American voters turned thumbs down on Democratic incumbents across the country, erasing Democratic gains of the last two elections. Heading into yesterday’s election, Republicans controlled 178 House seats, and needed to win 39 new seats to take the majority. According to The Associated Press, they had won 57 seats by early this morning, the largest gain by either party since 1948.
Although this is obviously a massive repudiation of the Barack Obama/Nancy Pelosi’s government agenda, the Democrats do seem set to hold onto the Senate. And surprising to some, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid survived the anti-incumbent wave, albeit with a thin majority of seats to lead in the U.S. Senate.
Conservative opposition to the recent healthcare law, a rising anti-government Tea Party movement and independents’ disappointment with Obama’s failure to deliver on promises to change Washington, coupled with a general economic restiveness, all helped seal the fate of Democratic control of the House.
The Tea Party movement made its mark last night after only a couple of years in existence, setting up a trend of fewer moderate Democrats and an increase in the degree of conservatism among the Republicans. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out over the next two years.
It would be a mistake, however, for Republican leaders to see this as an endorsement of their congressional performance over the past two years. The turbulence in U.S. politics, I believe, has more to with public dislike of incumbents and political parties in general than about Americans changing their minds about which party they prefer.