>While I’m not that old, I’ve picked up on the trends of our country’s election cycle. It’s a cycle that has predictable beginning, middle and end points. It’s also a cycle that’s become as predictable as the expression on your children’s faces when they’re up to no good.
Despite what big media and the talking heads keep telling us, the 2010 midterm elections have not been a surprise Republican sweep. Tuesday’s election didn’t amount to some unexpected tidal wave of voter anger, resentment and frustration with the process. It wasn’t some exotic, new trend in American politics we are barely able to wrap our fingers around.
It’s part of a two-year election cycle in which we–the voters–perpetuate and complain about in the same breath. It’s a pattern in which our politicians routinely partake in every two years. It’s a cycle in which big media facilitate using its role as gatekeeper to keep tabs on how “successful” a president or a Congress has been while in power.
Let’s use the 2008 election for example. Then Sen. Barack Obama is elected on a wave of hope and change, with a record number of young adults flocking to the ranks of his campaign. Also, frustrated with the paralysis and crippled Republican Party, many women and men throw their support behind Obama. Obama, like many politicians, makes grandiose promises, such as reforming health care, reforming the immigration system, implement Wall Street and consumer protection reforms, overhaul the education system in limbo due to No Child Left Behind, end the war in Iraq and giving tax breaks to the middle class. Voters, frustrated with the disillusionment felt under former President George W. Bush, choose to elect a skinny black man with a funny name to try something new.
Obama is elected and he gets into office, with the bonus of having his party control both houses of Congress. He begins to push through his agenda, experiences friction with the all-but-declared-dead Republicans in Congress. The media, in the meantime, use their standard 100-day score card to see how the president is doing–and, as we know, it’s never good enough because three months and 10 days is ample time to get everything done.
The media’s honeymoon phase with Obama fizzles and talking heads begin to focus on the tension between Obama and the Republicans, who’ve fired up their base of angry white men and women by using code words like death panels and Obamacare. We see signs equating Obama with Hitler and Karl Marx, alluding to the long-held stereotype that black politicians are inherently socialists/communists who want to kill whitey and everything whitey stands for: God, guns and freedom. Oh, and the Constitution.
The Tea Party protests are held and Republicans, particularly those looking to secure their chances for re-election, jump on the I-Hate-Socialism bandwagon, waving Don’t Tread on Me flags and posters. Media darlings on the big three cable networks focus intensely on the conflicts, noting the Republicans are starting to show some signs of life. The Tea Party, thirsty for more power, begins to target the establishment and fund insurgent candidates to knock off a few Republican stalwarts. Meanwhile, Obama continues to struggle with cutting through the massive amount of misinformation out there about his health care bill and his plans to overhaul consumer protections. His White House team of strategists seem unable to take control of the message.
Republicans see this and go right for the kill. Angry white men and women begin to mobilize and take advantage of recent campaign finance rulings and begin running anti-Obama ad and tying every local Democratic candidate with the president. The angry white men and women disguise their faces and finances under ominous organizations backing these ads. Swiftboating makes a comeback.
Big media hyperventilate at the tantalizing conflict, recklessly repeating falsehoods by Tea Party activists and Republican fear mongers. Voters, apathetic and frustrated as usual, finally decide to tune in as we are now aware we have to soon elect a new Congress and many statewide officers. But, it’s too late. They inform voters both Democrats and Republicans continue to remain stalled over decisive pieces of legislation. They can’t agree on anything, the correspondents and pundits tell us. Politicians spend their time and money criss-crossing the country, informing them how their friends across the aisle want to make America less safe, privatize Social Security and give our hard-earned jobs to nameless, faceless illegal immigrants. Voters, the predictable lot they are, sticks it to the Democrats and decide to give Republicans a shot at using the next two years to cater to their desires.
This cycle repeats itself every two years as voters routinely toss one party into power while dumping the other in the dust. This so-called “sweeping” Republican victory (which, they didn’t even win the Senate, so I don’t know how sweeping this election was) could have been easily forecast by a third-grade student as the American electorate thinks in order to solve our country’s problems, we should just punish the current party in charge. We punish politicians for not working together by voting for the other guys every two years.
This revolving door in American elections is even encouraged by big media. Big media, solely focused on ratings and bolstering their names and careers, perpetuate the cycle by magnifying the conflict, controversy and partisan bickering and rarely think to change course and vary its coverage of politics.
It’s hard for me to waver from my opinion about the predictability of Tuesday’s election. No, I wasn’t surprised at Tuesday’s “sweeping” victory for Republicans–I could smell it in the air in January 2009.