(REAL TIMES MEDIA)—The results came in last week and the cheering and recriminations have echoed throughout the political world. At the one year anniversary of Barack Obama’s historic election his party supposedly took a huge hit in the polls, losing governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia. You couldn’t switch channels last week without seeing Republican Party chair Michael Steele crowing about his party being on the upswing and how this is simply the beginning of how the GOP is on the comeback trail for the 2010 mid-term elections. I wouldn’t go that far, the major gubernatorial races of 2009 are a mixture of local and very few national issues, and the real revolution that might hit in the 2010 mid-terms isn’t even being talked about.
This isn’t a criticism of most cable and regular news outlets per se. They have a job to do, which is to create a narrative from disparate events and string them together for a television program that’ll be intermittently watched between trips to the bathroom and eating microwave popcorn. It’s hard to tell the whole truth when your audience probably isn’t listening too carefully. But the truth is that all politics is local, and consequently the victories or failures of either party in the 2009 elections probably had less to do with Obama than with the number of potholes on the street or property taxes. When you look at the races around the nation, it is not hard to see that the candidates themselves and not national issues ruled the day.
In the Virginia gubernatorial race it was more of a “correction” than an election. Until President Obama’s election in 2008 Virginia hadn’t gone Democratic since John McCain was in diapers. Half of the state’s governors since 1970 had been Republican and half Democratic. Add that to the fact that Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds ran an awful campaign and didn’t get out the Black or youth vote, it’s pretty clear why he lost. It didn’t matter if Obama came and campaigned for him, Barack wasn’t on the ballot.
The same goes for Democrat John Corzine losing to GOP candidate Chris Christie in the New Jersey governor’s race. More than half of New Jersey’s governors since 1982 have been Republican and again you had a candidate that most voters were unhappy with. John Corzine, a former Goldman Sachs executive was always seen as grumpy and aloof to most voters. You can make the argument that he pretty much bought his way into office in his first election and tried to do it again this time. When you spend more than both of your opponents combined, when you drop almost $32 per vote in your first primary and then still lose the election, maybe the voters just aren’t that into you.
Republicans are hoping that two gubernatorial elections are indicators that Obamania is done and that in 2010 the Democrats are going to be taken to the woodshed by a Republican revolution. This is perfectly possible, but rest assured, beneath the veneer of confidence that the GOP is showing now, they’re no more sure of their fate next year than the Democrats. That’s because a day is a lifetime in politics, and a year is an eternity. Who knows what issues will be on the minds of American mid-term voters in 2010? If we have a lousy economy Democrats will take a hit in the polls. Outside of that anything is possible. The 2002 mid-terms turned on the “D.C. Sniper” getting everyone’s attention, so who knows what next year will bring? The truth is that many Democratic congressional seats in the south and some in the west were only won due to presidential coattails, and with Obama not being on the ballot these folks will have to fend for themselves and they probably won’t win. But that’s a far cry from believing that a year into this administration the wheels are coming off the Obama train.
What would be nice to see next year is a real revolution at the ballot box. Not one that’s been manufactured by Republicans who just hate Obama or Democrats too busy dithering to get anything done, but voters fed up with the state of the nation. Voters who recognize that President Obama through his bail-outs and weak attempts at reform is just as much a shill for the banking and finance industry as George Bush was to the oil and energy industry. Of course that wouldn’t just be a revolution at the ballot box, it’d be the apocalypse for American politics as we know it. And that’s probably why no one is talking about it.
(Dr. Jason Johnson is an associate professor at Hiram College in Ohio.)