Given the amount of money and publicity that fuels elections every two years, it’s a wonder that mass hysteria isn’t the rule, rather than the exception. In fact, it’s not even an exception, it’s part of the journalistic hyperbole that sells papers and TV ads, but it’s not really evident in reality. With the exception of humorous asides, I can’t get all worked up about the election results. So what? So the Republicans took back the House? To watch the pundits last night, one would think that in 222 years of elections, 111 election cycles, that had never happened before.
C’mon, it has happened as recently as four years ago, when both the House and the Senate shifted to the Democratic side. And it’s happened numerous times in the past. Ronald Reagan’s party suffered serious midterm setbacks in 1982, with the Gipper himself going on two years later to win one of the biggest landslides in history. Clinton handily won re-election in 1996 after losing Congress in the 1994 elections. Election cycles are just that – cyclical. It just doesn’t mean anything, in the long run.
This is what happens in a republic of 50 states, 100 Senators being elected every 6 years and 435 Representatives elected every 2 years. It’s what happens in a country of 300 million individuals, all with differing perspectives on what’s best for the country. And in 222 years, while the country has been folded, spindled and mutilated, it has not self-destructed. And it won’t. Yes, there will be people on both sides who get pissed off at each other, but the government will go on ensuring that the wealthy people continue to accrue wealth while the middle class and poor are distracted just enough to sit by idly and watch.
There are a few things that I have to put in the positive column, though.
- Despite all the predictions to the contrary, the Tea Party has not really turned out to be a force to be reckoned with. Of the top 5 Tea Party “candidates” (all Republicans, by the way) – Christine O’Donnell, Ken Buck, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul and Joe Miller – only Rand Paul was actually elected. (And hell, that’s Kentucky, what did you expect?) Paul, along with all of the other fringe electees, will be assimilated into the Great American Political Process, and will work heavily and exclusively to ensure that he gets re-elected, while occasionally throwing a few bones to his constituents. He will vote as the Republican party wants him to vote, just like every other Republican Senator before him. For all intents and purposes, his tea party is over. We should take heart that the tea party craziness is not really that popular, and actually hurt the Republicans. In three States – Nevada, Colorado and Delaware – nutty tea kooks ran against Democrats, and lost, because of their perceived kookiness. And in Alaska, the tea party candidate is running second, way behind “write-ins”, and it’s only a matter of a hand count of those votes to confirm the election of “normal” Republican, which in my book counts as a rejection of Sarah Palin’s hand picked choice. The make up of the Senate could be entirely different, without the Tea Party.
- Democrats still control the Senate and the Executive, and will do so for at least 2 years. Having a majority in the House of Representative doesn’t mean that Republicans now run the country. And now the expectation focus will be on Republicans. They campaigned on a “take the country back” slogan, and now they will be required to pony up on their promises. What are they going to do with a Senate controlled by the opposing party and a President with veto power? Well, just maybe (and I’m sticking my neck out on the chopping block here) they will find that with people expecting something from them, they’ll actually have to deliver, or incur the ire of their constituents, and actually work with their enemies, something Obama’s been trying to get them to do for two years. In short, they will have to put up or shut up. And now that they have some power, they can only fail if they don’t use it constructively, instead of jeering from the sidelines.
Now, in the negative column:
- It appears that bigotry has raised it’s ugly head, not just in the Tea Party, but in Iowa, of all places. Three Iowa Supreme Court Justices failed to be retained after a vicious campaign to oust them. They were three of the justices on a unanimous court that ruled that a ban on same -sex marriage was unconstitutional last year. Money and advertising paid for outside the state was instrumental in having them removed. It’s an unfortunate use of a process meant to hold judges accountable, usually for gross misconduct. But the religious right has made it known that they will not tolerate equal rights for everyone, and will pull out all stops to impose their bigoted, 12th Century mentality on the rest of the country. In the process they have punished three good judges for just doing their job. Iowans should be ashamed.
At least those three judges -Marsha K. Ternus, Michael J. Streit and David L. Baker – had some class. After the loss, they issued a joint statement:
“We hope Iowans will continue to support Iowa’s merit selection system for appointing judges. This system helps ensure that judges base their decisions on the law and the Constitution and nothing else.”
I hope the governor re-appoints them.