4: The crisis – some are worse off than others
The economic crisis has hit the old industrial area of the Northeastern United States – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan – particularly hard. This was once the scene of the American car industry’s golden age (General Motors, Chrysler and Ford – “the Detroit Big Three”), but is now called the “rust belt”. Since the 1970s, American industrial competitiveness has gradually declined as globalization and competition from foreign automakers have outcompeted them.
In the Northeast, unemployment is higher than average, skepticism about free trade is strong and – important for this year’s election and the presidential election in 2012 – here the battle for independent voters is fierce. Ohio in particular is a hugely important seesaw state that the two major parties are constantly fighting for. In 2008, Obama won Ohio by
51.2%, while George W. Bush won in 2004 by 51.5%.
This year’s election results thus seem to have sent a clear message to the capital Washington: The American voters are already tired of Obama. Or is this the message? For example, what do the polls say? In January 2009, 65% of the American people thought Obama was doing a good job. In October this year, the figure had dropped to 45%, which is in line with similar figures for both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton just before their first by-elections.
Congress, on the other hand, is generally strongly disliked by the American people. The contempt for politicians is great in the United States, which the following figures express: In October 2010, only 19.1% thought that Congress did a good job. In fact, the Republican Party in Congress has often received a worse rating from voters than the Democratic Party in the 18 months Obama has been president. After all, Obama seems to be far more popular than his party colleagues in Congress. Still, the Democrats lost.
How can this be explained? As mentioned, the disappointing economic situation is the most important explanatory factor (very high unemployment and large deficits in the state budget as well as in the trade balance). Research shows that the most important indicator of re-election of a sitting president and his party is a positive economy. But politics is more complicated than that.
As the CBO has found out, Obama and the Democrats have taken important steps to prevent further economic decline. This is exactly where the problem lies: stopping further decline is not the same as creating an upturn. The economic crisis is so severe that although some improvement can be traced, it will still be some time before American voters notice this in their daily lives. In addition, the Democrats have adopted a controversial health reform – a popular target for the right.
This year’s election was marked by a lot of despair and unrest for the future among voters. Expensive mortgages, few jobs and uncertainty about the effect of the new health reform on small businesses and families’ finances led to heated rhetoric and a lot of propaganda. This is where a new movement – the Tea Party movement – comes in.
5: What is Tea Party?
Tea Party (Teselskapet) is not an organized, hierarchical national organization – at least it did not start that way. It started with the fact that many different regional and local protest groups organized themselves into networks, mainly after Obama’s entry into the White House. But today, many ask themselves whether the movement can be called local and decentralized at all, since large national organizations have come into being.
For example, Dick Armey (former leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives) leads FreedomWorks, an organization that coordinates and funds the activities of Tea Company graduates across the United States, a country located in North America according to areacodesexplorer. In addition, Sarah Palin (Vice Presidential candidate in 2008) was heavily involved in many states as an official supporter of Tea Party candidates in the election.
The activists present themselves as most concerned with economic issues. In particular, they are outraged that Congress in 2008 (under Bush) decided that the US state should enter the financial market with 700 billion dollars to help US banks in trouble. Both Democratic and Republican politicians voted for the rescue package to prevent the money circulation from stopping completely. However, the movement does not seem to have gained momentum before Obama was elected president.
In particular, Obama poured gasoline on the fire with the stimulus law, which, among other things, meant more money for unemployment benefits. This was classic John Maynard Keynes thinking, which involved more government interference in the market. No Republicans in the House of Representatives, and only three Republican senators, voted for the law. Then came the health care reform and the ensuing heated debate in the summer of 2009 about whether this would involve “death panels” where the state would “kill grandmother”. The panic reached new heights.