A Quick Take on the Election Results
I think it's a near-consensus view that the president's re-election chances really hinge on how the economy performs over the next two years. Of course, the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, has said that his top priority is making sure that Obama is a one-term president. So does it follow that the now-empowered Republicans will try to thwart any action to boost the economy?
The obvious response (promptly offered when I wrote this on BackSheGoes.com) is that they've been doing just that the last two years, so why expect anything to change. There's something to this, I grant, but with the House of Representatives under their control, they probably will need to come up with something to say to the country beyond "No." With even a tiny majority--and it looks like they're going to have a pretty big one--you can push anything through the House, and so the Republicans surely will.
But, as others have written, this is a blessing not even all that well disguised for Obama in a political sense. He has a foil now. Put his ideas and ability to communicate against Speaker-presumptive John Boehner's, and as a progressive I'm feeling pretty good about who wins that argument.
Add in that Boehner is going to have a hell of a time with his caucus (see this very informative National Journal piece) and it should be at least pretty interesting. What Boehner wants to do, per my read of that article, is impose reforms that give the appearance of empowering new members, somewhat de-emphasizing seniority and strengthening committees, but that don't actually cede power. I guess the gamble is that the new Republican members, predominantly hard-right types, will focus their ire on the (probably still) Democratic Senate and/or President rather than Boehner and his leadership team; I have my doubts.
I'm a Democrat at this point primarily because I believe they're more serious (though not nearly serious enough) about honestly addressing the major structural problems the country faces, and secondarily because they're more in line with my personal values (individual freedoms, equality of opportunity, equal rights, etc). While it might not have mattered given the economy, I do think the Dems failed utterly to point out how totally incoherent the Republicans are on those same challenges: foaming-at-the-mouth angry about deficits and debt but unwilling even to support common-sense measures to rein in health care costs, look hard at military expenditures or ever contemplate letting a tax cut lapse, let alone an increase. Mindlessly bleating American triumphalism but ignorant of the economic basis of our world-historical success--human capital plus smart public investments--and thus intent on killing the golden goose (or, more accurately, letting it continue to die). Eager to pick fights all over the world without acknowledging simple logic of cause and effect, or that wars ain't cheap. And so on.
My guess is that Obama will suddenly find it a lot easier to expose the hash of the Republican agenda and make the case that he's the grownup in the room. Ultimately, though, we need the Republicans to get serious too. The real bad news about this year's results might be that with so many clowns winning office, that's probably going to take longer than it would have if the nuts got clobbered again. And, worse, many of the less clownish Republicans--Mike Castle most obviously, but he's not the only one--didn't even win within their party.