... are never quite what the media pundits think they are. Consider that in the 2008 election, that the overwhelming victories by the Democrats for the White House, Senate and House at the federal level had people scratching their heads, wondering what will happen to the Republicans -- some even talked openly of the end of the Republican party in the not so distant future.
An interesting concept. I was born in 1958 and it's been a two-party system my entire life. Go back through U.S. history and there's been, more or less, a two-party system almost from the beginning. In fact, there's something known as Duverger's Law which suggests that when votes cast a single vote for a candidate in their district, the results not only favor a two-party system, it makes it very difficult for third parties to emerge. And yet, go back in history and you discover that in the U.S., it's not always the same two parties. (grin) Consider this quote from the Wikipedia article and see if you recognize the major players based on where they are today:
A third party can only enter the arena if it can exploit the mistakes of a pre-existing major party, ultimately at that party's expense. For example, the political chaos in the United States immediately preceding the Civil War allowed the Republican Party to replace the Whig Party as the progressive half of the American political landscape. Loosely united on a platform of country-wide economic reform and federally funded industrialization, the decentralized Whig leadership failed to take a decisive stance on the slavery issue, effectively splitting the party along the Mason-Dixon Line. Southern rural planters, initially lured by the prospect of federal infrastructure and schools, quickly aligned themselves with the pro-slavery Democrats, while urban laborers and professionals in the northern states, threatened by the sudden shift in political and economic power and losing faith in the failing Whig candidates, flocked to the increasingly vocal anti-slavery Republican Party.
Republicans In A Landslide!
At least some in the Republican leadership aren't trying to swing their victories in the U.S. House as a mandate. Winning one house, while not winning the Senate or the White House isn't decisive. And just having the White House and both sides of Congress isn't sufficient either -- ask the Democrats who didn't have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate the last two years.
Years ago I might've applauded this year's results. To some extent I was a fan of divided government -- having different bums in charge in the House and the Senate was a way to feed in new ideas and compromise. Alas, the politics of the last ten to twenty years has turned ever more divisive and destructive. The Republicans in the past two years have acted as the 'Party of No' and threatened filibuster in the Senate at every turn -- while the Democrats didn't want to take them up on their threat and too often didn't act like a party in charge. This isn't my opinion. There have been plenty of Republicans who have openly stated their opposition to any and all things Obama. And all this while the President made enemies with his own party by trying to add compromise elements to his legislative agenda in the hope of getting some Republican votes. I'm not sure I yet see how the Republicans will be moved to compromise in this new environment.
And holding only the House for sure, if they can keep their voting bloc together, doesn't give them a way to pass legislation by themselves. So the Republicans can talk all they want about repealing Obamacare and cutting taxes, etc., but none of that will happen without Democratic agreement. Of course not holding the House pretty much means some of the same thing for the Democrats and their surviving agenda. As a result, either nothing will happen for the next two years -- in which case the voters may well savage ALL the incumbents as fiddling while Rome burn or we might see a return to "real" politics and discussions and deals.
Which Republican Party?
But the Republican leadership has a new problem. The Tea Party movement, which isn't an actual party, encompasses some of those who won in these 2010 mid-term elections. But not all. And some high profile Tea Party candidates were defeated, as happens in elections. So who will lead the Republicans? Who will negotiate? Or will we see a fractured Republican party, where one side will create a new majority by working with some/all of the Democrats? What will be the rhetoric for such 'betrayals'? The new Speaker of the House will surely have to walk a fine line, lest his name be used as a swear word as much as Pelosi and Obama have been.
Just Say NO! To The CEOs!
For all the talk about jobs and the economy, being a former CEO of a major corporation, rather than The Usual Politician, might have seemed the right thing to do. But in two of the highest profile races, this didn't work out. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) keeps her Senate seat and, surprise-surprise, Jerry Brown (D-CA) returns as governor. NPR made the point that in his two different stints, the former 'Governor Moonbeam' will have been both the youngest and the oldest person elected to head California. An interesting duck to be sure, perhaps he will be a worthy successor to the equally interesting 'Govenator' Arnold Schwarzeneggar (R-CA).
Of course not all the CEO candidates were defeated. Rick Snyder (R-MI) takes the governorship in Michigan. The former CEO of Gateway Computers ran a campaign as the 'nerd' outsider candidate. All the top positions in Michigan went Republican, as this formerly Very Purple State has become Very Red State in Lansing. We'll have to see what actual real legislative plans will emerge from Our New Red Overlord Masters here in the Great Lakes State. Michigan has been losing jobs since back in the Engler (R-MI) administration. Granholm (D-MI) inherited a suddenly discovered budget deficit -- and the governor and state legislature have been cutting and cutting the budgets for eight years.
One wonders what budget cuts AND tax cuts will be enacted by the new team that will also attract new businesses and new jobs. Can't possibly increase the gas tax, despite the desperate condition of Michigan's roads and the simple facts that with (a) higher m.p.g. cars, (b) a gas tax based on a flat rate per gallon and (c) fewer drivers and less driving as the jobs go away, there is simply less gas tax revenue. Michigan is getting some visibility as a new Midwest center of film making -- but the state's high subsidies are roundly criticized in some circles -- with similar complaints for subsidies to bring in high tech medical, lithium car battery technology and alternative energy industries.
Throw The Bums Out -- Or At Least Throw Them Sideways
In Michigan, the elections for statewide offices might look to an outsider as a 'throw the bums out' affair. But it's complicated -- or at least mitigated -- by an aggressive set of term limits laws. As a result, Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI) could not run again, even if she had a snowball's chance in hell of winning again in this tough economy. And many of the state legislature and state senate positions were also term limited. This results in a complicated game of musical chairs, as state legislators tried to muscle into a smaller number of state senate positions. Retirements of some venerable U.S. House members provided escape paths for term limited others. In West Michigan, the near sweep of these positions by Republicans was hardly news -- they were nearly all Republican seats to begin with.
"What Are You Against?" "Whatya Got?"
In the just concluded elections, there has been a great deal of rhetoric on many subjects. Some of it has been simply not true, others merely spinning the truth and twisting it to serve an agenda. In other words, an election -- sometimes feeling like an election on steroids. After the campaigns end and the new officeholders take their oaths, then the rubber meets the road. Only time will tell about how well this election works in getting things done. Either we'll dissolve into more rhetoric and blame gaming, or we'll get the proverbial sleeves rolled up and get down to work.
I have my own ideas, but I've not spent a lot of time/space in this blog espousing them over the years. This entry is much more a commentary on the realities creeping into what has just happened, then either a Hooray For My Side! or OMG We're All Going To Die! I have seen great things accomplished in my lifetime in areas which can be labeled both liberal and conservative. I think that much can be done to shore up our economy and prevent meltdowns such as we've endured these past couple of years from occurring again by a serious blending of liberal and conservative ideas. If, on the other hand, we only get name calling and demonizing of the other side, then it is going to be a long two years.
Methinks in any event we shall only get a short respite from campaigning -- as Election 2012 begins to wind up in earnest before the Class of 2010 even gets to do anything. (sigh)