What It All Means

Several guesses about the meaning of the mid-term elections:


1) Once again we learn that this is a center-right country, that voters in 2008 were repudiating a President and his party-chosen successor, not embracing center-leftism. I covered McCain; great American hero, terrible candidate, with a wackadoo running mate, and he still won almost 46 percent of the popular vote. 2008 never struck me as a tidal-wave repudiation of the Republican party;

2) Another obvious conclusion: The power of Fox News is fairly awesome. Its anchors drove the agenda ruthlessly. I was flying to Denver a couple of weeks ago to give a speech, and I was seated across the aisle from, of all people, Ken Buck, who was running -- and who has lost, according to The Denver Post -- against Michael Bennet (D.-Goldblog). Frontier Airlines has live TV at your seat, and Buck watched Fox News for four hours straight, so I did too, to see what he was absorbing. It was incredible -- pure unadulterated anti-Obama propaganda.

3) Many white people are scared of an arugula-eating black president with a funny name. They would be scared of this person even if Fox News didn't exist. Obama's rise has meant the concurrent rise, or resurrection, actually, of the John Birch Society, not just the actual group, but the rhetoric and paranoid ideas, as well. Democrats weren't ready for this, at all.

4) Voters still don't like crazy candidates. Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell just scanned a wee bit too nutty for too many people.

5) Rahm Emanuel's dictum that a President should never let a crisis go to waste has been proven disastrous in action. The real dictum should be, a President should fix the proximate cause of whatever crisis he confronts, and then proceed with his broader, long-term agenda. Happy, secure people are more likely to embrace dramatic change.

6) This relates to the first point, and the third point: Many of my colleagues in the media simply don't understand the broad streak of individualism that runs through this country. The majority of Americans, now as ever, believe people should be responsible for their own welfare. This includes their own security, which means, of course, their embrace of gun-rights, which, because of right-wing-stoked paranoia, many people believed Obama opposed.

More unoriginal thoughts later. Then back to Middle East shenanigans, and TSA hijinks.
Presented by

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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