The storyline goes like this: Recent elections find voters in an angry, “anti-incumbent” mood.
Time magazine wrote: “This is how it goes in 2010 at the ballot box: old orders are upended, political lions become roadkill, chosen successors get left behind and the outsider, riding a wave of discontent, becomes the new front runner.”
The Associated Press wrote: “It’s an anti-Washington, anti-establishment year. And candidates with ties to either better beware. Any doubt about just how toxic the political environment is for congressional incumbents and candidates hand-picked by national Republican and Democratic leaders disappeared late Tuesday.”
No. Voters said: “It’s not the incumbents, stupid. It’s how they voted. It’s what they stand for.” No incumbent who voted against the Bush/Obama bank bailouts, the “stimulus” package and ObamaCare lost his or her job.
Voters hate the bank bailouts. They hate the government takeover of car companies. They do not believe that the $800 billion stimulus package stimulated anything but bigger government. They reject ObamaCare and think it’s costly and likely to worsen health care. Incumbents who voted for these things now face the music.
Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief that Mark Critz – Democrat and former staffer of the late Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa. – won the special election to succeed Murtha. But the pro-life, anti-gun control Critz said he would have voted against ObamaCare. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Obama/Pelosi/Reid agenda of higher taxes, more spending and bigger government.
At their convention in Utah earlier this month, Republicans dumped incumbent and TARP supporter Sen. Bob Bennett, who also co-sponsored a health care bill that smelled a lot like ObamaCare. In Arkansas, another TARP supporter, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, must go through a June runoff election against a Democrat who painted her as a buddy to Wall Street banks. Calling Lincoln “Bailout Blanche,” her opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, attacked her for taking contributions from Wall Street firms that received bailouts. He called TARP a cozy “Washington and Wall Street” arrangement that allows financial firms to fill “their pockets with insider deals and stick Arkansas families with the bill.”
In March, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, lost her party’s nomination for governor. Her opponent, incumbent Gov. Rick Perry, called her “Kay Bailout” over Hutchinson’s vote for TARP. A Republican libertarian won the GOP primary for Senate in Kentucky.
In Florida, Republicans dumped Gov. Charlie Crist in the primary race for Senate. Crist, in a photo used against him by his opponents, hugged President Barack Obama. He supported the stimulus package. He also supported ObamaCare, a plan rejected by Florida voters, who, according to a Rasmussen poll, favor its repeal 62 percent to 33 percent. His Tea Party-backed opponent, Marco Rubio, former speaker of the Florida House, portrayed Crist as insufficiently fiscally conservative.
In Arizona, former Republican presidential candidate John McCain finds himself in a primary dogfight against former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. McCain did a 180 on “immigration reform” and now supports the new Arizona anti-illegal alien law. McCain famously “temporarily suspended” his presidential campaign during the Wall Street meltdown and voted for the widely unpopular bank bailouts.
The message is clear.
Obama and the Democrats misread the 2008 elections, misunderstood the mood of the people and pursued an agenda that voters neither expected nor wanted. Voters, unlike Democrats and many Republicans, reject the idea that financial firms deserve a taxpayer-paid rescue because they are “too big to fail.”
The No. 1 issue to voters remains the economy. Unemployment sits at nearly 10 percent. Voters think the stimulus either stimulated nothing or had no effect other than spending hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money. Two-thirds of those polled, according to the Pew Research Center, do not believe the stimulus created jobs. Seventy-nine percent of Republicans think it did nothing to create jobs. And only a slim majority of Democrats, 51 percent, think the stimulus helped to produce jobs.
On ObamaCare, Democrats assumed that after its passage, voters would gradually come around to supporting it. They haven’t. A recent Rasmussen poll of likely voters finds that 56 percent want it repealed, versus 39 percent who oppose repeal.
Voters see this administration as a bunch of leftist, redistribute-the-wealth, we-know-better-how-to-spend-your-money-and-run-your-lives-and-manage-your-businesses, smug busybodies. They see an administration that raised the debt and deficit in a year and a half to European-like levels that threaten present and future prosperity. They see an administration that believes fighting global warming takes precedence over jobs and productivity.
Tax revenues have plummeted, while government continues to grow. Banks and other companies that made bad bets or failed to effectively compete are propped up through bailouts that encourage future risky behavior.
People have been out of work for long periods of time. Homeowners are paying on homes worth less than their mortgages. There is a lot of hurt and pain and fear in the streets.
“We Are All Socialists Now,” said Newsweek in a cover story last year. “No,” say the voters. “We are not.”
COPYRIGHT 2010 LAURENCE A. ELDER
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