I have to take my hat off to Kate over at Small Dead Animals (I capitalize because I love) - she brought me in a tonne of visits. In fact, she helped bump this post up to number one, mostly thanks to this post on her blog. Big fish helping out the little fish, eh?
Anyways, her post decided to criticize my post on the basis of the word "anti-incumbent," which I used to describe the mood of the American electorate last night. I feel it's my duty, on behalf of her helping out me, to help her figure out something as well.
I've got two things to explain: the first is quick, easy, and simple to digest. The second is longer. I dunno which suits you more.
Anyways, quick and to the point: Democrats are the government incumbents. "Anti-incumbent" and "anti-Democratic" could be essentially interchangeable. Not hard to see.
Longer version: The Democrats in control of Congress, or formerly I might add, have been the incumbents for 4 years now. That was back in 2006, what you could characterize as a truly "anti-party" wave, given the motivations of voters at the time who were enthralled with the Democrats, and not the Republicans, who they more or less considered scum. This handy graphic helps explain why. And while the Republicans closed that gap, they were still more unfavourable than the Democrats.
What makes this election different from 2006, or 1994, is that this time, both parties were more or less equally thought of as scum among the American population, with a slight edge of scuminess going to the Republicans. In fact, you could point to this election as being somewhat of a Ontario 1990 election , when voters were so disenchanted with the two traditional parties - the governing Peterson Liberals and the Harris Conservatives - that they moved en masse to the Rae NDP, even though they were not necessarily enthralled with them, either. In fact, it was more of a protest vote (at least, as far as I know, it was before my time, and I only have the knowledge of others).
This is what this mid-term has been more than anything - a protest vote. People are upset with the Democrats, to be sure, but even the GOP's "Pledge to America" didn't make waves among the electorate, unlike Gingrich's 1994 "Contract With America." What got attention was the "Fire Pelosi" signs. Essentially, 29 million voters didn't show up, mostly young voters and minorities, this time around to vote for the Democrats. That's what this entire "enthusiasm gap" thing is about. GOP voters, invigorated by the chance to reclaim Congress and the Tea Party, came out to vote. Democrats did not. Independents simply wanted something else other than the incumbent Democrats to contend with. Seeing a common thread, here?
This stew of factors makes the GOP pretty vulnerable, in all honesty. What they do between now and 2012 is going to influence how voters then decide who to choose. There's quite a bit of talk among noted pundits, including Nate Silver, that if nothing improves by 2012, voters will have tried four combinations in four elections - GOP Prez, GOP Congress; GOP Prez, Dem Congress; Dem Prez, Dem Congress; and Dem Prez, GOP Congress. At that time, the American public, frankly, will try to find someone new. It'll be anti-incumbent all over again, with both Dems and the GOP on the menu. I know of a comparable situation in Canada, as well. Are Quebecers thrilled with right-wing policies? Non. The first mention of user-fees at hospitals, and they go berserk. But they do want something new.
Anyways, the entire point is this: this election has been a lot more "anti-incumbent," or if you want, "anti-Democratic," than it has been pro-GOP. Voters, particularly Independents, may have voted Republican, but there's a high probability that they didn't necessarily do it happily. The GOP is simply the "other guys," and they're getting a chance in the sun this time around. If they fuck it up, well, ever hear of Ross Perot?