Legends of the Mid-Terms

November 10, 2010

Long before election day, the Legends that would be told about the 2010 mid-terms had been written.  Undoubtedly crafted by those they would best serve, the legends were accepted by a gullible public and an infantile media, as a shiny object tossed on the ground might entrance a simpleton.  They repeated the Legends until they had the force of truth:  Republicans are running record numbers of women! —  We will throw the all bums out! — Politics has been transformed by the rise of a new party, the Tea Party!

To find truth, the great mathematician, Karl Friedrich Gauss, urged “whenever possible, one should count.”  That is the difference between Data and Lore, between an enlightened world and a primitive one.  And, when one actually counts the results of the 2010 elections, the Legends fall and the Truth is revealed.


This Was No “Year of the Woman”

Legend tells us that the GOP, spearheaded by the TP, was running vast numbers of women, while Democrats had abandoned female candidates.  This wave of new Republican women in office would rival the gains of 1992’s “Year of the Woman.”  Based at least in part on this belief, significant numbers of women voters shifted their traditional support from the Dems to the GOP.  They were deluded.

Despite a handful of prominent TP female candidates, and a spike in Republican women running for office, women are still woefully underrepresented in the GOP.  As in prior years, 2010 saw women Democrats outnumber their red sisters two-to-one.

2010 Female Candidates

party   S    H    G    tot F     GT     pct of GT

Dem   9    91    5      105    484     22%

GOP   5    47    5        57    504     11%

(Senate, House, Governor; total female, grand total all candidates, female percentage of grand total.  Differences in grand totals reflect unopposed seats.)

As academician, author and former congressional candidate Jennifer Lawless observes, since 77% of the women in Congress were among the vulnerable Democrats, it would have required a vast upswing in female GOP candidates to improve gender balance. Despite the hype, that didn’t happen.  In fact, the RNC “ran women in only three of the 30 races that presented the best opportunities to gain seats.” For the first time in thirty years, the number of women in Congress will actually decrease. Adding insult to injury, “early reports of the new Republican leadership include no women’s names.”

A sub-legend has it that the GOP also ran many more minorities.  This, too, is myth.  Beyond a couple of prominent minority TPers, the face of the Republican Party remained overwhelmingly male WASP.  Only 3 of 37 GOP Senate candidates could be described as minority. One telling stat:  for Congress the GOP ran three times as many white men named “Smith” (6) as it did black women (2).


The “Bums” Are Still Here

During the 2010 campaign a meme, Rovian in its evil genius, took hold: ‘throw all the bums out!’ Given that most of the incumbents up for reelection were Dems, the spread of this mantra could only help the GOP.  Unsurprisingly, 53 Dems but only 2 Republicans were unseated in the House.  Many of these were freshmen in traditionally red districts, blown in by the storm of 2008, vulnerable to the slightest change in wind.

In the Senate, incumbents ran in 23 of the 37 races; 2 lost.  In the House, 378 of the 435 races — 87% — saw incumbents defend their seats.  Twenty-six of them (4 Dem, 22 GOP) ran unopposed.  The rest did extremely well:

House Incumbents, 2010 Mid-Terms

party     Tot       W      L       win pct

Dems    231     179     52     77%

GOP     147      145       2     99%

Both    378      324     54    86%

The numbers don’t lie:  in a year when the voters swore to ‘throw out the all bums’, they instead brought back nine incumbents in ten.  A full three-quarters of the new House will be comprised of these old “bums”.


There is No Tea Party

Legend has it, in 2010 the Tea Party fielded a long slate of newcomers who were swept into office and instantly transformed not only the GOP but the entire political landscape.  Counting tells another story.

The three major TP factions (Palin, Freedomworks, Tea Party Express) issuing endorsements mostly disagreed on who rated as a “genuine” TP candidate.  But looking at the largest slate, that of the Tea Party Express (TPX), it’s hard to detect the revolutionary wave spoken of in the sagas.

In the Senate, TPX endorsements went 10 for 15.  Four of those winners, though, were long-time incumbents, including John Thune, who ran unopposed.  Newbies went 6 for 11, including two of the six pickups.  Of 67 total GOP pick-ups in the House, only 28 were endorsed by TPX.  Forty-nine incumbents, five running unopposed, were on the TPX slate.  Only about 4 in 10 of the ousted Dem incumbents (22 of 51) lost to a TPX-endorsed opponent, whereas 28 of 37 of the rookie TPX winners were found in those vulnerable Dem districts.  Did the Tea Party make those seats vulnerable, or did it merely prey on the already weak?

Newly-minted TP members will comprise but 8.5% of the next House and 6% of the next Senate.  In the final analysis, it seems that the Tea Party is less a new party or faction, than a new name for the old right wing of the Republican Party.


Falling for the Legends

Political extremists have long known the power of the Big Lie.  The Legends of the 2010 Mid-Terms are whoppers.  When an incredulous public, egged on by the mindless parrots of the media, accept these lies, they exert an influence the truth would otherwise deny them.   Don’t fall for the Legends.  Count before you believe.

(c) 2010 by ‘tamerlane.’  All rights reserved.