Democrats and liberals are trying to dismiss the significance of the 2010 Elections by blaming the weak economy and an anti-incumbent sentiment, but the elections were about more issues than those.
To the extent the current economy was of concern to the voters in the federal elections, they were focused on the effectiveness of specific fiscal and other policies that affected the economy, more than strictly on the overall state of the economy. They were concerned about the broader effects of those policies in terms of government debt, and the growth of government power at the expense of the liberty of the people. The electorate was also concerned about other issues, such as the right to life, border security and defense. Voters specifically elected or reelected candidates who ran on conservative platforms on these issues over candidates who supported the policies of United States President Barak Obama and the Congressional liberal Democrats.
In Part I of this two-part series of posts, I shall discuss the impact of economic and fiscal issues on the 2010 Elections and examine the anti-incumbency effect. In Part II, I shall focus on the non-economic and fiscal issues in the elections.
Many political commentators, especially liberal ones, state that the public assigns the political party in power (i.e. the party of the president, regardless of which party controls Congress) responsibility for the economy, giving it credit or blame depending upon its condition. As I have noted repeatedly, this popular view is false, because the economy is not the responsibility of government. Although government significantly influences the economy for good or ill, even the federal government lacks authority to command the economy, while the economy is susceptible to forces beyond the control of any government. There is a distinction between strictly holding government responsible for the state of the economy by automatically assigning credit or blame to the party in power, and specifically favoring or disfavoring its specific fiscal or other policies that affect the economy.
In the 2010 Elections, voters were concerned about those specific policies, among other concerns, which reflected their relatively sophisticated understanding of this distinction. They understood that a party in power is not necessarily responsible for the economy, but disapproved of the Democrats' specific policies the electorate regarded as ineffective and too fiscally irresponsible if it they would have been effective.
By unfairly insisting that the party of President George W. Bush, the Republican Party, was responsible for the economic recession, despite the complicity of the liberal Democratic Congressional majority for exacerbating the mortgage crisis by tolerating easy credit, the Democrats were hoist by their own petard, to some degree, after having been in power for the last two years while the economy has remained weak. Although the economy is not the proper standard of measure for the party in power, after having blamed the previous Administration for it and promising to restore the economy, the Democrats thereby accepted the responsibility for the economy and were rightly punished by the voters for the lack of recovery.
Voters did not hold Obama and the Democrats strictly responsible for the lack of economic recovery by comparing economic statistics at the time of Obama’s inauguration until now and holding them to the false standard that government is strictly responsible for the economy, but that, in addition to rejecting specific Democratic fiscal and other policies that affected the economy, the voters held the party in power to its own false standard out of a sense of justice, while they also expressed their dissatisfaction with the broader effects of those policies.
Moreover, even some of the fiscal and other issues that affected the economy were considered by the voters in non-economic terms, in addition to the fairness of judging the Democrats by the same standard by which they blamed Bush and the Republicans. For example, the voters regarded the burgeoning debt as not only an economic, but a moral issue. They also recognized the threat to liberty of the growing power of government, especially the federal government, and they objected even more than usual to the unfairness of welfare statism, once Obama proposed that taxpayers pay for the mortgages of those who were not creditworthy – the policy that sparked the Tea Party movement that is credited with the success of conservative and Republican candidates in the 2009 and 2010 Elections.
The 2010 Elections were not a general anti-incumbent election. An unusually high number of incumbents lost, but they were mostly Democrats. Dozens of incumbent Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives were defeated, as were two incumbent Democratic Senators, in addition to one who lost in the primary. By contrast, the only two Republican U.S. House members who lost had been elected through scandal or by a special election in which more than one Democrat sought election. In particular, about half of the “Blue Dog” Democratic members of the House were defeated. They are called “conservative” by the liberal media, but most of them voted for much of Obama’s spending and expansion of government. The only two Republican incumbent Senators who lost in 2010 were defeated in the GOP primaries by more conservative challengers. Even in the state elections, the only two incumbents who were defeated for governor, for example, were Democrats. The 2010 General Elections were thus not an anti-incumbent election, but an anti-Democratic and anti-liberal election.