It’s the economy, stupid.
These words, plastered across posters and tee-shirts during the 1992 presidential campaign, helped ensure that Bush I became a one-term President and opened the door to the Clinton administration. Now, nearly two decades later, similar sentiments have helped Republicans regain control of the House and establish a balanced Congress.
Some right wing pundits have boasted that the results of this month’s elections constitute an indictment of President Obama’s economic and health care policies. But most Americans neither know nor understand those policies, nor the reasons why they have garnered opposition. They know only what they see and hear: bullet points in the form of campaign ads that can stretch, and often distort, facts.
The reality is that Americans are unhappy. They see a devalued dollar and double digit unemployment, and the adverse effect that these have on their everyday lives. While they may not understand the present administration’s efforts to ameliorate the situation, they live daily with the effects of the economic malaise and do not see things getting better. This makes them unhappy and, when people are unhappy, incumbents are voted out of office. In a two party system, that means that the other party, in this case Republicans, benefit from voters’ dissatisfaction. The results of any election are therefore rarely a direct indictment or embrace of the existing or alternative; rather, they are a reflection of the populace’s mindset insofar as everyday lives are concerned.
There is plenty of blame to be spread. Democrats contend that they inherited the present economic situation from Bush II, but that argument (excuse) is no less simplistic or incomplete than Republicans’ claims that Obama is solely responsible for what ails us.
Our problems did not materialize overnight. It took many years and many members of both parties to create the heightened animosity and mistrust that has resulted in stagnant leadership and a faltering economy. It will likewise take time and the efforts of many to right our economic ship.
We should look beyond the political when analyzing the results of our recent election. The American populace wants change, but not necessarily a shift to the right or left. Americans want to see an end to the politics of discord and an emphasis on working together to address and solve our problems. Instead of focusing on the 2012 presidential election, as many of our politicians have done (newly elected Marco Rubio has already been rumored as a possible vice-presidential candidate, even before he has been sworn in as the new Senator from the state of Florida), both parties should come together to honestly and efficiently address our economic problems. Our recent election was a call to action, not inertia.
Somehow, I am not convinced that our elected leaders get it. As Republicans and Democrats continue to take potshots at each other, the American public remains unhappy and restless. The Tea Party movement purports to offer an alternative to the status quo, but what kind of alternative are we offered when nearly every member of the movement is also a Republican?
Americans need a break from the rhetoric, finger pointing and blame shifting. We need our elected leaders to focus on what is truly important: improving the everyday lives of those who elected them.
It is the economy, stupid – but the economy that most concerns Americans is the household economy that slips further away from our daily control. Until our leaders understand this, the populace shall remain unhappy and no campaign slogans or bullet points will ameliorate our general malaise.