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Keep the Change - Martha Carr

The mid-term elections 2010 have finally come, and most people have predicted that the Democrats will lose the majority in at least the House and possibly the Senate, giving the nation a sitting President in one party and the House and Senate in the other.

That was not that hard to predict, because the same thing has been happening for a generation at mid-term, with the exception of right after 9/11, when everyone was unsure of what to do next and were galvanized around homeland security.

However, besides 2001, the American electorate have proven themselves to be contrarians and voted in the other party, Democrat or Republican, every other election.

Many are going to chose whichever candidate based on whether or not they seem to have the wherewithal to deliver new jobs to their little corner of the world, and not be calculating what their choice does for the national scene.

Again, except for right after the terrorist attacks on that clear Tuesday morning, it's always been about the economy and jobs. That's because everything outside of our community where we can see it and feel it is theory, but watching our neighbors lose their house or their business is reality. The experience of our own needs always trumps what we might do somewhere else.

As one Independent voter in Iowa put it, she didn't care about the health-care bill or the war in Afghanistan. She only wanted to know when jobs would return to her small town.

While there is barely a majority that votes in presidential election years, such as 2008 when 58 percent went to the polls to vote for Obama, and that was a little high, during the mid-term it's much lower. So, it's difficult to say what the majority of Americans want, or be absolutely certain how things will turn out.

However, regardless of which way the elections are going, before voters start celebrating, there is another little history lesson to keep in mind. Americans have a very short memory when it comes to who we like or don't like on the national playing field.

It doesn't matter if it's a movie star, an athlete or a President who was wildly popular when he was elected, but sank in the polls right before the mid-term elections.

The President I'm thinking of isn't Obama, but Clinton, who was first elected in 1992, but after the mid-term elections of 1994, had to deal with a majority Republican House that openly despised him. The newly elected representatives were sure that the elections that changed the majority signaled the same disgust with Clinton across the U.S. that they felt, and they acted on that assumption.

They sent Clinton a budget in 1995 with a list of demands and cuts in mostly Medicaid, Medicare, education and environmental controls, and basically dared him not to sign it. He took them up on that challenge and refused to sign, even though it meant the government stopped all non-essential services not once, but twice, from Nov. 14th through Nov. 19th, and from Dec. 16th to Jan. 6th of 1996.

The Congressional revolt was led by Newt Gingrich, who then waited for the people to cry out for Clinton's head.

He must have really been surprised when, instead, the public cried out for his and demanded that Congress stop playing games with their time or their money. Clinton actually rose in the polls after that and went on to win a second election.

The same thing could happen for Obama, particularly considering we are still in a difficult and complicated economic situation that will take some time to get out of, no matter who's in charge.

If Republicans win the House and start trying to pass a lot of new legislation or repeal the work that's been done, but end up being unable to create enough new jobs, or at least take the credit, then Obama will be more assured of a second term.

Given how sticky the Great Recession has turned out to be, the Republicans winning the House may turn out to be the best thing that could have happened for Obama. We'll have to wait and see what it does for the rest of us.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. Her latest book is the memoir, "A Place to Call Home." E-mail Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.