The Central Irony Of This Election

Posted by | October 5, 2010 18:01 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Midterms are typically a referendum on the sitting president.  This is no different in 2010.  However ,what is odd is that presidents who lost a large number of seats in midterms are seen as having few accomplishments.  Examples include Carter in 1978, Bush in 1990, and Clinton in 1994.  Presidents with legislative successes such as FDR in 1934 and Bush in 2002 typically do reasonably well.  Obama?  Steve Benen says the accomplishments are extensive:

We are, after all, talking about a two-year span in which Congress passed and the president signed the Affordable Care Act, the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform, student loan reform, Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, expanded stem-cell research, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, etc. Policymakers might yet add to this list in the lame-duck session.

Yet the Democrats are clearly in trouble in 2010.  Obama’s opponents despise his successes, and his supporters don’t give him enough credit for them.  This has led to an energized right wing and a lethargic left wing.  The fact that the economy has not recovered makes Democratic prospects even worse.

But there is a very relevant precedent here and it has been cited before. In 1982, Reagan was successful in enacting his chief legislative priorities.  But he had inherited a stubborn recession that was not over by the midterms.  His opponents despised his successes and his base was not energized by them.  The Republicans lost significant ground in 1982 but by 1984, the economy recovered, the Democrats nominated a weak candidate, and Reagan cruised to re-election.  It’s like deja vu all over again.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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