I’m taking a break from blogging about poetry to write about politics. Last night, a special election was held in New York State’s 9th District to replace disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner, who had to resign over a sex scandal. Months ago, Dems thought for sure they’d keep the seat. After all, Dems have kept that seat for nearly a century, and it’s in a deep blue district, mostly in Queens and the Bronx. But last night, Republican Bob Turner defeated Democrat David Weprin. As soon as victory was declared, Turner said that this message will resound all year and into the presidential election in 2012.
Most mainstream papers/websites are saying that this GOP upset is referendum against Obama. A lot of Obama supporters still think he’s going to win, especially since the GOP has moved so far to the right. However, it’s clear Obama is not going to win as easily as he did in 2008, due to the economy. Even officials in his administration don’t believe the economy will improve much between now and next November. Right now, unemployment is at about 9 percent, and in August, there was not a net gain of jobs. It seems the economy has stalled. The last president to win re-election with unemployment this high was FDR, and frankly, FDR was a lot more popular than Obama is. FDR had a larger vision for economic recovery through the New Deal programs, and he had more fire in the belly, a willingness to take on the GOP and big business. So far, Obama hasn’t really demonstrated that, thus alienating much of his core base.
This election should also worry Democrats because it served as a first test of one of the party’s key election strategies for 2012. Back in the spring, the GOP voted in the House and Senate for Republican Congressman Paul Ryan’s budget, which would basically end Medicare and Social Security as we know it– programs most Americans really like. Though the plan didn’t pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, every Republican is still on record as voting for the plan, and the Dems hoped to use that as a major issue in 2012. Weprin did use that as an issue over and over again in the special election, but he still lost. So what will Dems run on in 2012 if that strategy doesn’t work?
It’s also a folly to think that if the GOP nominates someone pretty conservatve like Rick Perry that they will automatically lose the presidential election. The Democrats thought they would easily defeat Reagan because he was considered too consevative, but Reagan won twice, easily.
A lot can still happen between now and the next election cycle. Right now, the county is in an anti-incumbant mood, and Congress’ approval numbers are even lower than the president’s. A path to re-election for Obama can be to run against the Republican-controlled Congress, like Harry Truman did, when he refered to them as the “do nothing Congress.” If Congress refuses to pass even parts of the president’s new job bill, he can state over and over again during the election cycle that he tried to get the economy moving, but the GOP obstructed and blocked the bill.
Whatever happens in 2012, it’s likely this country is going to keep having change elections. Democrats made major gains in 2006 and 2008, and the GOP made major gains in 2010 and seems poised to make more in 2012. The pendulum keeps swinging back and forth, due to the poor economy and uncertain future of this country.