"You Can't Beat Somebody with Nobody."

Frustrated voters send an angry message: no to politics-as-usual. But a stacked system protects incumbents so well that nearly all of them will be back.

Bettmann / CORBIS

Bill Bradley, D-N.J. in 1990

In years to come, scholars sifting through the sediment of last week's midterm elections may not find many clues about the shape of American civilization in 1990. Every pillar of conventional wisdom turned to dust in the voting booths -- leaving hardly a trace of the S&L crisis, or the debate over war in the Persian Gulf, or the backlash against the budget deal finally signed by the President last week. Perhaps the lessons of the election will be found in what was missing: any consistent theme, any tidy conclusions, any sense that voters had found a way to make themselves...

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