Saturday, January 9, 2010

National elections look wide open in 2010

The new year is less than two weeks old, but 2010 is already shaping up to be a volatile one in the political arena.

This is because everybody in the U.S. House of Representatives and a big chunk of the U.S. Senate is up for re-election. For many people, the idea of going through another high-profile election season is about as exciting as driving through a car wash in a convertible.

However, this is a critical year for President Barack Obama. He was only able to pass as much legislation as he did last year because he had the benefit of Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate.

If he were to lose that, then the last two years of his first term would be considerably bumpier. The big question is whether the voting public is in the mood to make significant changes in Washington.

The answer to that could be 'yes.' Depending on which poll a person goes by, the number of people believing Congress is doing a good job is around 25 percent. By any standard, this is a terrible approval rating. If any of us received a rating like that at our jobs, I think we would all agree we would be out of our jobs soon.

Still, we must remember this is politics, and the standards of the real world often do not get applied to elections. After all, people often complain about politics and government, but incumbents enjoy an overwhelming advantage when running for re-election.

In other words, voter's actions often do not follow their words.

Several factors should impact the upcoming elections. The aftermath of the recently passed healthcare reform legislation should play a prominent role. Last summer, a loud portion of the population angrily confronted lawmakers about the reform process.

Will we see that anger again on the campaign trail this year? At this point, anything is possible, and it would not surprise me if lawmakers running for re-election relied more on advertising instead of getting out to talk with the public.

If this happened, it would be a real shame, but advances in technology have allowed candidates to run high-profile campaigns while avoiding contact with people. In other words, get ready to be bombarded with commercials on television, radio, and the Internet.

There will be no place for us to hide.

Other issues will likely impact the campaign. The war in Afghanistan remains very unpopular with some even though national support has picked up a bit since the president pledged to send about 30,000 more soldiers there.

Unpopular wars can impact the national political scene in dramatic ways, and it does not matter if Democrats or Republicans are in charge during these times. Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Lyndon Johnson both felt the sting of criticism for their way of handling wars.

If more opposition grows, any anger directed toward President Obama would likely trickle down to the Congressional races.

Likewise, the sluggish economy continues to weigh on the country. If the country continues to suffer, then the election next November could be greatly impacted.

The bottom line is all of us will play a significant role this year in shaping the path of our government. Many avoid this responsibility by saying one person cannot make a difference.

Not only is that wrong, but that thinking has likely played a big role in getting us in our current situation.

It is time for all of us to role up our sleeves and go to work. Make sure to do your part.

It is up to us.

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