I have nothing profound or particularly insightful to offer on Tuesday’s election. What follows is by way of taking a modest stand for the record, nothing more. The outcome was predictable. The surprises were not of the pleasant variety, for instance, the margin by which Michelle Nunn went down in Georgia. She had by accounts I read run a good campaign. It may not have been unreasonable to harbor some slim hope for wins by Nunn and by Kay Hagan in North Carolina. They were better candidates and ran better campaigns than some of the dolts the Dems ran out (think Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Bruce Braley in Iowa), damning with faint praise, as they say. And après le déluge? The prudent course is to keep one’s papers in order and passport current.
The people have spoken. Alas. ‘Tis a sobering endeavor to contemplate the damage likely to be done by the blockheads who make up a majority of both houses of Congress and their comrades who occupy the governor’s mansion in twenty-nine states, control twenty-seven state legislatures, own the whole shooting works—governorship and both branches of legislature— in twenty-three states, and constitute a significant portion of the federal judiciary. Yikes.
The next majority leader of the Senate spoke of “an obligation to work together on issues where we can agree,” by which he means issues where Barack Obama will sign off on the Republican program. His words and deeds of the past six years justify no other interpretation. Meantime, John Boehner warns Obama that executive action on immigration will “poison the well.” This from a man who for the past four years has made his lamentable mark leading from behind a rambunctious caucus of libertarian fantasists, laissez-faire zealots, crypto-fascists, closet racists—some of them not all that closeted, religious zealots, blowhards, and general dingbats, who have so thoroughly befouled that well it would scarcely register another dose of poison.
The legislative agenda on climate change and environmental protection will be set by people for whom ignorance is a virtue and intransigence a badge of honor. They blithely defend the status quo, and indeed push to up the ante, on the grounds that they are not scientists, so what do they know. Conservatives fond of wringing their hands and bemoaning the burden of government debt being handed down to future generations do not blink an eye at bequeathing to their grandchildren a world far less hospitable to human life than the world we knew as children.
There will be moves to lower taxes on the wealthy in the guise of tax reform. Many Americans will go for it. The increased deficit that comes with the tax cuts will in turn be used as a rationale to trash programs that benefit the least fortunate among us and cripple the government’s capacity to provide for the general welfare and common good.
A cabal of centrists pushes the line that the voters want the two parties to work together. Work together on what? Take the Affordable Care Act. Democrats and Republicans alike are unhappy with the ACA. Generally speaking, people who vote for Republicans think it goes too far; those who vote Democrat think it does not go far enough. Republicans see health care as just another item in the marketplace, like cars and iPhones. They wish to emphasize the role of the private sector, with minimal government involvement. Democrats and others view health care as something qualitatively different from commodities and other services people routinely purchase. We think that at the least there should be a robust public option, and better yet a single-payer public health system.
Those who voted for Republicans tend to want the two parties to work together to drastically reduce the role of government, lower taxes, dismantle regulation on business and the environment, encourage development and use of fossil fuels, and so on. Those who voted Democrat, and many who abdicated on Tuesday by not voting, tend to want the parties to work together to to invest in education and infrastructure, support the development of alternative energy sources, enact and enforce regulation on the environment and the financial sector. There is not an abundance of common ground.
The editors of National Review warn the Republicans that governing is a trap that will only benefit the Democrats in the 2016 presidential election:
Already a conventional wisdom about what Republicans should do next has congealed. Supposedly it is up to Republicans to “prove they can govern” even though they do not have the White House. Senator Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) told NPR listeners that Republicans could do this by moving on trade-promotion authority, the immigration bill the Senate passed in 2013, and corporate tax reform.
With all due respect to the senator and like-minded Republicans, this course of action makes no sense as a political strategy.
From the other side, Katrina vanden Heuvel argues that
[t]he Obama administration should act right away to use its executive powers to take steps to deal with long-ignored issues that need to be dealt with for the good of the nation.
This cannot be done quietly. To change the media narrative, issues acted upon will have to be controversial enough to dominate the news. President Obama should embrace good progressive public policy while expecting—indeed, hoping for—a massive outcry from the wing-nut section of the GOP.
What will Barack Obama do? Can he possibly believe that Republicans in Congress will ask anything of him but capitulation? Will he have it in him to stand firm against every pernicious initiative the Republicans throw at him? Or will he cave? “Time will tell just who has fell / And who’s been left behind.”
Editors, National Review, The Governing Trap, 5 November 2014
David Lawder and Richard Cowan, Boehner touts bills to repeal Obamacare, build Keystone, Reuters, 6 November 2014
Jeff Mason, Roberta Rampton, Obama, Republicans sound conciliatory note but battles loom, Reuters, 6 November 2014
Katrinia vanden Heuval, The Democrats Lost Big Tonight. Why Obama Should Double Down, The Nation, 4 November 2014