A look into the US midterm election results

By: Anne Elica


The American Republican party won a majority of Congress seats in the midterm elections. In a discussion at the Frontline Club last night, BBC Radio 4’s Broadasting House Paddy O’Connell asked Bill Barnard (chair of Democrats Abroad UK), Tom Grant (chair of Republicans Abroad UK) and Felicity Spector (American politics expert for Channel 4 News) about their thoughts on this landslide victory.

Since Democrats maintained their majority in Senate, someone from the floor wanted to know how a divided House would be able to operate. Mr Barnard, who has a background in history, said this was not the first time in American history for such a situation to emerge.

He said: “This happened before under Eisenhower and the first Bush. But we’re not sure if it will work now because the divide is deeper and the ideologies are much more different”

Some in the media certainly seem to think of it as a tug-of-war scenario where Republicans will try to overturn most of Obama’s policies. An article in the International Business Times said that the “Republican win spells more chaos for US".

But Dr Grant recalled the words of John Boehner (a Republican from Ohio and the House-speaker-in-waiting) who emphasized on finding ways to collaborate and work together for the country.

Did the midterm election results indicate a failure of Obama as a communicator? Someone from the floor noted that even Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy, who were serious communicators, had dips in popularity.

Ms Spector said: “He didn’t focus enough on the people on the suburbs or streets… who voted Democrat for the first time. Obama said ‘I didn’t tell you enough of what I was doing.’ There’s nothing as fickle as an independent voter,”

She noted that his main campaign message was telling people that ‘things could have been worse if I weren’t around’. Which, truly, doesn’t have the desired impact on someone who just lost his job and house.

But more than a faulty political message, Ms Spector thinks that the big issue which influenced voters is the economy.

“In two years, if the economy improves, then Democrats are back in. His message now is “it would be worse if I weren’t here” and it doesn’t work. The key to Obama’s success is finding a way to work with the Republicans to put the country back on to firmer grounding,”

As Obama goes about finding common ground, long-time Republicans in the House must themselves think about how to work with first-time seat winners who belong to the Tea Party movement.

Who are they and what are they like? Dr Grant said that it was hard to define members of the Tea Party movement.

He said: “It’s a multi-headed thing, there are no set organizers, one group may differ from another,”

It seems that interesting times are ahead for this American coalition government.