Well Isn’t That SpecialPosted: November 6, 2014
To few people’s surprise, the Republican Party won big in Tuesday’s election. What was a surprise to most of the “3Ps” (politicians, pundits and personalities) is how easily they won and by such wide margins. While the word “historic” is passed around, it isn’t quite as historic as it is made out to be, but significant none-the-less.
This is the third president in a row (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barak Obama) that had the Congress flip completely during their tenure (going from full control of one own’s party to full control by the loyal opposition). That to me is significant in a number of ways.
Perhaps foremost among them is the possibility that fewer and fewer people are voting “straight tickets” anymore. That is, voting only for one party regardless of the issues. To some degree I question my conclusion here, as there are some states, especially in the South and the Northeast that are increasingly deep red or blue states. But there are also significant numbers of “purple” states that change from one party to the other based on the particulars of that election. That gives me hope. One would think that more and more Americans vote on the issues and finding the best people to lead our country rather than just voting ideologically.
Many analysts see Tuesday’s votes as a repudiation of President Obama and the Democrats. I am not as sure about that as they are as I see a subtle difference. While many Americans are disappointed in the president, and legitimately disagree with some of his decisions, I think the vote is more of a reflection of the general dissatisfaction that the electorate now holds, particularly with respect to the economy. To me the vote was one based on the premise that the party previously in control — the Democrats symbolized by the president in the White House — is not getting the job done. The results are based on a framework of “let’s give the other guys a chance to make it better.” In other words, change for change’s sake as a means to shake things up and to see if something positive can result. So yes, it was a vote against the president and Harry Reid and the rest, but that does not necessarily translate into a vote for Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and company. As a nation we are willing to see what they can accomplish, but if they don’t move the ball forward they will be in trouble in 2016 as another backlash is likely to occur. This time against the Republican controlled Congress.
Of course if they succeed they will be in a much stronger political position and the country should also be better off. I am sure that there will be some serious behind the scenes discussions in the Republican caucus to get the disruptive Tea Party types — who are by their own statements unwilling to compromise on anything, an antithetical position to take in governing — to sit down. If not to be quiet, at least to let the process move forward.
Ironically, one could argue that Presidents Clinton and Bush did some of their most productive work after their party lost control of Congress. Perhaps the same will hold true with President Obama. In my mind a divided government forces compromise or nothing is accomplished. Fortunately President Clinton and President Bush did not have to deal with Tea Party conservatives or disruptive liberals. Not that there weren’t ideological differences that interrupted the workings of government from time to time (think Gingrich vs. Clinton and the government shutdown), but in the end they figured out how to make it work.
Both parties need to reassess the events of the last four years and learn that cooperation on common issues of concern is a far better way to govern. Hopefully (and I am hopeful), both parties will avoid the easy lessons learned about why the vote went the way it went and look closer. They must realize that the outcome is a reflection of a willingness to try anything to get rid of the status quo of gridlock and bitter partisan politics.
To the super conservatives that say this gives them a mandate, all I can say is, “well isn’t that special.” To the moderate Republicans and Democrats that want to get things done, I say go for it.