Many Americans voted to give control of both house of congress to the Republican party. Time will tell if this was a wise choice on their part.
It’s morning in America, Wednesday November 5, 2014, and we have a Republican controlled Congress and Senate. The Republicans picked up at least 7 seats in the Senate and expanded their control of the house by about 10 seats. John Boehner, House Speaker, indicated yesterday that the results were “humbling.” He added: “This is not a time for celebration. It’s a time for government to start getting results.” Strong words indeed from a speaker who has presided over the two least effective congresses in history.
Senator Mitch McConnell , reelected as the Republican Senator from Kentucky and likely to be the new Senate majority leader, indicated in his victory speech that the “parties have an obligation to work together on the issues we can agree.” Mitch went on to say “too many in Washington forgot it’s their job is to serve…just because we have a two party system does not mean we have to be in perpetual conflict.” This is a very “different” Mitch McConnell from the Senator who declared, after Obama won the Presidency in 2008, that his “number one priority is making sure president Obama’s a one-term president,” and went on to do his best to accomplish that goal in spite of the country facing, at the time (2008-2009 when Obama took office as president), a catastrophic recession and global financial crisis, high unemployment, health care crisis, endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear Iran, aggressive Russia, climate change, education, failing infrastructure, debilitating income inequality, immigration reform etc.
And yet, in spite of a very ineffective and obstructionist congress, and warring partisan fights replacing cooperation, productive work ethic and getting things done, the following are sample items accomplished in the Obama presidency so far, as outlined by Bill Maher:
1. 63 straight months of economic expansion.
2. A depression averted.
3. A deficit reduced by two thirds.
4. A healthcare law that is working, covering million more and lowering costs.
5. Two women of the Supreme Court.
6. Bin Laden is dead.
7. Stock market at record heights.
8. An unemployment rate that dropped from 10.2% to 5.9%.
9. Gas prices down.
And the facts behind the very short Bill Maher list, expanded and substantiated:
1. Here’s a List of 269 Accomplishments by President Obama. This list will continue to Grow – The PCTC Blog
2. Obama’s Top 50 Accomplishments – Washington Monthly
3. Obama and the Harsh Reality Check – Huffington Post
And yet, the president’s job approval rating is at a 42.0 low and his low popularity seems to be blamed for Democrat defeats in the senate and congressional races as well as some gubernatorial races. Several closely watched races where Democratic candidates ran away from the president and his accomplishments, ended up losing their races in the process. One example is Allison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, who refused to say if she voted for the president and stated “I’m not Barak Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.” She lost to Mitch McConnell 56% to 41%.
There is no doubt that in spite of all his accomplishments, the Obama Factor played a meaningful a role in the Democratic defeats yesterday. The mid-term electorate higher turnout of 45-65 year olds (67%), favored the Republican message of anti-Obama, and younger voters, 18-45 year olds, who favored Obama in 2012, made up only 32% of the electorate this time, accounting for the defeats of Democratic candidates.
The big question now is what’s next?
Since all eyes in Washington, and political circles around the country, are now on 2016 and the Presidential race, reality (or its perception–it’s hard to tell the difference sometimes) going forward is very different. Democrats must regroup and figure out how to make sure their accomplishments, message and plan for the future is clear and winning. They also must build up their base and message and appeal to independents and moderate republicans, as well as strengthen their connections and support from women and minorities. They also must grow their appeal among older white men.
On the other side, since Republicans now control both chambers, they can no longer be the party of “no” and defeating any and all policies of the Obama administration, and show the American people they can actually work with the President and the Democrats, govern and get things done. In an ironic turn of events, the last two years of the Obama presidency might just be more productive and possibly issue a new era of cooperation between our two main political parties, hope spring eternal.
Years ago in 1990, Andre Agassi, at the height of his tennis career, had a commercial for Cannon rebel camera where he proudly stated “Image is everything.” It sure looks like American politics follows that shallow premise and philosophy.
One such example is Joni Ernst of Iowa. In her acceptance speech for winning the Senate seat in Iowa (first women ever in that state) she proudly stated “We’re going to Washington and we are going to make them [Democrats] squeal (referencing a political add where she, also proudly, outlined her experience castrating hogs, which apparently will allow her to bring about fiscal responsibility by cutting pork?) With statements like Obama has “become a dictator,” and suggesting he be impeached, expressing willingness to take up her Smith & Wesson against the government “should they decide that my rights are no longer important,”, still believing weapons of mass destruction were in Iraq when we invaded (she is a veteran), opposing a national minimum wage stating $7.25 is good enough for Iowans, not “believing” in climate change, and promoting the false notion that there is a UN-driven conspiracy called Agenda 21, among other outlandish notions, she is nor exactly a model for reason, reaching across the aisle and getting things done in Washington (I hope to be proven wrong).
Guided by the immortal words of Daniel Patrick Moynihan “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts,” let’s hope that facts and reality, work ethic and productivity, cooperation ad compromise and a focus on what is best for the American people, America and our global and interconnected world, will be the new order of the day and framework of politics and government in Washington and around the country.