It’s the economy, Barack: On the hot seat we find President Barack Obama, who was slapped in the face by voters in off-year elections Tuesday. His mandate for change from 2008 is gone, along with the large margins the Democrats enjoyed in the U.S. House and Senate. Of course, Obama could be re-elected. Bill Clinton recovered from the 1994 Republican off-year landslide to thump Bob Dole in 1996. Ronald Reagan faced a horrible economy his first two years in office and was all but written off after Democratic gains in 1982, yet he crushed Democratic nominee Fritz Mondale in 1984. However, it remains to be seen if Obama is anywhere near as skillful a politician as Clinton and Reagan. And Obama, very likely, will run in 2012 with the economy still in the ICU. If so, he will probably lose, no matter what else he has accomplished.
We’re mad as hell: The angry, volatile American voters, be they card-carrying Tea Partiers or not, are in the limelight. The voters called the tune this election, and politicians in both parties were made to dance. In 1994, Republicans leveraged voters’ doubts about Bill Clinton, but they also stirred some interest with their so-called “Contract With America,” a seemingly effective PR move. In 2010 the Republicans didn’t have to do much of anything. They unveiled their “Pledge to America,” but I don’t think anybody paid much attention. The Republicans in Congress will now have to deliver something to the people who elected them. After shifts to the center-left in 2006 and 2008, and a hard right turn in 2010, American voters seem capable of flipping again in 2012 and punishing Republican candidates.
Good luck, Doc: Alabama’s new governor is on the hot seat. Dr. Robert Bentley is stuck with the job of attempting to actually govern this eternally backward state. All of his platitudes about resisting the unwarranted intrusions of the big, bad federal government into our lives and about standing up for states rights may have played well in his TV ads and made great applause lines at the pancake breakfasts and rubber-chicken fundraisers on the campaign trail, but they won’t help him govern. The antiquated Alabama constitution holds the state back. The tax system is a regressive joke. We seem incapable of properly and consistently funding our schools. Alabama, like many other states since the economic meltdown, is in crappy financial shape. And the state government has no meaningful ethics enforcement. Good luck, Dr. Bob. Keep talking to God.
Historic change: The new Republican majorities in the Alabama State House and Senate are certainly in the limelight. Yeah, that Bentley dude won the governor’s race, but that’s nothing. The state has elected several Republican governors—Bob Riley, Fumbling Fob James, that pathetic moron Guy Hunt. But this will be the first time since 1874—in the waning days of Reconstruction—that the Alabama legislature will not be controlled by Democrats. This is remarkable. Democratic majorities in the state legislature had remained in place for 136 years. They had persisted even despite the fact that Republican presidential candidates, including the hugely popular Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, have carried Alabama in virtually every election beginning in 1964. The transformation of Alabama into a Republican state is now complete. Richard Nixon, architect of the Republican race-baiting “Southern Strategy” of the 1970s, is smiling somewhere in Hell.