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Liberally Speaking

Analyzing the 2010 Election

Nov. 10, 2010

By Steve Mount

Interpreting election results can be as tricky as predicting them. Given that, I suggest you add my voice to all the others you’ve heard in the past week as you make up your own mind.

At the state level, I am proud of Vermonters as we did two things: we bucked the general trend toward the right, but at the same time, we were maverick-like in our choices at the state level.

With so many office-holders giving up their seats this year, many of the main offices were fresh for the taking: governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state.

Williston itself showed a conservative streak in its vote for governor, with Republican Brian Dubie winning the vote 53 percent to Democrat Peter Shumlin’s 46 percent. Statewide, though Shumlin pulled in just under 50 percent of the vote (to Dubie’s 47 percent) and Dubie conceded the race. The selection of governor will, technically, be left to the Legislature, but Dubie’s concession virtually guarantees Shumlin’s eventual win.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, the Republican Phil Scott beat Democrat Steve Howard 48 percent to 41 percent; in Williston, Scott pulled in 54 percent of the vote to Howard’s 39 percent.

And finally in the secretary of state’s race, Democrat Jim Condos beat out Republican Jason Gibbs 54 percent to 44 percent; in Williston, the numbers were similar, 54 percent to 46 percent.

Based on Williston’s vote in the top two races on the ticket, I still have a lot of work to do here, trying to convince the majority of my neighbors that the best choice for Vermont is left-leaning. I hope the governor’s actions help me out in that regard!

My impression is that Vermonters in general were not particularly impressed with the tone the political advertisements took in Vermont this campaign season, particularly in the governor’s race. At the same time, I was impressed with much of Peter Shumlin’s advertising, especially his “whiteboard” series, which condensed complex issues down to their bare bones, and may have made a real difference in the campaign.

Shumlin’s unerring support for closing Vermont Yankee also resonated with many Vermonters (though not with your humble columnist), and ads touting his business experience also raised confidence in many Vermonters.

The wide margins won by our current members of Congress show yet again the power of incumbency, especially when there is a general air of satisfaction with the incumbent’s work. The best advice I would have for any newly elected member of Congress from Vermont is to represent the state vigorously and to keep your nose clean. With those two things under your belt, a long-term job seems easy to keep.

Nationally, of course, this is no time for liberals to celebrate. Though the polls told us it was coming, hope sprung eternal that the losses would not be so bad. Democrats did retain control of the Senate, but likely because only a third of the body was up for election.

In the House, the swing from Democratic to Republican control is one of the biggest on record. Since Democrats, however, still hold the presidency and the Senate, the next two years are going to be the Republicans’ chance to show not that they can flex their muscle, but that they can compromise.

The 2010 election made one thing clear: the American public is impatient. Given what they got in 2008, President Obama and the 111th Congress accomplished a lot, but in the face of continued unemployment near double digits, it seems that we as a people think the Republicans can do better. I’m not sure they can, but I’m not going to wish that they fail. I hope that Republicans and Democrats both can set aside their differences and work to finding solutions to our national problems.

We’ll also see if the gleam of the Tea Party continues to shine, or if it will tarnish as its new leaders, including Senators-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, try to influence legislation in the 112th Congress. Fortunately for their states, and us all, the worst of the Tea Party, Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell, went down to defeat. Even Alaska’s Joe Miller seems, at this writing, to have lost to write-in incumbent Lisa Murkowski.

I’m confident that Democrats are willing to work with Republicans to get the tough work of governing the nation done. The next two years will show the American people if the Republicans are just as willing, or if the obstructionism they’ve been known for in the last two years will continue to be a feature of their governing strategy for the next two years.

Steve Mount has been a Williston resident since 1996. He is a software engineer at GE Healthcare and is devoted to his family, his country and his Constitution. You can reach Steve at steve@saltyrain.com or read his blog at http://saltyrain.com/ls.