Most people have no idea that today a special election is being held in the 20th district of New York to replace Kristin Gillabrand, former Congresswoman, now Senator, who in turn replaced Hillary Clinton when she became Secretary of State. It has been said on both the right and the left that this race is a 'referendum' on Obama's policies and that a Republican victory will mean the nation doesn't so much support him and a Democrat victory will mean there is no stopping the President.
That's all a bunch of bull.
Every time an election--special or not--is held in this country, we treat it as though it is the beginning of a new era. Rarely does that forecast prove prescient. FDR certainly heralded something new. Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan did as well. Barack Obama trumpets as though he has; time will tell. Clinton's defeat of George H.W. Bush? It didn't mean much--the country was still in a generally center-right mood, as it proved in 1994. George W. Bush's defeat of John Kerry in 2004? It was considered by some on the right to be the beginning of a new conservative dominance. That never materialized, and, in fact, it was the exact opposite. We all know the story: Democrats retook Congress in 2006 and expanded their majorities in 2008, leaving Republicans as effective as snot.
The fact is, the world changes too rapidly in this day and age to be able to predict anything--political or otherwise--with any real certainty. Many have postulated that it was Hurricane Katrina that proved to be the undoing of President Bush. After the tepid and flubbed response of the feds there, people wondered how he could be trusted with something as challenging as two foreign wars. For the next three years, he was not to ever receive the benefit of the doubt, and his poll numbers showed--never recovering to pre-Katrina levels. A week before that happened, Bush was flying high. He never knew what hit him.
Today, we have a resurgent Russia that would like nothing more to kick us in the crotch, a nutty Iran (making nice with Russia) that would like nothing more than to obliterate both the big and little Satans, an angry and growing China--which apparently can now destroy one of our aircraft carriers with a single missile, a frozen credit market, and two ongoing wars. Don't even mention that we have huge (and growing) deficits, unfunded entitlements whose real costs are hidden away through all-but-fraudulent congressional accounting, and a majority with an eight-year deferred wishlist that is literally trillions of dollars long. Joe Biden was excoriated for saying that even if the Obama administration did everything right, there was still a 30% chance they'd fail. Unfortunately for the idealists out there, that's all-too-true. Crises come often to a president, and one mess-up can doom the entire agenda. Poll numbers in the 80's can drop to the 40's in a few short weeks. Just ask John Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs or Bill Clinton after the health care fiasco or George W. Bush after Katrina.
The race for the NY-20 is important, mostly for Republicans, since a win would give a much-needed morale boost. A loss, however, isn't that big of deal for either side. Democrats will still have a 78-seat majority; Republicans will still just need to wait a little longer for Obama's poll numbers to drop before coming out of the wilderness. And believe me, if history is any guide, they will most certainly drop.