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Associated Press/Photo by Alan Diaz

Change the GOP can believe in

2010 News of the Year | November

Issue: "2010 News of the Year," Jan. 1, 2011

The day after voters went to the polls, President Barack Obama faced reporters at the White House and provided a one word post-election analysis, shellacking, for what happed to Democrats on Nov. 2. After nearly two years of watching lawmakers vote on costly healthcare, stimulus, bailouts, and takeover packages, the nation's taxpayers finally got a chance to cast some votes of their own. The results were almost anticlimactic, as voters had signaled in primary upset after primary upset that business as usual was over. Republicans gained 63 seats in the House, besting a 1994 pickup total of 54 and giving Republicans the most seats (242) they've held in the U.S. House of Representatives in over 60 years. On the other side of Capitol Hill, Democrats managed to hold off a GOP takeover of the Senate. But Republicans picked up six seats for a total of 47. Two incumbent Democrats (Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin) lost while the GOP won open seats in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and North Dakota.

State supremacy

The real Republican revolution in November was at the state level: The GOP posted whopping gains of at least 680 seats and now controls 25 state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The last time a party came close to approaching that number of pickups in recent memory was in 1974, when Democrats captured 628 seats. In addition, at least a dozen state legislators have switched parties from Democrat to Republican since the election. The timing is what makes these wins so important. With the once-a-decade census just completed, most state legislatures will be overseeing redistricting when they receive the census data in February. NCSL estimates that Republicans will have control over the redrawing of 195 districts while Democrats will have control over 45. And the GOP has control in the states projected to change the most seats after the census: Texas, Florida, and Ohio.

Celtic tiger no more

Officials with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund agreed to a $112 billion bailout package for Ireland after it became clear that Ireland's high bank debts could destabilize the euro and further spread Europe's debt crisis. Regulators believed they had to craft a bailout to ward off rising interest rates, but analysts fear that bailouts of debt-ridden members of the EU-with Spain or Portugal likely next-could threaten currency stability. Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen quickly asked Parliament to enact austerity measures that will cut $8 billion from the government's budget this year, and he will likely call for general elections in 2011 after his own ruling coalition fell apart in the midst of the crisis. Thus ended two decades of Ireland's rapid growth: During that time Irish GDP per capita doubled, but so did government spending and debt as a percentage of household income.

Detroit moves

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Seventeen months after a government-arranged bankruptcy, General Motors returned to the public market in November with a $20 billion initial public offering that cut the U.S. government's ownership stake in GM from 61 percent to 36 percent. GM has a way to go, but CEO Daniel Akerson said the auto maker is "very well-positioned" to reap profits in 2011 if auto sales continue to pick up.

Bankrupt

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), often attacked for shoddy voter registration, declared bankruptcy on Election Day under the weight of millions of dollars in debt. The dissolution of ACORN began in March after months of controversy, when the organization announced it would begin shutting down its offices. In several cases, some of the staff of local ACORN branches remained the same but instigated a rebranding. The New York branch, for example, became New York Communities for Change. ACORN's chief executive officer, Bertha Lewis, attributed the November bankruptcy to a "right-wing media blitz." The organization lost support in Congress for its federal funding after conservative activists released compromising videos showing ACORN employees helping two individuals evade taxes and seek to set up a business related to prostitution. But the organization's record was already in question: Its founder had covered up his brother's $1 million embezzlement from the organization, and dozens of ACORN employees have been charged with election fraud, with two recently convicted in Nevada and Minnesota.

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