By Ryan Hoover
With a swift, deep cut into the political balance, Republicans have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives after gaining more than 60 seats, as well as shortening the divide in the Senate by gaining six more seats.
Through intense campaigning and assistance from the newly formed Tea Party movement, the GOP reversed their fates from the 2008 election where Democrats took control of the presidency and the two congressional chambers.
The Political Science Department hosted a forum and question and answer time in which Dr. Sean Evans, chair of the department, Dr. Hunter Baker and Dr. Gregory Ryan, both associate professors of political science, discussed the ramifications and trends of the election.
In a recap of the election results, Evans said the country is still evenly split between the two parties, but the independent voters make the difference.
In the presidential vote in 2008, Barack Obama received 20 percent more of the independent vote than John McCain. However, in the congressional elections of 2010, Republican candidates’ results mirrored 2008 by receiving 20 percent more of independents’ votes.
Evans also said the results of the election were a clear rejection of the Democratic Party’s agenda and their lack of focus on the biggest problem facing Americans: the economy.
“The past two elections have been retrospective votes based on the majority party’s lack of performance,” Evans said. “Voters are punishing the parties and we learned that Obama was a ‘moment’ not a ‘movement.’”
Baker said the vote reflected similar concerns of the 2006 midterm elections during George W. Bush’s second term in office.
“Citizens were weary of the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East,” Baker said. “In the same way, Americans are concerned about Obama’s handling of the financial crisis facing our country.”
While the first agenda of the Obama administration was to reform healthcare, which succeeded insofar as the bill was passed into law within his first term, Baker said it was a large part of the problem in 2010.
“Obama’s big campaign slogans read ‘Hope’ and ‘Change,’ but what I think Americans wanted was ‘Prudence’ and ‘Wisdom,’” Baker said.
Although many consider this a victory for Republicans, Baker said the GOP has major concerns, beginning with factions within the party.
The general assumption is that the Tea Party contributed largely to the win, however, only 32 percent of its endorsed candidates won their race. Among those losing were the high-profile candidates, such as Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, in which the Tea Party invested significant amounts of money.
The Tea Party’s conservative ideals have also produced more conservative representatives, eliminating moderate Republicans. Evans described the phenomenon as a “polarization of the parties,” leading to more division in Congress.
“If the theory of the bell curve is correct, the two parties are moving away from the center, which is where most Americans’ ideologies fall,” Evans said.
The division between parties is evident to Baker, who said Congress is facing an eminent “gridlock.”
“Democrats have stated they will not budge on social security and Republicans say they will not budge on the (Bush administration) tax cuts,” Baker said. “Something has got to give for the financial crisis to be solved.”
Evans echoed Baker’s comments by stressing the importance of cooperation by Republicans to find common ground.
“It behooves (Republicans) to make compromises with Obama,” Evans said. “Whoever wants change more will find the common ground … and become grown-ups.”
Ryan said he believes the gap in policy is too wide to produce successful outcomes and the irregularity of party dominance provides a lack of stability for Congress.
While he said domestic policy might not undergo significant change, Ryan did say American foreign policy will transform dramatically, eliminating the concept of “Pax Americana,” or the American “quest” to bring peace to the world.
“The poor economy is forcing America to stop international policing,” Ryan said. “Countries will have to begin fending for themselves.”
As the professors discussed the future of the country, the consequences for each party and the questions posed by students, all three concluded in one accord: Americans will have to learn responsibility and scarcity.
Evans said the year 2017 would be a “catastrophic” year in American history if the financial crisis is not corrected. In 2017 the Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted if the current course continues.