We’ve just crossed the year mark for President Obama’s first term in office. I say first only because I am expecting a second term. But for those who have been following the elections since Obama has taken office, the possibility of an Obama second term seems daunting. We saw here in New Jersey, a Democratic incumbent lose to a larger-than-life Republican candidate and the same outcome in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Just two weeks ago, we saw the Senate seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy surrendered over to the Republican party represented by a former Cosmo pinup boy whose environmental policy can be summed up by his most famous quote, “I drive a truck.” With these facts staring Democrats down, it seems almost inevitable that the Democrats are destined to lose in the upcoming mid-term elections, and Obama will be relegated to the likes of other one-term presidents such as James K. Polk and Jimmy Carter. But to those who believe this, I say to you, not so fast.
In nearly every mid-term election, the President’s party loses power by an average of four Senate seats and 28 House seats. In 1994 the Republicans retook control of Congress and in 2006 the Democrats did the same. Why is that? Part of it may be innate in American political culture; Americans seem to enjoy a good backlash and who best to lash out against when all the pop stars have been expended but politicians. So the fact that the Democrats are likely to lose seats this coming November should come as no surprise to anyone, and in fact, the 2010 results are in no way indicative of how President Obama’s bid for a second term will fare either.
To put it eloquently, “It’s the economy, stupid.” These four words may have been the most profound and insightful words for any aspiring politician, because when it comes to voters, personal economic security reigns supreme. The impending elections are at the moment very unpredictable because they are contingent upon the health of the economy come election day. If, this November, unemployment is still high and the gross domestic product is not on a serious incline, then the Republicans will win in a resounding fashion. If, however, the opposite occurs, we could see minimal Republican victories for the midterm elections.
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you what the market forecasts are for 2012, but I can tell you one thing. If the economy is doing well, Republicans stand very little chance against Obama come Election Day, and all these attacks on him as a “socialist” will fall on the deaf ears of voters as their eyes swell with dollar signs every time they check their bank accounts and 401k’s.
What does all this mean for us students? It means that unless we start participating in the political process (voting), then we will be subject to the emotional whims of the average voters (older people). And this isn’t fair. This is our America — we must live in it and etch out a new existence. We must become engaged in the political process, not just allow it to take its usual course. The only way to shape the institutions that dictate our lives is to vote.
Junior political science major