The midterm elections of 2010 represent defeat for the Democrats in particular and a blow to the progressive agenda in general. With Republicans now solidly in control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Democrats across the board have lost their mandate.
In New York State, there were few upsets. Andrew Cuomo handily defeated Republican candidate Carl Paladino with 61 percent of the vote. The Democratic candidates for Senator Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also bested their GOP contenders, sailing into their U.S. senate seats with 65 and 61 percent of the vote, respectively. Around the country however, it’s a different story.
With the Tea Party pushing the Republicans and re-energizing the conservative base of voters, they were able to unseat Democratic incumbents and retake the House. Like it or not, the Tea Party is a force in contemporary American politics. However, a resurgent far-right contingent is not the only factor in the Republicans mid-term election victory.
It would be a grave mistake to overlook the hand the Democrats had in this loss. While it’s true that President Obama faced an intransigent conservative movement, it also must be noted that he, along with the rest of the Democratic Party did not push all the way for a progressive agenda. By abandoning the public option in the health care bill, and not pushing for a public works program to pare down record unemployment, the Democrats wasted the opportunity to reform in the manner they promised in 2008. Both of these measures were achievable with a Dem majority in the House and Senate, yet they were not even seriously considered as possibilities. By being too conciliatory and over-emphasizing a bi-partisan approach, the Dems alienated their base, and emboldened their opponents simultaneously. This is the real reason for the “enthusiasm gap”
With the political balance of power now shifted, there is already talk of “changing course” As this story goes to print, there is talk abound regarding a possible extension of the Bush tax cuts. This, is an indication that even a point upon which the Democrats ran on is up for negotiation. It remains to be seen what other compromises are in the works. In all likelihood, there isn’t much in the way of desperately needed reform on the horizon. Overall, the political outcome of the mid-term elections of 2010 means a setback in the progressive agenda on many fronts for the foreseeable future.
Marc W. Polite