We took a long gander at the 2010 midterm elections, and I'm grateful we've had this time together, even if electoral politics often seems like an unworthy issue to spend quality time examining. For me, assessing the rhetoric from politicians and the press who cover them is telling because it outlines the parameters of debate across a range of issues and by illuminating what gets spotlighted, we can ask discursive questions about where the silences are and what effects stem from that silencing. With this general method as context, let's take a look at the next two years, as we gear up for another presidential election.
We've spent quality time assessing the lead-in and results of the 2010 US midterm elections, and now that we're on the cusp of the 112th Congressional Session, I'd like to turn our attention to another level of civic participation: contact with our representatives and senators. After all, we are all someone's constituent, whether they received our vote or not. But more than finding resources to their phone numbers and email addresses, let's take a look at how to keep on top of the Congress schedule.
After the 2008 election, one of the first books that made the rounds of the daytime news shows came from none other than John McCain's daughter, Meghan. Of particular interest to the talking heads in the wake of Barack Obama's win was the enigmatic, rogue-designee Sarah Palin. Meghan had some choice words for her father's running mate, saying:
I was waiting for her to explode. There was a fine line between genius and insanity, they say, and choosing her as the running mate was starting to seem like the definition of that line.
Many pundits soon followed, casting doubt on Palin's ability to manage her own campaign, assailing her readiness for leadership, and questioning her competence—the same general terrain taken up by Democrats in the election itself. Fast forward to 2010, after the midterm elections. Politico ran an article recently about Sharron Angle's Senate campaign in Nevada, and it is a more than a little déjà vu in tone. I started wondering if there were any real similarities, and figured that for good measure, I'd take a look at what the political pundits are also saying about Christine O'Donnell, failed GOP contender for the junior Senator seat from Delaware. Was I just having a psychic whiplash, or were there any patterns in these three different races?
Whatever sense one makes of the midterm elections this year, some people in Congress now claim they have a mandate or at the very least, a bully pulpit from which they can advance their own agendas, no matter their sensibility or lack thereof. As we press into the weekend before our collective, supposed Thanksgiving next Thursday, let's take a look at who has made vocal declarations for the next several months. One needn't even examine these carefully before identifying which Congressperson made a traitorous claim.
According to some political pundits, Barbara Boxer faced the most challenging opponent of her Senate career in Carly Fiorina. Any advantageous position she'd had in previous elections as a female Democrat was at least partly erased by the fact that this time around, the GOP candidate was also a woman. And Fiorina had deep personal pockets that she could use to bolster her campaigns financial needs.
Over in the middle of the nation, two women were locked in a battle for the Oklahoma Governor's office. In the midst of this historic event—the state would be picking its first woman governor—there was the press coverage. What were these female candidates wearing?
In the Republican primary for Alaska's Senate seat last summer, Joe Miller beat Lisa Murkowski by the razor-thin margin of 2,000 votes, or less than 1 percent of the total ballots cast. This would have signaled the end for the vast majority of losing candidates, but when Murkowski was asked, again and again, to launch a write-in campaign by residents who apologized for not voting on primary day, she sat down with her extended family to talk it over. Against pollster and campaign experts' advice, and against the wishes of her own Republican Party, she launched a write-in campaign against Joe Miller. As of this weekend she is leading her GOP opponent by a little more than 11,000 ballots. If Murkowski wins, it will be the first write-in win for the Senate since Strom Thurmond did it in 1954 in South Carolina.
While the news media focuses on the debate between the two primary political parties on tax cuts and who should receive them, both in the lame duck Congress session and in the next session, organizations like NARAL are preparing for a different fight over tax dollars and tax penalties—those related to reproductive rights. If pro-choice people are congratulating themselves on the second landslide vote in Colorado against outlawing abortion, they may want to shift into preparing for this winter's fight over abortion. And much of this upcoming debate may have been brought about by the Democrat's biggest win last session: the health care reform law.
During the campaign season we took a look at a few campaigns that actively used race and ethnic stereotypes as part of their strategy on the road to Washington, DC. There were undocumented workers slipping across poorly guarded borders to steal American jobs and infect the country with drug-related crime. We faced Islamic terrorists who flaunted their hatred of the US right in the face of Ground Zero. The President himself was often a target, being caricatured as everyone from Che Guevara to Adolf Hitler to a turban-wearing Muslim, to an extra from Amos and Andy. One week out from Election Day, how did they do? And does anyone out there think that using these tactics had any effect on who showed up to cast votes?
The 2010 midterm elections are over. Well, for the most part. It may be a while before all of the ballots are sorted out in the Alaska Senate race, and there's a recount in North Carolina for a House seat, making nine as yet undecided races in that legislative body. And while Washington, DC may be getting prepared to do the staffer's office shuffle, there is still a lame duck session or two for Congress, a host of court cases coming to the Supreme Court, from which new Justice Kagan will frequently have to recuse herself, and some unfinished business on the Don't Ask Don't Tell front, otherwise known as the Clinton legacy that won't go away. I mean, the other unforgettable legacy of his.
A record number of women—262, in all—ran campaigns for the House in the 2010 midterm elections. Despite this wave of women, fewer will be in the House once the 112th Congress begins than were in the 111th. 75 women will take their seats in the voting body, many of them for the first time. Here is a look at several first-year Representatives. On the Senate side, 36 women ran campaigns—also a record—and four were elected, keeping the total for women in the Senate at 17. There will be, notably, no African-American Senators when the new Congress begins in January. What issues will the newest female members of Congress bring with them and what might it mean for feminist political strategists and women?