Today's off-year elections are local in scope but
Superbowl-like in their ability to grab national attention. Predicted consequences for Republicans
include a nationally divided GOP, a strengthened GOP, a dire populist surge, and a coming Republican wave. (Not to mention predictions for the impact on President Obama's agenda and the 2010 midterm
elections.) But The Atlantic's own Joshua Green knocked some sense into
the ever-excitable political punditry with his declaration late Monday, "It Doesn't Mean Squat."
Along with tarot cards and goat entrails, a lot of people believe they can divine hidden meaning from the results of off-year elections, like the ones in Virginia, New York and New Jersey on Tuesday. I'm skeptical. [...] A year after Obama's landslide victory and the expanded Democratic margins that brought in the House and Senate, the political landscape has changed, but not nearly to the degree that the "pre-" post-race analysis would have you believe. It's changed marginally--and only marginally--in the direction that almost anyone could have predicted a year ago.
[...]The pointless thing about prognostications, even ones as vague as these, is that they can't factor in any of the changes that could occur in the interim. And there are bound to be plenty of them: major health-care reform seems likely; a weak economy and high unemployment seem possible; and the introduction of a compelling Republican agenda is at least feasible.
Green doesn't opine often, but his throat-clearing for fellow beltway pundits quickly became conventional wisdom today. Liberals and conservatives have come back down to Earth, breaking through the hype. We rarely give the nod to fellow Atlantic writers, but Green's injection of common sense brought a moment of clarity to a muddled debate.