Republicans make gains in Congress

This article was published in The Hullabaloo on November 5, 2010.


Reflecting the sweeping national Republican victories in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Louisiana residents elected Republicans in three of four major races.

As forecast by political scientists and pundits alike, Republicans David Vitter, Jeff Landry and Jay Dardenne were each elected to the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and Louisiana Lieutenant Governor position, respectively, while Democrat Cedric Richmond won the House race in New Orleans’ typically liberal 2nd District.

American political science professor Brian Brox said though the state’s political landscape remains largely unchanged following the elections, the Republican Party’s newly acquired majority in the House of Representatives could negatively impact Louisiana.

“Spending on infrastructure, public works projects and earmarks is going to be tight,” Brox said. “Federal assistance to small businesses, job creation — all this stuff is going to be much harder to come by… It looks like a comprehensive energy bill is going to be off the table for the next few years.”

Sophomore Sinnott Martin, meanwhile, said he was pleased with the new Republican House majority and optimistic for future Republican leadership.

“The Republicans are going to have to take a more hands-on approach to the healthcare bill — not just look to repeal it,” Martin said. “There’s going to have to be compromise to get rid of useless spending in the bill and still help more people [with healthcare coverage]. The big thing is we have to cut spending.”

The wide disparities between the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-run Senate will prove challenging for President Barack Obama to pass his legislative agenda.

“It’s going to be really ugly — total gridlock,” said junior James Diamond, citing Congress’ problems with passing legislation during the past two years without the added issue of split-party majorities in the House and Senate.

While the Tea Party helped Republicans mobilize their political base and gain votes, the ideological divide between mainstream Republicans and their more right-leaning Tea Party allies may prove to be a challenge for conservatives.

“Up until Tuesday, the Republican Party and the Tea Party were best friends,” Brox said. “Now, their relationship is more uneasy because they want different things. The Republican party wants power and majorities. They don’t want to be seen as obstructionist, or unable to govern, so they would compromise [with the Democrats more readily] than the Tea Party, which is committed to ideological purity in small government and low taxes.”

The Tea Party is popular — four in 10 voters Tuesday claimed support for the movement in exit polls Tuesday according to The New York Times — so the Republican Party must strike a balance between harnessing the Tea Party’s ideas while maintaining its moderate base.

“If the Tea Party scares moderates and Independents, that’s going to make the election in 2012 go better for Democrats,” Brox said. “There’s evidence of this: Harry Reid [D – Nev] is a terrible candidate, but he won because [Tea Party candidate] Sharron Angle scared people.”

Across the country, Republicans gained five governors’ seats, bringing their control to 29 statehouses. As the 2010 census partisan demographics become available, Republican legislatures will have the advantage in determining the new congressional districts for the next decade’s elections. This ability may affect Louisiana, which will likely lose one seat in the House of Representatives due to its decreased population since Hurricane Katrina.

Though midterm elections typically see a lower voter turnout, the college-age population votes at disproportionately low rates. In the 2006 midterms, 48 percent of registered voters participated in 2006’s midterm elections, with just 22 percent of those voters between ages 18 to 24.

“My vote wouldn’t have made a difference,” senior Dan Gottleib said. “I’m from Maryland, which is Democrat, and I would have voted Democrat anyway.”

Other students said they voted to fulfill their civic duty.

“I felt an obligation to vote,” senior Kelly Phillips said. “I wanted to see my country go in the best direction that it could.”

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