Though some of you may have already read your fill, I feel obliged to write some commentary on last week’s elections in the U.S. So, I’ll begin with the obligatory summary of election results:
o Not only did Republicans maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but they gained at least an additional 10 seats. As of this writing, the overall count is 182 Dem, 244 Rep, with 9 still undecided (6 leaning Dem, 3 leaning Rep). This will be the largest majority in the House since 1928.
o So far, the GOP picked up 7 seats in the Senate, giving them the majority. Current overall count is 44 Dem, 52 Rep. Two more seats are still in play, with Dem leading in one, and the other (Louisiana) poised for a December runoff. The final two are held by 3rd parties. As Newt Gingrich pointed out,
“In two midterms, the President may have cost the Democrats more seats in the U.S. Senate than any president since Harry Truman.”
o At the state level, gubernatorial elections handed two more governorships to the GOP’s existing majority. Current overall count is 17 Dem, 31 Rep, with the Democrat leading in one outstanding race and a 3rd-party candidate leading in the other.
o Republicans made significant gains in other state seats, as well. In fact, come January they will have more state legislators than ever in the 160-year history of the Party. As per Guy Benson at townhall.com,
“GOP will field majorities in 69 out of 98 partisan legislatures (Nebraska’s state legislature is unicameral and nonpartisan). For those keeping score at home, that’s 70 percent of all legislatures. And that’s with Republican governors presiding over nearly two-thirds of all states.”
o Some supposedly “safe” seats were flipped from Blue to Red. There were also several close races (including in my home state of Florida), and the Republicans pulled off some amazing, even surprising wins in Purple-to-Blue states like Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
o Though many Democrats deny it, this was indeed a “shellacking” — or a “red tsunami”, if you prefer. But,… as others have pointed out, this was NOT so much a pro-Republican “message” from the people as it was a rejection of President Obama’s policies and of Democrats who have supported (and mimicked?) them. People are waking up to the fact that progressive liberal policies are failing the country, failing them. Many simply voted for “the other guy”, in hopes that s/he would do better. Or, as John Hawkins titled a recent column, “GOP Leaders Shouldn’t Forget That They Won Because Obama Sucks, Not Because They’re Great”.
Originally, I was going to call this article/post “Surprised, Very Happy, Not Ecstatic”, because… that’s how I felt about election night. Still do. I was going to take Speaker Boehner to task for saying this is “not a time for celebration.” (Of course, it is!) Then, I was going to agree with him that:
“It’s time for government to start getting results and implementing solutions to the challenges facing our country, starting with our still-struggling economy.”
I was going to acknowledge that the GOP Senate still doesn’t have a two-thirds majority, which it would need (without Dem or Ind assistance) to convict on impeachment, change Senate rules, or override presidential veto. It doesn’t even have the 60 votes it will need to end Democrat filibusters. But, it does now have the simple majority necessary for just about everything else. Plus, with Harry “Gridlock” Reid out of the way, the new Republican Senate Majority Leader, as chief strategist (and spokesperson) for the majority party, will be able to make committee appointments, help establish a legislative timetable, and direct debate. In short, s/he can begin by bringing those 350+ House-passed bills out of limbo (i.e., Reid’s desk) and get the Senate working again as a deliberative body — and that’s precisely what Mitch McConnell has promised to do.
Unfortunately, as I was also going to point out, McConnell — who will presumably be re-elected by his peers as majority leader — is a solid member of the Republican establishment. He has historically not been favorable to Tea Party members or their more conservative (and constitutionally principled) ideas. Nor is House Speaker Boehner. At times, they have been downright antagonistic. In my opinion, they really do need to listen to the more conservative members of Congress, if we are going to have a real chance at stopping and reversing the damage done by the progressive liberals. The President talks about “working together”, but we all know that he has no such intentions of doing anything other than continuing to push his radical, “progressive” agenda.
Republicans of all stripes must come together with a workable, sensible platform of solutions to address the topmost concerns of the American people: the economy (e.g., jobs, taxes, regulation, energy), national security (e.g., immigration, military preparedness, foreign policy, anti-terrorism measures, ebola), and government (e.g., size, overreach, spending, corruption).
In the more immediate timeframe, there are, of course, the next two months of “Lame Duck Session”. Until the new Representatives- and Senators-elect take office in January, the current lineup remains, and Obama can likely count on Sen. Reid to back up his power-plays and stonewall any Republican legislation. Based on what Reid and the President himself have said, Democrats are expected to try to slip a lot of stuff in under the wire — everything from government funding (to avoid shutdown) to “executive amnesty” for millions of illegal aliens to measures on defense/military, internet taxes, and renewal of the terrorism risk insurance program.
On top of this, I was going to bring up the potential “zombie” threat. No, not those sort of zombies. This refers to House and Senate members who were defeated in Tuesday’s elections or are retiring from office and how they might vote on critical budgetary and national security matters during the LDS. (Thanks to political commentator/columnist George Will for the term.) As per the McClatchy-Tribune, former Senator Jim DeMint and other conservatives worry that these “politically walking dead with nothing to lose… could go rogue and actually vote their conscience.” Said DeMint,
“With no electorate to appease, the newly politically ‘deceased’ members have no incentive to restrain their baser urges to feast upon the hard-earned tax dollars of the living.”
A recent Mercatus Center study found that lawmakers do indeed behave and vote differently in lame-duck sessions. According to Matthew Mitchell and Emily Washington, two of the study’s three co-authors,
“For legislators who are retiring or have been voted out of office, a lame-duck session is a unique opportunity to ignore the wishes of special interests, campaign donors, other legislators and party bosses. Only as lame ducks can they freely vote as they wish.”
I should point out that this works both ways, since a Democrat may want to vote more moderately but normally feels pressured to vote hard-Left. On the other hand, these “zombies” were only found to be 3-4% less likely to vote along party lines. And this assumes they even show up, since members of Congress in general are more likely to be absent for votes during lame-duck sessions — Representatives by 50%, Senators by 30%. Other than to pass a (hopefully reasonable) resolution for funding the government after Dec. 11, I’d be happy if they just stayed home for the rest of the session.
On the other other hand, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, isn’t too worried.
“I think there are a few things you can do that the next Congress won’t do dramatically differently,” Blunt told reporters this week. “As long as you have a Republican House, I don’t think senators need to be overly worried about what a lame-duck Senate is going to do.”
But, I’m not gonna talk about all that. 😉
Oh, wait… Looks like I already did. Alright, I’ll wrap it up with a plea to our GOP leaders in Washington and throughout the nation:
“The Party won big this time, and you are to be congratulated. But, don’t rest on your laurels. Now, the real work starts, and there’s a lot to do. The majority of the American people are incredibly frustrated with the way this country is headed, and the President isn’t the only problem. YOU guys & gals in Congress are! One of your job priorities needs to be (re)building trust among your constituents on all levels. You can do that with wise and honorable leadership.
To the old guard, I say ‘This is your opportunity to show that you can take the bull by the horns and do what must be done. Use your power of the purse to put a halt to the ‘progressive’ agenda, for cryin’ out loud, including what has already been passed (e.g., Obamacare) and what is sure to come up (e.g., “executive amnesty”). Don’t be afraid to play hardball, as long as you don’t play dirty, and stick to the principles and direction of the Constitution. And, definitely, do not let the Executive Branch get away with usurping anymore of your authority! In fact, you should look into getting back what has already been taken.’
To the new guys/gals coming in, ‘Your victories are commendable, but, as Han Solo once told Luke Skywalker, “Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.” Remember, you ran on conservative issues like Obamacare repeal, balancing the budget, stopping amnesty, and challenging the Washington establishment. Don’t forget, don’t get complacent, and don’t allow yourselves to be bullied. Those of us who put you in office expect you to do what you promised, defend the Constitution, and champion its principles. Do that, and you will have our gratitude and our support.’
Compromise on some details is sometimes acceptable; compromise on principles is not. Now, all of ya… go do some good, and don’t screw it up!”