Local view: Razzmatazz: The last word on the midterm elections
When Republicans rebounded with a big win after Democrat Jimmy Carter's presidency, the reasons were crystal clear: a) Carter's botched effort to recover Iranian hostages, b) a stagnant economy with record high interest rates and inflation, and c...
When Republicans rebounded with a big win after Democrat Jimmy Carter’s presidency, the reasons were crystal clear: a) Carter’s botched effort to recover Iranian hostages, b) a stagnant economy with record high interest rates and inflation, and c) a charismatic Ronald Reagan waiting in the wings.
When Democrats rebounded after George W. Bush’s presidency, the reasons were equally obvious: a) Bush’s devastating and costly war begun under erroneous pretenses, b) the administration’s failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, c) the precipitous fall into the Great Recession, and d) a charismatic Barack Obama waiting in the wings.
When Republicans rebounded with a big win on Nov. 4 after six years of a Democratic senate and presidency, the reasons were not so plain to see. Yes, there was a highly regarded Republican candidate in Jeb Bush waiting in the wings. But the economy is good and getting better, and the president has enjoyed more successes than failures with his actions and policies.
So why did voters give the GOP such an overwhelming victory in the Senate, House and state governments across the land?
First, the president’s foreign-policy decisions cannot be blamed. War-like urgings by Republican hawks like John McCain notwithstanding, the president’s heretofore cautious approach toward Islamic State and its fanatical aggression in Iraq and in Syria is on the verge of turning the tide. Airstrikes without boots on the ground have stalled Islamic State in Khobani. And the president’s most recent call for 1,500 advisers to train Iraqi troops is enjoying bipartisan and international support.
Further, Obama’s strategy of sanctions is seeing results with arch enemy Iran, bringing that nation to the negotiating table for the first time in decades. Iranians are working to resolve their nuclear issues with the International Atomic Energy Commission.
On the home front, the economy is the best it has been in six years. Unemployment is below 6 percent, and 200,000 more jobs have been created each month for the past 10 months.
The president’s policy for bailouts and financial regulation, both fiercely opposed by Republicans, flat out spelled redemption for our nation with hard-earned deliverance from the Great Recession
Next, having opened up vast areas for oil exploration and having shortened and streamlined the process for oil companies to obtain permits and leases, the Obama administration has shepherded the burgeoning oil shale mining technology along with the United States’ resurgence as the world’s leading oil exporter.
Gasoline at less than $3 a gallon? Thank Obama.
Thank him also for the Affordable Care Act. Again, there was much rabid barking by Republicans who predicted the failure of Obamacare, saying it would lead to skyrocketing costs, insufficient enrollment and people losing their insurance. Yet at the end of its first year, and on the basis of those same criteria of health care cost, enrollment and numbers of insured, the Affordable Care Act is an unqualified success.
How in the world then did Republicans wrest so many victories across the country from such a careful, deliberate and indisputably successful administration?
Absent hard evidence that would buttress the Republican case, I’d have to say it was partly human nature and mostly razzmatazz
Historically, Americans don’t show up for midterm elections. This was borne out this year with, for example, a mere 31 percent of eligible voters casting ballots in New Jersey. Compare that to the average 60 percent turnout in presidential-election years. Low turnout was a key factor in the Republicans’ wins.
Also historically, as well as psychologically, Americans get bored easily. They are beguiled by the newest flavor. They abandon good pasture to find something greener.
A more concrete reason for the election results, and certainly less clichéd, is the philosophy of Madison Avenue and razzmatazz: Spend enough money on slick advertising and you can convince people they want something they really don’t need.
This is one lesson Republicans have mastered with tremendous help from the Supreme Court, which essentially declared in its Citizens United decision that whoever has the most money can buy the most votes in our democracy.
According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Republicans spent approximately $100 million more for the midterm elections than the Democrats.
Finally, Republicans’ anti-Obama ad blitz was aided and abetted by the national media focus. A tenet of Journalism 101 is that conflict is the essential requirement for newsworthiness, just as it is for any other form of entertainment, i.e., razzmatazz. So a story about two Obamacare protesters picketing in front of the White House takes precedence over a report that the Affordable Care Act has met its enrollment quota. In the same way, House Speaker John Boehner making funny faces on the news to mock an Obama immigration initiative is way better TV than the White House press secretary touting the benefits of the same initiative.
It’s impossible to dismiss the role of the media in shaping the opinion of the electorate in any era. So when the media cite anti-Obama sentiment as having been a dominant factor in this month’s elections, it’s not unfair to ascribe to newspapers and TV a substantial role in making it so dominant.
Based on Obama’s record, the Democrats should not have taken such a beating.
Based on razzmatazz, it was no contest.
David McGrath is formerly of Hayward and is a frequent contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .