Post midterm election analysis ranges from partisan pronouncements of doom or gloom to debates about the long term implications of the election. Over-reactions and long term forecasting tend to make the false assumption that we have clear knowledge about the trajectory of the US political process many years or decades into the future. The reality is that unpredictable short term economic swings are often the dominant driver of elections. As we discussed previously, major shifts have occurred in the House in at least 6 elections in the last 40 years -- simply put, shift happens and will continue to happen.
This shifting of power is a positive reflection of American democracy, to be contrasted with other countries where the ruling party has consistently maintained power for decades (for example, LDP ruled Japan almost continuously from 1955 to 2009).
To discuss the implications of the midterm election, we again chatted with Brett Di Resta, a political consultant and adjunct professor at George Washington University where he lectures on opposition research and campaigns.
HSF: Previously you discussed the idea that the 2006 and 2008 elections may indicate a trend of increasing voter activity among the younger generation. In the 2010 elections, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement estimated that approximately 20% of U.S. citizens under 30 voted, down from nearly 55 percent in the 2008 presidential election and about 23 percent in the 2006 midterm election.
Mr. Di Resta: There were two major trends observed in the election, seniors showed up and young people didn't. Senior citizens made up 16% of the voting of the population in 2008 and 24% in 2010. Because seniors tend to vote more conservatively, this provided a major push for the Republicans. It was also observed that women moved away from the Democratic Party though that is partially explained by the senior citizen voting trend.
HSF: Some have suggested that the 2010 Republican landslide in state legislatures will result in even more gerrymandering and a solidification of the Republican dominance in the House. What's the risk of this occurring?
Mr. Di Resta: Very high. Democrats lost a lot of state legislatures which opens the door to more gerrymandering. One thing many people don't realize is that gerrymandering has exacerbated the problem of partisan politics -- the safer your district the less likely you are to compromise.
HSF: Many people are still scratching their head over Alvin Greene. What happened there?
Mr. Di Resta: The main communication mode in media is TV. In a democratic primary where no money is spent on TV, a lot of people just pull the first name on the ballot. Do I think it was a plant by the Republicans? Probably, but in fairness to Republicans, the Democrats got busted doing similar things in the past.
HSF: Many have suggested that Mike Bloomberg will make a run as an independent in 2012. What scenario would make him more or less likely to run?
Mr. Di Resta: Bloomberg is a lot more viable than people in the Northeast would like to think. He could tip a state like New Hampshire or New Jersey to Republican or at least put them back into play. A guy like Bloomberg cannot win the presidency since there is no way he will take anything in the South. The South is a socially conservative place that will not connect with his pro-choice position. If Bloomberg is running because he thinks he can win, I think he is mistaken. If he is running because he thinks he can pull the Republicans back or make a viable third party movement (fiscally conservative but socially liberal -- Blue Dog Democrats) then it is a possibility. He poses no threat to the Republicans and a major threat to the Democrats.
HSF: Bloomberg barely was re-elected in the NYC mayoral race after spending $102 million of his own fortune -- about $174 per vote. His re-election involved the city council changing the term-limit laws reminding many people of caudillo-style leadership. How much do you think Bloomberg will be hurt by the perception that he has used his influence to override publicly endorsed term limits and then buy elections?
Mr. Di Resta: Bloomberg's chances depend on the economy. If the economy is bouncing back then it will be harder. If the Republicans nominate Romney then Bloomberg won't run. If Palin or someone else that alienates many voters gets the Republican nomination then there's a good chance Bloomberg will try.
HSF: Last minute thoughts on 2010 politics?
Mr. Di Resta: Probably one of the biggest concerns I have now is that politics has reached a time where facts don't matter anymore.
Follow Howard Steven Friedman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/howardsfriedman