CHICAGO - OCTOBER 30: President Barack Obama waves to the crowd during his "Moving America Forward" rally October 30, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama has been traveling the country campaigning for Democratic candidates leading up to Tuesday's crutial midterm election. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
If Alexi Giannoulias loses Tuesday, abortion will still be legal, and the minimum wage will still be $7.25 an hour. A GOP victory can't change that.
Also, the unemployment rate will still be 9 percent, which is one reason it won’t be a bad thing for President Obama to lose control of Congress.
As the Washington Post noted today, the Lower Midwest -- Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- is the most volatile region in American politics. Our economy has been in bad shape for the last 30 years, so we’re constantly throwing politicians out of office, hoping the next batch will make things better. They never do, so there’s a lot turnover. Here in Illinois, Democrats are likely to lose the Senate seat and three Congressmen -- Phil Hare, Bill Foster and Debbie Halvorson. (They may also pick up a seat, if Dan Seals defeats Bob Dold.)
So how does this help Obama? Obama has already passed the signature legislation of his presidency, the health care reform bill. His main task now is lowering the unemployment rate. If the Democrats keep control of all branches of government, they alone will be held responsible for the nation’s economy, which isn’t likely to recover by 2012.
Obama needs a foil. He needs someone to run against. If the Republicans take over the House of Representatives, John Boehner will become Speaker of the House. Obama can turn Boehner into his own Newt Gingrich. Bill Clinton was re-elected in 1996 because voters thought the radical Gingrich would be running the government if Republicans controlled the White House.
Did Obama and the Democrats overreach when he passed health care reform? Of course he did. And he should have. Congressional majorities are ephemeral. You’ve got to use them before they disappear. The public loves divided government, and it loves to humble the party in power. The Democrats’ ramming through of Obamacare is one reason the party is going to lose tomorrow. But given the state of the economy, and the voters’ reluctance to grant one party all the power in Washington, they were probably going to lose anyway. At least they got something done while they were in charge.
Also, Obama’s career has shown that losing in good for him. He’s a pretty arrogant guy, so he needs to be humbled every once in awhile. Losing a congressional race to Bobby Rush helped Obama figure out what kind of politician he was then. Losing Congress will help him figure out what kind of president he is now.