How Republican control could be entrenched for years

A Democratic "annihilation bordering on political genocide".

"The economy's bad, the president's party is being blamed, and Republicans are mad as hell." That, says University of New Hampshire polling expert Andrew Smith, is the reason the GOP scored quite so big this year. And even in a state like New Hampshire, which had seemed to be moving firmly to the left, an unexpected Republican clean sweep means big public spending cuts -- and promises to cut taxes as well.

In a host of states across the country, it's all about austerity: tackling state deficits and sweeping back a host of Democrat-inspired public programmes. Today, Republicans are in firm control of key battleground states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. In some cases, the switch in power was, the Washington Post says, "truly dramatic", like Texas, where one pundit has called the scale of the Democratic defeat "an annihilation bordering on political genocide".

And the pattern of Republican control is set to be entrenched for years to come. That's because they will now control the redrawing of congressional boundaries for the next ten years. Using today's sophisticated polling data, that means they can divide districts up extremely accurately, to best ensure a more solid Republican majority, while driving Democratic representation down.

The party also has the chance to show how they would act if they were in charge of the White House -- chiefly, how they'd tackle the economy.

In Florida, new Governor Rick Scott has pledged immediate tax cuts worth more than $2bn -- and in the long term he wants to axe the corporate income tax altogether. He's also vowed steep cuts in state spending, including pension savings, and a 5 per cent cut in Florida's public sector work force. Unions are already warning there could be trouble if cuts in areas like schools and healthcare are deemed to go "too far".

Indiana's new Republican leaders say they're determined to "live within their means", and have proposed slashing unemployment benefits. One cost-cutting idea in Pennsylvania involves selling off hundreds of state owned liquor stores, saving a couple of billion dollars, but axeing several thousand jobs in the process.

In Texas, Governor Rick Perry has suggested abandoning the state-funded Medicaid scheme and creating their own insurance programme for the poor. And Maine, which hasn't seen a Republican controlled administration for 60 years, is considering scaling back social security payments to focus on the "truly needy" -- while the state's own universal health care scheme is in for the chop.

It's not just austerity measures though -- the Republicans have won so big that in some cases they're putting conservative social legislation back on the agenda. The new governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, could approve new limits on abortions proposed by the GOP-dominated state legislature. Stricter controls on immigration could now be introduced in New Mexico, while versions of Arizona's controversial immigration law may be on the cards across the south. South Carolina's incoming Governor Nikki Haley, couldn't be clearer: "I will tell you that if the Arizona style immigration reform comes to my desk, I will absolutely sign it.", she told a local paper.

So the battle lines are drawn. Now the GOP has a chance to show if they can really cut taxes, cut spending, and balance deficts -- for real, this time, not just as a campaign pledge. And all this, without cutting jobs and services so far, that they alienate those independent voters who swung their way in such overwhelming numbers.

The latest polls do indicate a mixed message for the Republicans. There's a desire for change, but not much appetite for other measures, like rolling back heathcare reforms, or social security -- especially among independents. So, from the economy to abortion rights, how the Republican-controlled state legislatures handle their new-found power will prove to be crtitical -- and is likely to determine the party's national fortunes, not just in 2012, but for years to come.

Felicity Spector is chief writer and US politics expert for Channel 4 News.

Getty
Show Hide image

What David Hockney has to tell us about football

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times