With 36% of those eligible voting, an older, whiter, less-gay electorate than the one that re-elected Obama in 2012 delivered both houses of Congress to Republican control. In other words, the people who watch FOX beat the heck out of the people who watch MSNBC.
The low turnout and the composition of the electorate are typical for off-year elections. Democrats seem to need a visionary-type figure at the top of the ticket (Kennedy, Obama) to drive turnout in elections. Republicans turnout all the time.
The difference between the two parties is amply illustrated by a couple of old adages, possibly attributable to Chris Matthews: 1. Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line. 2. Republicans want a leader; Democrats want to have a meeting.
The challenge for Republicans in the legislative branch will be discipline. They showed good discipline in terms of candidate selection in the last election. Very few, if any, of their candidates were so heavily laden with baggage that they were uncompetitive from the start.
Now, it will require discipline of another sort. They have power. Will they be prudent in its exercise?
Old hands like House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell are tough survivors … not necessarily “movement” conservatives. They're going to have to give some of their firebrands from deep red states and districts something to do without letting them blow up the joint.
There are a couple of items on the horizon that are catnip for the Obama Derangement Syndrome Wing of the Republican party. They are Immigration and Iran.
On immigration, Obama is committed to doing something under his Executive power by the end of this year if the House of Representatives does not act on the Immigration Bill the Senate passed June 27, 2013 by a vote of 68-32 with 14 Republicans voting in the affirmative. House Speaker John Boehner will not bring the legislation up for a vote because of objections by the far right wing of his caucus.
Obama has to keep his commitment to act by year end. When he does, it will hit the fan.
So much the better.
On Iran, we're close to a deal that would freeze Iran's development of nuclear capability at a level that Israel, who has a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons, was at 50 years ago. Iran, in return, would get relief from sanctions.
Israel will not be subtle in its efforts to queer any deal the President may be able to reach with Iran. As always, Israel will get a sympathetic audience in Congress. In the population at large, less so.
The conventional wisdom holds that Barack Obama has been weakened by the midterms and that he wasn't that strong a leader in the first place.
With his job approval rating hovering around 41%, I'm not going to debate those assertions.
I do, however, think he is a strong counter-puncher. If the Republicans lose their discipline and over-reach, up to and including impeachment, I like Obama's chances to beat them and finish strong with a closing approval rating approaching 55%.
I will post again on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 (or before, if the news flow dictates) and, for the time being, I will post on the first Wednesday of each month.
Comments are welcome at tomc[at]wednesdayswars[dot]com. Comments will be addressed in subsequent posts.