This election season started out as one where voters were seemingly ready to “vote the rascals out”: an election potentially about nonpartisan anti-incumbency. The primary season began with Senator Bob Bennett (R) losing in Utah and later Senator Arlen Specter (R turned D) losing in Pennsylvania and thus, the thought process went, anti-incumbency it was.
But this soon changed as the larger picture emerged: the election cycle has not been about anti-incumbency but instead about a movement created by conservative anger, and right-wing momentum, led by a group known as the Tea Party, who were in turn led largely by former Governor Sarah Palin.
Palin would sometimes back viable candidates (such as Kristi Noem in South Dakota), but sometimes her own myopic viewpoint and idealism would trump actual the potential for electability. For example, Representative Mike Castle, who served his state diligently for 17 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, was defeated by a woman who has absolutely no chance of winning. Palin supported her just for her political platform — she chose issues over viability and a platform over electability. I feel bad for the voters of Delaware, who have no real choice this fall.
Anger is not abnormal at election time. In fact, it can even translate into victory in elections. It happened in 2006 for the Democrats and in 2008 in both the Primary and General elections, but this is because the anger was channeled through hope for tangible change (whether or not change materialized into desired effects is for voters to decide). However, what anger cannot be, in order to translate into victory, is simply anger. Look at Carl Paladino in New York; his anger is caustic and cannot be channeled into anything more.
Now it is unfair for me to write this piece and criticize Republicans when they will likely emerge victorious by the end of this election cycle. As I have tweeted, I view politics as a pendulum: it swings one way and then it swings another. One year President Obama is untouchable and two years later, his approval rating hovering in the 40 percent range. This is politics.
The Democrats have undoubtedly made errors. Democrats in Congress have at times been overtly partisan. And the President likely could also have reached out to Republicans more in his first two years. Also, one of the problems for President Obama overall is that when running on a platform of change, hope, and attempting to end polarized politics, such promises are nearly impossible to fulfill, making voters easily dissatisfied.
But there have been many successes in the past two years as well, led by the President and the Democrats in Congress. Health care was a start. And resetting the clock as someone like Christine O’Donnell wants to do is surely not the answer.
If we want to achieve tangible goals again, we actually do need to work together. And with a change in at least one House in Congress, we are going to have to. The time has come for our President to show us the bipartisanship that many of us who are sitting here silently want to see. We may not be the ones screaming in the streets but, trust me, we are here too.
I have started a new website to coincide with my blog posts: www.DavidHelfenbein.com. Please check it out. I want my blog posts moving forward to be more interactive, based upon my firm belief in the importance of the interconnectivity of social media, true bipartisanship, and sound and reasoned political dialogue. The posts shouldn’t only be about my political analyses but should also be about your thoughts as well. Let’s do this together. I look forward to it.