Angry American voters headed to polling places on Tuesday seemingly determined to strip Democrats of their lock on power in Congress and to reshape the political landscape nationwide, undermining President Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda for changing the country.
Just two years ago, Obama swept into the White House with Democrats holding muscular majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Voters had turned to Obama and his Democrats to signal their weariness with the eight-year presidency of Republican George W. Bush. But Obama and his party quickly fell from favour under the burden of the so-called Great Recession and its aftermath, near-10% unemployment, anemic economic growth and a continuing epidemic of home mortgage foreclosures that are wiping out Americans’ life savings.
Republicans bolstered by the ultraconservative tea party movement, have ridden the crest of a wave of American fear and dissatisfaction to this Election Day. Pre-vote polling unanimously showed the business-friendly Republicans poised to grab the majority in the House, with a lesser chance of taking charge in the Senate. Their message was simple: smaller government and low taxes.
Republicans buoyantly forecast a new era of divided government. “We’re hoping now for a fresh start with the American people,” said Republican Michael Steele. A big Republican win could put Washington in political gridlock. Republicans need a net gain of 10 seats out of 37 on the ballot to win a majority in the 100-seat Senate, a tougher road that requires them to win all the tight races.
But Democrats may need a new majority leader regardless.