress or the built advantages of incumbency – gerrymandering districts, superior campaign funding – make it almost impossible for the will of the people to be expressed at the polls.

If, as much of the media is suggesting, Republican victories are tied to voters’ personal dislike of Obama, it doesn’t necessarily follow that any of that sentiment will carry over to hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances in 2016.

Exit polls suggested that the key issue for most voters was the economy. How does this translate into anti-Obama vote given that unemployment is down and the stock market up? Obviously, Americans are not thinking back to Bush’s economic policy. If they did, they would remember a great recession and high unemployment. Maybe it is because wages are flat even though unemployment is up. People are just not making enough to make ends meet.

But how is that Obama’s doing? Except for minimum wage increases, when does the president have control over what companies pay their workers? If people are frustrated with their wages, they cannot remove their bosses so they translate that frustration into voting against whoever is in the White House.

Strategists for Clinton will be looking at the numbers behind the numbers. That is, they will want to see poll numbers for key demographics for her – How did women vote? How did African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans vote? These will be important constituencies for her if she hopes to win in two years. Those are numbers that we won’t learn about tonight but that will have to be studied over the next week or so. In other words, the only way to reverse this trend amongst voters is if the electorate changes as well. To respond to political approval polls is one thing; to channel that anger into the voting booth is another.

Isaac Simon is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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