Pocketbook plays huge role in politics

Politics is like a pendulum. It swings back and forth. It is much like the economy, which is either up or down. In fact, political fortunes are intertwined with the ups and downs of the economy. Indeed they often run concurrently.
A political novice could take a look at the 2008 Presidential race and easily conclude that Barack Obama was elected president because of the economy. Our country is in the worst economic throes since the Great Depression. It began under George W. Bush’s watch.
Therefore, only a Democrat could have won the White House.
Obama adroitly outmaneuvered Hillary Clinton in the obscure caucuses and wrestled the Democratic nomination from her. After garnering the mantle of Democratic nominee, he was destined to beat whoever the Republicans nominated. As the Republican nominee McCain was saddled with the Bush legacy and economy.
There is an old political maxim which often runs true and that is that more people will vote against something or someone than for somebody. The 2008 election was a referendum on George Bush and the economy. It was very similar to the 1932 election when Franklin Delano Roosevelt crushed Herbert Hoover and the Republican Party in the early days of the Great Depression. The same scenario occurred in 1992 when Bill Clinton upset George Bush, Sr. The economy was in the doldrums and Clinton defeated an incumbent president.
The mantra made famous by Clinton’s campaign guru James Carville was, “It’s the economy stupid.”
The political pendulum has definite historic trends.
It is a given that the party that wins the White House loses seats in Congress two years later in the midterm elections. This has happened without fail historically. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is bracing for this historic inevitability. However, they are hoping it is not more pronounced than normal.
The economy is in no better shape than it was two years ago when Obama was elected. It is now Obama’s economy. The unemployment rate has escalated to the highest since the Depression era.
The pendulum is poised to swing hard against the Democrats in the congressional races this year.
What about here in Alabama? We are such a red state when it comes to federal races and national politics that we may not be a good weathervane for the national pendulum prognosis.
We and the other deep south states are more like an island or bastian of conservatism. Alabamians tend to vote for the Republican nominee for president regardless of the economic situation.
Our politics is more black and white. White Alabamians tend to vote for Republicans. Black Alabamians tend to vote for Democrats. The Republican generally wins the state because there are more whites than blacks in Alabama. This is unlike the rest of America, which is becoming more like a melting pot. The Hispanic vote is becoming the most pivotal ingredient to victory on the national scene.
Most national political observers are predicting a 20 seat pick up by the Republicans in this year’s midterm congressional races. Not only is there a historic precedent to back up their prognostications but the polling portends the momentum.
We in Alabama have already contributed one pick up to the GOP challenge. Parker Griffith’s switch to the Republican Party during the Christmas holidays gave them an early start on the surge without having to win the seat at the ballot box. This 5th District Tennessee Valley seat has been in the Democratic column for over 120 years. It remains to be seen whether a Republican can be elected in this historic Democratic region of North Alabama.
Nationally the tea leaves indicate that there is more intensity and fervor among Republican voters this year.
There appears to be more apathy and lethargy among the voters who turned out to elect Obama as president.
Young voters in northern and swing states seem to be more lethargic and apathetic toward voting in the upcoming midterm elections.
This could spell disaster for the national Democrats. If the Republicans supersede the predicted 20 seat pick up and get to 44 they take control of the U.S. House. The Republicans are also expecting to pick up between 4 to 6 seats in the U.S. Senate.
We will see.
See you next week.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 75 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

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