US midterm elections and why a Republican victory could help Obama

By Paige Gresty

With campaigning ahead of the US Midterm elections heating up, what affects might the poll have on President Obama and his administration in the long run?

Much of this Frontline Club panel discussion was devoted to the rise of the Tea Party, a hard right-wing conservative political movement in America spearheaded by Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

If you couldn’t be with us for this event, you can watch it here:

Panelist Dr Thomas D Grant, chair of Republicans Abroad UK, argued that the independent Tea Party movement had an advantage on both the Democrats and Republican parties in terms of energy, but saw potential for a coalition-type agreement between Republicans and the Tea Party.

Grant also focused on the idea that the perceived racism inherent in the Tea Party is symptomatic of the views of a section of middle America voiced by both Republicans and Tea Party supporters which in his words encompasses some “disappointing” views.

Bill Barnard, chair of Democrats Abroad UK, and Professor McKeever, Dean of the Faculty of Law Governance and International Relations at London Metropolitan University, saw the Tea Party as a response to a “lack of intellectual coherence in both parties to ameloriate the economic issues of the poor” as caused by the recent financial crisis. Furthermore, McKeever alluded to the acronym “R.I.N.O.,” or “Republican in name only,” as used by Tea Party members to illustrate the dischord between them and Republican supporters.

As for the role of the media in all this, Barnard pointed to the rise of partisan TV news networks as a key factor in the increase in factionalism in the Republican and Democratic parties, and acknowledged this as a key factor in the Tea Party. McKeever noted that the Tea party broadened this polarising gap in the political spectrum, while Grant argued the Tea Party was directly a reaction to “a political system which has not seemed to move” despite continued competitive polarising rhetoric.

Barnard concluded his predictions by quoting Einstein, courtesy of a headline in the London Evening Standard: “You cannot fix a problem with the kind of thinking by the people that created the problem.” He predicted that Democrats would lose 6-7 seats in the Senate, continuing Democratic control, and hoped for only 36 losses in the House of Representatives which would leave a Democratic majority, but was unsure of how the House would ultimately stand.

Grant projected a high Republican voter turnout, with the Senate remaining in Democratic hands and the House of Representatives switching to a Republican majority.

Professor Thomas Mann, an expert on elections, argued that Obama could actually gain politically from a Republican takeover of the house. He said: "Obama can sit back and say ‘Let’s lower our voices’  under heated partisan rhetoric while steaming up democratic activists… A Republican victory in 2010 will mean a victory for President Obama in 2012, granted that GDP grows by 3 percent, and unemployment [lowers] 8 percent."