MIDTERM ELECTIONS NOVEMBER 3, 2010
In TNR's big election post-mortem, senior editor John B. Judis says Obama deserved to lose the election--but the country doesn't deserve bearing the consequences:
Republicans might say it’s the re-emergence of a conservative Republican majority, but that’s not really what happened. What this election suggests to me is that the United States may have finally lost its ability to adapt politically to the systemic crises that it has periodically faced. America emerged from the Civil War, the depression of the 1890s, World War I, and the Great Depression and World War II stronger than ever—with a more buoyant economy and greater international standing. A large part of the reason was the political system’s ability to provide the leadership the country needed. But what this election suggests to me is that this may no longer be the case.
The election results amply illustrated Obama’s political failure. Economic downturns invariably awaken the populist demon inside the American psyche. Americans see themselves as part of a broad middle class—from the clerk at Wal-Mart to the small businessman—who do the work and play by the rules, but see themselves taken advantage of by illegal immigrants, welfare cheats, pointy-headed state bureaucrats, Wall Street speculators, and ruthless Robber Barons. Right-wing populists tend to point their fingers primarily at the undeserving poor and the government that serves them; left-wing populists at Wall Street and CEOs. During the Great Depression, Roosevelt was able to direct Americans’ ire primarily at the “economic royalists.” But Obama, who was uncomfortable with the rhetoric of populism and apportioned blame on Main Street as well as Wall Street, left a political vacuum that the right-wing populists of the Tea Party filled. They even managed to portray Obama and the Democrats as the patrons of Wall Street. When asked who was most to blame for “current economic problems,” a plurality of voters yesterday said “Wall Street bankers” rather than George W. Bush or Barack Obama. But amazingly, these voters backed Republicans by 56 to 42 percent. That testifies to the utter failure of the Obama administration’s politics.