a curious Yankee in Europe's court

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The world press puzzles over US midterm elections

Posted on the November 3rd, 2010

How the international news media is assessing the flogging that the Democrats just took in yesterday’s midterm elections in the U.S., is the subject of an entertaining and informative article by Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy (“The World Weighs in” Nov. 3, 2010).

Opening with a wry sub-heading alluding to the D.C. power shift and the  world’s press trying  to figure out what it means for them — and whether Obama is still worth talking to, Hounshell writes:

Around the world, though, U.S. midterm elections generally elicit little more than a collective shrug. Beyond the obvious fact that it’s hard to whip up enthusiasm in Brazil over the congressional race for Kansas’s 1st district, the world’s newspapers are generally focused on their own political dramas — Tim Huelskamp’s romp in Kansas isn’t about to kick Dilma Rousseff’s groundbreaking election off the front pages in São Paolo. But this year’s Democratic meltdown is notable because the global infatuation with Obama is now cast against his diminished luster in the United States. To the extent that there is any theme to the coverage, it’s an attempt to answer the age-old question: What’s in it for us? But, moving forward, there’s a larger issue lurking: Is Obama still the undisputed leader of the world’s most powerful nation?

Hounshell then moves into a rundown of some commentary in some of the world’s leading newspapers. A good read — see the full piece here.

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Who won? Who lost? The informed chatter: 2010 USA midterm elections

Posted on the November 3rd, 2010

It’s still too early to yet find much homegrown, morning after opinion of the meaning of yesterday’s big and messy skid downward for the Democratic Party in the 2010 midterm elections. In the meantime, here are some quotes and other stuff I’ve found that may be of interest.

From Jeremy P. Jacobs at the National Journal (“Starting Lineup: After The Storm“):

Good Wednesday morning. Here’s what’s on the radar: Republicans deliver a Democratic bloodbath in the House; Democrats hold off the Republican tidal wave in the Senate; GOP picks up eight governorships to the Democrats’ one…

From Paul Begala at The Daily Beast (“Election Night Fallout“):

It’s jobs, stupid. That’s the lesson I take from this election. For all the bloviating that Americans hated Speaker Pelosi, or opposed Obamacare, or wanted to shrink the federal government, this election was about jobs. If the unemployment rate had been 4 percent instead of 9.6 percent (and by the broader U6 measure, 17 percent), Obamacare would be beloved. If we were creating jobs by the hundreds of thousands there would be no Tea Party. If the economy were humming like it was under President Clinton, no one would be wringing their hands about President Obama’s inability to emote.

From Alan Fram for The Associated Press (“Exit poll: Ailing economy, tea party fuel GOP”):

The exit poll also pointed to problems for Obama as he considers a 2012 re-election bid. In a sign of his diminished luster, hardly any first-time voters went to the polls Tuesday despite campaign-trail pleas – a contrast to 2008, when about 1 in 10 voters were new and strongly backed Obama.

Independents supported him solidly two years ago but on Tuesday disapproved of his job performance by almost 3-2. They were also pivotal for Republican candidates, giving them about 55 percent of their votes after leaning solidly Democratic in Obama’s 2008 presidential race and the 2006 midterms that saw Democrats win congressional control.

From Amanda Paulson at the Christian Science Monitor (“Amid big Republican gains, House gets more polarized”):

In many cases, those Democrats lost despite amassing relatively conservative voting records and opposing key Obama Administration initiatives.

At the same time, it was a banner night for many conservative, tea-party-anointed Republican candidates.

More from National Journal, this by Ron Fournier (“GOP Gains Control of House, Narrows Dem Lead in Senate”):

With unemployment at 9.6 percent nationally, interviews with voters revealed an extraordinarily sour electorate, stressed financially and poorly disposed toward the president, the political parties, and the federal government.

About 4 in 10 voters said they were worse off financially now than they were two years ago, according to preliminary exit poll results and preelection surveys by the Associated Press. More than 1 in 3 said their votes were an expression of opposition to Obama. More than half expressed negative views about both political parties. Roughly 40 percent of voters considered themselves supporters of the conservative tea party movement. Less than half said they wanted the government to do more to solve problems.

From James Burnett, Rolling Stone (“Things We Learned at the Midterms“):

–A hard-line stance on immigration isn’t the winning position some GOP candidates and their consultants seem to think it is. Just ask Angle, Carly Fiorina, and Tom Tancredo.

From Michael Tomasky, blogging for the Guardian (“Midterm election results: the fight Obama now faces”):

Come next year, Obama will need to do two opposite things simultaneously. He will have to move to the middle on some issues. Independents, who backed him in 2008, left his party in massive numbers this year. If he can’t get a big chunk of them back, he will not be re-elected in 2012.

But he also has to fight. Republicans will pick fights, and they’ll think they can roll him. And they will hold a constant parade of hearings investigating the administration, trying to snare some big administration fish (maybe Obama himself?) in a perjury or obstruction of justice trap.

Republicans play for keeps. And now, Obama is going to have to, too. It’s a long and grim way from 2008.

Also from the Guardian, a video offering glimpses of a few conspicuous winners and losers (“US midterm election results herald new political era as Republicans take House”):

Not only candidates

But there were important things in play yesterday other than just Democratic and Republican candidates. There also were various voter referendums around the country. One that was most closely watched was the initiative calling for legalization of marijuana in California. It lost.

Or did it really? From Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone (“California’s Prop 19: Just Say…Maybe Next Time”):

Prop 19 actually provides a textbook lesson in “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.” Strong public support for legalization gave the state legislature and the Governator cover to decriminalize marijuana a month ago. In early October, they overhauled California law so that there’s no longer any sanction for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana. Smoking dope is now an infraction — like a parking ticket. No felony. No misdemeanor. If you get hassled by a cop, the worst thing that’ll happen to you is you have to pony up a $100 fine.

And now to finish this saga of opining

As a dismal illustration that the more things change the more they remain the same, I end the round-up with this. One thing that definitely didn’t alter in yesterday’s election (except in tiny glimmers here and there) is that in the U.S. Congressional landscape white men still rule.

For a whole bunch of pictures that speak volumes about this, take a look at this photo roster of the new group of freshmen Congressional members. Again from the National Journal, see here (“Meet the Newcomers of the 112th Congress”).

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A Contrarian Musing: Will Democrats lose big in tomorrow’s elections?

Posted on the November 1st, 2010

For an informed perspective on tomorrow’s USA midterm elections, I asked my political scientist friend back home, who occasionally writes posts for me under the nom de plume of A Contrarian Musing, to offer some of his thoughts about what may happen with the voters and why. For round-ups of pollsters’ predictions of tomorrow’s outcome, see here and here.

Tomorrow is the day of the 2010 midterm election in the U.S., and there is widespread opinion among pollsters and pundits that the Democratic Party will suffer substantial losses to the Republicans. If this proves to be true, much of the failure of the Democrats can be attributed to the poor performance of the economy and the general public’s impression that President Obama has delayed acting on policy changes that his supporters in the 2008 election expected from him.  When this is combined with the tendency of mid-term elections to go against the political party holding the Presidency, the result is an anti-Democrat popularity problem that demands extraordinary political competency to overcome.

It is understandable, and necessary, that the Democrats have fought back in their own defense with a long list of compelling reasons why they are not the cause of the economic problems, and why the President has delayed action on expected policy changes. Excuses, however, have only a limited power in countering public disapproval of a Party’s failure to overcome obstacles to its success.

The one thing the President and the Democrat leaders in the House and Senate could have done to counter the public’s disappointment in them (thereby giving their excuses more justification) would have been to persuade the American public that bringing down unemployment was, by far, their number one interest. Instead, the Democrats allowed health care reform and the rescue of the financial system to dominate the public’s perception of their agenda and policy priorities.

The Democrats have convincing excuses why this situation prevailed. One thing they can’t explain, however, is the President’s failure (unlike President Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression of the 1930s) to emotionally connect in a more dramatic, visible, and vigorous way with the emotional angst the public reportedly is feeling. The causes for the anxiety are high unemployment and the hardships that attend it, the lack of financing available to small businesses, and the drag on all things in the economy that this creates.

In the end, the Democrats’ popularity problems could have been greatly reversed by the President. He could have done this, firstly, by demonizing the big financial interests who oppose him or who have contributed to the recession, and, secondly, he could have seemed fully engaged, with all of his emotional and policy advocacy energies focused on reduction of unemployment through jobs’ creation.

Instead, the President has presented himself as the patient, policy plodder, and as the defender of the wealthy as the great hope for the country’s economic recovery. He may well be correct in the reasonableness of his actions. The middle class and poor, however, feel that he has somewhat emotionally deserted them. This perception has opened the door for the rise of the weird, the radical, and the scapegoating opposition candidates.

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