Basic Facts of This Election

First, the facts:

  • Republicans took control of the House. Not all races are yet determined, but they picked up at least 63 seats, perhaps as many as 65. Most prognosticators had predicted mid-50s, so this truly was a wave of tsunami proportions.
  • The Senate remains in the hands of the Democrats, with Harry Reid continuing as majority leader. The count will be more balanced, though. There will be at least 47 Republican senators, up from 41. Some results [Colorado and Oregon] are still pending.
  • Republicans now outnumber Democrats in governorships.
  • It appears that seventeen state legislatures switched from Democrat to Republican control. Both the governorships and legislatures are crucial to the redistricting that will now take place after this year’s census.

As prognosticators also predicted, the spin on the results was primed and ready–Republicans didn’t take control of the Senate, so they failed; Tea Party candidates Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and Joe Miller [that one not finalized as I write this] lost so that means the Tea Party has run out of steam and is a spent force. There will be a number of variations on that last theme.

Those who argue in that way are being disingenuous. Probably the number one Tea Party-backed candidate in the nation was Marco Rubio in Florida. He took Charlie Crist to the cleaners; Crist is now the spent force in politics, and deservedly so.

Their analysis also deliberately overlooks certain other discomforting [from their point of view] facts. In Illinois, President Obama’s former Senate seat is now in the hands of Republicans in the form of Mark Kirk. In Ohio, where the president appeared 12 times to support the incumbent governor, that governor lost to former congressman John Kasich. Apparently, the magic didn’t materialize. Republican Pat Toomey won the Pennsylvania Senate post, a major win in a major state.

Republican voters also sent two conservative black candidates to the House: Tim Scott in South Carolina and Allen West in Florida, the latter in particular considered a Tea Party favorite. This is the first time since the era of Reconstruction after the Civil War that there has been more than one black Republican in the House. May there be many more, and may the old, outworn accusation of “conservative racism” be put to rest forever.

Probably the lamest comment I heard last night was former vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, in the midst of this Republican wave, declaring that it was not a wave—no big deal at all. Tell that to Nancy Pelosi, who is the first woman ever to be a former Speaker of the House. No one has deserved that designation more than she.

In one sense, as some commentators have noted, having Democrats maintain the majority in the Senate robs Obama of one of his possible avenues of attack in 2012. When he runs for reelection, he can’t run against a Republican Congress entirely.

Election night is only the beginning. When all these new winners take office, the true battle will begin.

  • Will Republicans now do what they were supposed to be doing all those years they were in charge?
  • Will the House challenge the Obama agenda effectively?
  • Will Republican senators be able to forge an alliance with enough Democrats to move forward with House initiatives?
  • When the president vetoes those initiatives, will they have the political savvy and moral courage to make their case to the American people for real hope and change?

Tomorrow, after more of the dust has cleared, I’ll continue this analysis by focusing on some of the specific races. Which ones should be most celebrated? What were the biggest disappointments? Where do we go from here?