The results are in, mostly. Barack Obama will reside in the White House for 4 more years, democrats will retain control of the Senate and republicans will keep the House of Representatives. After what seemed like an endless campaigning war, did the electorate provide a clear mandate? On the surface, it would seem like we went through this whole exercise and came out changing nothing. After all, the composition of the government has not changed as a result of this election. However, I find myself more optimistic for the following reasons:
(1) In re-electing Barack Obama, the electorate has made a clear choice on who they think would be more adept at the country’s helm now. This is important considering that Obama won re-election in an economy with the unemployment rate at 7.9%. To find an incumbent who won under such conditions would require us to go back to the days of FDR. In exit polls throughout the country, voters identified the policies of George Bush as the main reason for our current economic woes. To me, this indicates either a more informed electorate.
(2) Anyone who looks at the margins of victory in both presidential and congressional races will agree that the country is extremely polarized. As a result, the composition of government has not changed a lot. Most moderate candidates were either forced to retire (for instance, Olympia Snowe) or were ousted in the 2010 elections/2012 primaries (Richard Lugar, for example). While this is disappointing, it also forces us to find new ways of compromise. Either democrats and republicans will learn to forge working solutions together or more independent candidates will/should likely be elected in the future. The northeast has already provided us with two such examples in the Senate.
(3) In a controversial decision in 2010, the US Supreme Court cleared the way for large undisclosed contributions to further muddy the already distasteful process of electoral campaigns. The current election cost nearly $ 6 billion (a small stimulus package), almost two-thirds of which was spent by super PACs! In light of the current results, I hope these donors conduct a cost-benefit analysis of their investments. I also hope that this misadventure will pave the way for some necessary electoral reforms.
Overall, I was happy with the results, especially in the presidential election. It’s time to take a deep breath and begin anew.