There is a growing consensus that the state and congressional elections of November 2nd, 2010 are heading toward a climatic outcome that may profoundly shift the political direction of the United States. These are referred to in the journalistic vernacular as “wave” elections, where not only vulnerable politicians lose their elected office, but politicians in so called “safe seats” are swept away in a rising tide of voter anger. Multiple examples of wave elections are present in electoral history. A classic example is the election of 1994, when the Republican party took over 50 seats to sweep into power and take the house majority for the first time in over 40 years. In review of classic wave elections, it is often forgotten what the forces that catapulted winning party into such a dominant position in the voter’s mind, and the reasons are often mis-represented. In 1994, the journalistic mantra is that the public accepted the positive role of the “Contract With America” as the primary reasoning behind the forceful public decision. Careful polling, however, indicated that in 1994, the general voter’s acknowledgement of the existence of a “Contract with America” was in the minds of less than 20% of those who polled for the republican candidates that year. The true reason for most “wave” elections is a fairly simple one -revulsion for the tactics of the party in power – rather than any positive impressions of the party out of power. If there is such a wave election this year, the reason will be little different.
The public’s perception of a ruling party’s arrogance about the role of public opinion is usual catalyst of electoral collapse of the party in power. For some time the disconnect between the public’s perception of change they thought they voted for in 2008 – fiscal sanity, government transparency, and government accountability – has become more and more ingrained. Current congressional job approval is only 23% with 72% disapproval and generic polling for whether the country is on the right track (31.8%) versus wrong track (61.2%) represents a crushing 29.4% negative interpretation of the current Democrat Party policy direction. There is no voter gasoline stronger than the sense by the voting public that leaders are acting in “anti-democratic” fashion, ignoring time and time again the priorities identified by the voter. Promised fiscal sanity, the voter is presented with the ballooning deficits and scatter-shot stimulus spending that seems to have no identifiable productive logic or constructive goal. Promised government transparency, the recognition of dramatic back room deals to special interests and clumsy bills with thousands of pages of hidden agendas voted through without the barest public or legislative vetting is seen time and time again. Promised government accountability, the current congress has been unable to come together sufficiently to present or vote on a proposed budget, despite overwhelming party majorities.
The democrat party in power has been assuming all along a relative ripple on the pond voter reaction that will allow them to permanently secure their policy agendas. The current response to the public angst about the direction the country is headed? You guessed it; a proposal for another 50 billion in stimulus. Being a successful politician has in recent decades been about controlling the power of money to win elections – more money, more electoral wins. This election season something different seems to be afoot – politicians who capably use their five senses – touching the pulse of the public, hearing the public concern about the country’s future, acknowledging the rotten smell of an establishment suckled on money, seeing the future for what it is and acting on it, may yet ride a tsunami wave on the fifth sense this year – the satisfying taste of overwhelming victory.