It wouldn't appear so, writes Slate's John Dickerson. "In exit polls, 37 percent [of voters] said the highest priority of Congress should be 'spending to create jobs,' " he points out. That's a call for more stimulus, not less. The same percentage called for reducing the budget deficit, something the GOP has pledged to do without offering any serious proposals for doing so. (Tax cuts would increase the deficit.) The breakdown of those who want to repeal the health care reform legislation -- what Republicans call "Obamacare" -- shows that the electorate is evenly divided.
If anything, the midterm elections have provided a lot of mixed signals. And while they can generally be interpreted as a referendum on Obama's presidency, they were also a predictable realignment following the 2010 elections that briefly gave Democrats control of both the White House and Congress.
University of Michigan political scientist Brendan Nyhan weighs in:
Even with minorities in both houses of Congress, Republicans, abetted by a few conservative Democrats, were able to thwart or dilute many of Obama's initiatives -- recall the health care debate and how the much-ballyhooed pubic option was easily knocked off the table.As the Yale political scientist David Mayhew and others have shown, even the supposedly classic example of a realigning election -- the 1896 election of William McKinley (Karl Rove's favorite) -- cannot withstand empirical scrutiny. It's hard to imagine why 2008 would have been any different.
Given this context, the fragility of Obama's majority should not be surprising. Indeed, it should be reassuring from a democratic perspective. The last two elections swept many Democrats into office who were relatively poor fits to their district. In some of those districts, the replacement of those Democrats with Republicans will create a better alignment between the views of voters and their representatives. In other districts, the person elected may not match the voters well and will face contested races in future challenges. In general, there is little reason to think that the pro-GOP shift will be any more permanent than Democrats' gains in 2006 and 2008.
Expect more obstructionism now. The New Yorker's George Packer is deeply pessimistic:
Who's vision of the future of the American political landscape will come to pass? The tea party, for one, isn't about to pack up and go home: "If they [the GOP] don't do the right thing in the next couple of years, it's not a problem," Mark Meckler, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, tells CNN. "We'll come back in 2012. We'll do it all over again. We'll replace them with people that will uphold [our] principles."[T]he level of extremism and partisanship ... will go up -- way up. This midterm is the party's first salvo in its first order of business, to end Obama's Presidency. There will be little mercy and a great deal of rancor. ... I see one of the ugliest political periods in my lifetime, which has seen a few.
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