Update: Somehow, I managed to give the Senate to the Republicans and the House to the Democrats. Fixed that in an edit. Sigh. There's never enough coffee.
This election was not about the traditional wedge issues that usually plague politics: abortion, religion, and gay marriage. Instead, this election was about economic ideology.
On the one side were the Democrats, with the general belief that you need to invest in programs to restore economic strength. On the other side were the Republicans. And then there was the Tea Party, which has seemed to coalesce around the idea of spending as little as possible.
The problem is, of course, that economic modeling can't be effectively reduced to 140-character sound bites. The other problem is that economics itself is a completely inexact science, and so the theories are just that: theories.
Even so, most Americans have a pretty good gut feel for what makes them nauseous. Trillion dollar deficits, changes to their health care that they can't predict, and a continuing bad feeling about the future make us all feel slightly queasy.
The result: a major loss for the Democrats in the House, a moderate loss in the Senate, and surprising gains for Tea Party candidates.
Loss of faith
Key to this election defeat was a loss of faith in President Obama's policies. His promises during the 2008 election cycle seemed to result in payoffs to big banks and insurance companies, but no real feeling of change to Joe the Baker.
So even though many of Obama's policies actually accomplished good, including probably fending off another Great Depression and pretty much turning around what was a constant, terrifying job drain, his policies didn't seem to accomplish good enough. The resulting nearly universal feeling of malaise was enough to provide a strong drubbing to the Dems.
So here we are. In 2011, the House will be run by Republicans, the Senate by Democrats, and the White House by President Obama.
Is the new gridlock the same as the old gridlock?
Normally, with a mixed body governing, you'd immediately assume a new level of gridlock in Washington. But there's nothing new here. Even with the Democrats' initial "super-majority" back in 2009, they were unable to move their agenda and so we've effectively had gridlock since Mr. Obama assumed office.
The interesting question is how things will change now that Speaker Boehner will be in charge?
Without a doubt, the Republican/Tea Party-held House will field some truly nutball bills, pandering to the extremists in their parties. These bills will create a lot of fuss, but will die in the Senate (if they even get there) and will have no real effect.
The big question is whether the GOP fields any reasonably constructive bills that will help America. If they do, we may actually have less gridlock with a divided Congress than we did before. That's because Harry Reid has a long record of giving into GOP bullying, and so, if the GOP can field anything even remotely sane, they're likely to be able to cajole Reid into going along.
It'll be interesting to see if the Republicans can balance their ideological extremes and actually do any good in Washington.
One final note. Both Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman lost their bids. Although I didn't agree with them on policy issues, I was disappointed to see two strong tech candidates go down to defeat. I still hope that sometime in the future, we'll get some very strong, tech-aware candidates into positions of policy power in the United States.
Oh, well. There's always 2012.