After 3 straight wave elections in which the party holding the WH was mercilessly pummelled, it was interesting to see an election in which the existing balance of power was essentially maintained. Assuming that FL is ultimately called for Obama, on presidential level, 48 of 50 states went exactly the way now that they went in 2008. Only 4 Senate seats changed hands, and going from Snowe to King in ME does not appear to be that big of a change. According to the graphic currently at the top of the FP, there was only a net change of D+7 in the House after a change of (gulp) R+63 in '10, D+21 in '08, and D+28 in '06.
I have no idea as to whether this marked change from the past 3 cycles reflects basic satisfaction w/ the status quo by a plurality of Americans who voted, a perceived lack of viable alternatives, or a combination of the 2. Below, I will make the following observations:
1) Obama had short coattails this time. While it was very nice to have D+2 in the Senate given the # of seats to defend, except for Warren, I'm not sure how many Dem Senate candidates really benefitted from the top of the ticket. Dems won Senate seats in 5 states that Obama lost (WV, MO, MT, IN, and ND). While I never gave a moment of serious thought to the prospect of being able to say "Speaker Pelosi" again, I was hoping to at least make double-digit gains. The House that Boehner gavels to order in January will have a party distribution that is quite similar to the distribution that Hastert gaveled to order 8 years earlier.
2) Dems benefitted mightily from the GOP nominating 5 teahadists for Senate in the past 2 cycles. CO, NV, and DE last time and MO and IN this time were all winnable races for the GOP. Had they won those 5 seats, the Senate would be split 50/50, and Biden would have to vote to keep a narrow plurality. Plus, who knows what King might have done under those circumstances.
3) The GOP hold on the House will likely last at least 4 more years. Dems did peel away 5 seats to narrow the GOP majority in 1998. Otherwise, the party holding the WH has always suffered in postwar year 6 elections--1950, 1958, 1966, 1974, 1986, and 2006. The odds of the Dems picking up >20 seats and regaining a majority in 2014 are essentially nil. Losing so badly in 2010 may, in fact, prove to be the gift that keeps on giving in House elections this decade given what happened in post-census redistricting.
4) Divided government has been the post-WW II norm in this country. Only JFK/LBJ were able to govern for 8 years while holding both houses. Since then, the only Dem president to govern for 4 years while holding both houses was Carter. Bush is the only postwar Gooper to have majorities in both houses for 4 years.
5) The Dems held the House from 1954-94. I had just turned 36 when the GOP regained it, and I was in total shock at the time. I assumed that Dems holding House was the natural order of things. GOP will have held House for 16 of 20 years by 2014, and, presumably, for 18 of 22 years by 2016.
I'm thrilled to see Baldwin and Warren joining the Senate and to see Sherrod Brown is coming back. Donating to their campaigns were $ very well spent. Bernie winning a landslide and replacing JoeMentum w/ an actual Dem were all good things. Dumping West and Walsh were good things, too, as was Grayson's comeback. Realizing that Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan and people even worse than them will control the body that remained a Dem bastion in the dark Reagan years is, however, highly discouraging.
Given how difficult governing was the past 2 years, I wish that we weren't looking at a distrbution of power that will be largely unchanged the next 2 years.