Filed under: Election 2010
Recently, political commentators (and people who work in the study abroad office that come interrupt class for 15 minutes) have been discussing the possibility that the 2010 Congressional elections could resemble the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 during the Clinton Administration.
It is not doubtful that the Republican party is poised to win many seats in the House and the Senate in 2010, possibly resulting in a Republican takeover of Congress. In political science, this phenomenon – the President’s party loses seats in Congress during the first midterm election following his presidential election – is called surge and decline. The surge corresponds to the increased support for the President’s party during the presidential election which saw him elected (Obama’s Democratic support in the 2008 election), while the decline corresponds to the decrease in support for the President’s party during the first Congressional election (the Democrats losing seats in the House and Senate during the 2010 midterms).
Saying that the Republicans have a better chance of gaining seats in 2010, like the did in 1994, just show the phenomenon of surge and decline in the works. 2002 stands in contrast to the idea of surge and decline – mostly because of factors like the War on Terror and 9/11 drove up support for President Bush, the Republicans, and incumbent Congressmen in general.
But, looking beyond political theories, 2010 doesn’t quite resemble 1994 as much as the media and some seemingly politically knowledgeable people may make it sound.
First – The Democratic take over of the current Congress began with the 2006 midterms and expanded during the 2008 election. In 1994, the Democrats had been in power since the era of Truman (1948).
Second – The 1994 midterms saw a united Republican Party, centered around Gingrich’s Contract for America platform. 2010 sees a united Republican Party centered around fighting all Democratic initiatives. Yet, internal Republican Party has seen increasingly large divisions between its Tea Party, social conservative (evangelical), and fiscal conservative factions – creating a split Republican electorate and a divided party platform.
Finally – Many consider 1994 as the cumulation of the formation of the solid Republican South – with Southerners kicking out incumbent Democratic Representatives in favor of more socially conservative Republicans. 2010 shows no parallel to this – as no section of the nation has changed party affiliations that drastically from 1994 – 2008 in favor of the Republican party (in fact, most areas of the country post-2002 have seen a surge in Democratic support).
2010 may turn out like 1994, but the reasons for this change are inherently different. America is more partisan than ever before – if anything, the 2010 midterm elections will serve to drive the parties further apart in platform forcing a further separation of the nation as well (which could lead to party crossover in the electorate – a factor that drives electoral realignments).
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