What 2010 can tell us about 2012
Now that the 2010 mid-term elections are over and (most of) the ballots have been counted, it’s worth a look to see what issues played the greatest role in the election and what that may tell us about 2012.
Of course there are a lot of issues, but from a conservative Republican standpoint, the most important ones to identify are those which played the greatest role in motivating voters to support massive Republican gains at all levels of governance – and what might do so again the next time they head to the polls.
For good or ill, the economy is always an issue in any election. And when it’s bad, it hurts the party in power. The further we’ve come since the 2008 election, the more the economy is seen as being the responsibility of Democrats. The fact that unemployment has steadily increased for the two years they’ve been in power, (and after passage of their signature “stimulus” bills), puts them on the wrong side of public opinion.
Growth of government
Since taking power, Democrats have been on a steady quest (as usual) to increase the power and scope of government. From proposals to nationalize private enterprises to increased regulation and diminishment of consumer choices, people see the government getting bigger (faster) and their own control over their lives and their country getting smaller.
Of course the signature item in this category is ObamaCare. It is the prototypical liberal program: it’s massive, expensive and takes power away from individuals and state governments, in addition to being so large as to be completely opaque before it becomes law (and even well after). The result was a massive and sustained public rejection. Given that its size and scope ensures that it will have a personal impact on each and every American, it was taken as a personal assault to their control over their own lives and pocket-books. On Election Day, they reacted accordingly.
Spending and debt
Government spending and our national debt have become an even larger issue than they were during the Ross Perot boom of 1992. The “crazy old aunt in the basement” has gained a good bit of weight (several trillion) and is back with a vengeance as a result of the radical spending binge under Obama and the Democrat’s leadership, (to say nothing of the previous debt incurred by the Republicans and Democrats that came before).
And it is increasingly becoming a bipartisan issue, (at least among voters). Whether it is bailouts, TARPs or stimulus, a majority of Americans have been opposed. And the more they see the increased debt as threatening the country’s future – and the lives of their children and grandchildren – the more pronounced the issue becomes politically.
This was the key issue which helped bring divergent conservatives together into what we now know as the Tea Party movement.
Next up is “the One” himself. Over the course of the past two years he has managed not just to become a focal point of conservative indignation, but to shake many otherwise uninterested and uninvolved moderates and independents out of their indifference. He has done this by moving government policy even further and faster to the left than anyone imagined, putting himself in the middle of everything that motivates the right and is increasingly motivating the center.
Finally, Republicans benefited from having a lot of really good candidates this year. These were candidates that conservative Republican primary voters could get excited about, and were willing to work for, not just vote for, (a very big, but often overlooked distinction). The result was a level of grassroots energy that was exponentially larger than in the past.
The next election
So what about 2012? Each and every issue on this list is sure to be a big deal in the next election. Obama by default will be “the” central issue, given that his name will be on every ballot across the country, making it the ultimate referendum election.
As for the economy, according to most who read the tea leaves for a living, (even those working for the government), 2011 is likely to see very little in the way of growth. This means no big drop in the unemployment rate by the time the next campaign ramps up.
Given that Obama has the veto pen, there’s not much that congressional Republicans can do to reduce the size of government, aside from battles over the budget. They will however be in a position to shine a very bright light on the issue. From congressional hearings, to forcing votes on the repeal of regulations, even ObamaCare itself, they can put Obama and fellow Democrats on the spot.
And considering that federal spending isn’t likely to go down enough in the next two years (if at all) to make any difference in the deficit or the national debt, these will continue to be hot button issues.
That just leaves candidates, and whether or not the Republican leadership learns the lesson of 2010 and focuses on recruiting candidates that excite the party’s conservative base, rather than fight with it. If they focus on finding highly qualified candidates that already do (or would) have the support of the Tea Party movement, they will get a much quicker jump out of the starting gate in 2012. And more of them would win.
(cross posted at DrewMcKissick.com)