This is a different kind of commentary on the recent election.  The title is self explanatory.  I thought about adding “in ten easy steps” but I didn’t want to obligate myself to come up with ten points by having to be redundant.  In the current political climate of gridlock and polarization, failing to heed just half of one point might be enough for a significant reversal to occur.  Here goes.

1.  Failure to realize that the GOP won the House back, not because there are a majority of voters who share conservative political principles and were in love with the party, but because the voters fell out of love with the Democrats, and at the moment, voting for Republicans is the only other alternative.  The fact of the matter is that the Republicans offered the only viable way to get the Obama administration and the Democrats to make changes.  The Tea Party’s assault on incumbent Republicans, which was somewhat more successful than the ability of the candidates they backed to beat Democrats, essentially drove the nail into the coffin of the Bush Republican party.  It is, as the media speculated back in 2008, dead.  That’s why, even though there are relatively few Tea Partiers among the new crop of Republicans in Congress, they are able to make the moderate wing of the party quake in their boots with a stern warning that there will be dire consequences if it is business as usual.  The margins of victory for GOP candidates in a plethora of the Congressional races on Tuesday was razor thin, in some cases, paper thin.  The Tea Party may be small but in many cases, their support may mean the difference between winning and losing.  Unless the Republicans think about the situation realistically, their exhuberance will last about two years.

2.  Make the agenda about repealing health care and working to keep President Obama from winning a second term instead of the economy.  There will be a lot of muttering and grumbling about this in the days to come because the talk radio pundits are already agitating for this to happen.  That’s not the message that the voters sent.  Hopefully, there will be some wiser heads that will prevail on this.  One of the frustrations the voters had with the Democrats this time around, as evidenced by virtually every exit poll conducted, was the fact that they felt the Democrats were distracted by issues that were less important than fixing the economy.  They consumed a lot of energy and time debating health care.  Health care needs to be fixed, and few Americans dispute that, though there are a variety of opinions about how to do it.  But most of the voters, between 65 and 70% in most polls, straight up said that the economy was the chief problem. 

It is just a bit curious that the same polls which show overwhelming concern over the economy also show that most voters feel that President Bush and the banks were equally responsible for the economic crisis we’ve been in since the second year of his second term, yet they put his party back in control of the House.  But a closer look reveals that a lot of Bush’s party are gone, and there’s a whole new breed of Republican among those heading for Washington, many for the first time, and there are more women and more minorities among them than ever before.  There are high expectations, too high for the Republicans to go back to gridlock politics.  The Democrats still control the Senate, and the President will be in the White House for at least two more years.  If they want to continue to have a say in what happens, they’ll have to learn to get along, or the voters will put them out in 2012.

3.  Go back to being the pre-2008 GOP.  Laissez-Faire attitudes toward corporations and big business, turning a blind eye to corporate abuses, and taking a hands off policy toward the banks and big businesses, undoing Congressional oversight and regulation  are all policies pursued by the GOP which led to the recession.  Don’t try to fool the American people about that, they know, and part of the frustration they vented at the ballot box on Tuesday had to do with bailouts.  Keeping in mind that it was Bush who initiated, and carried out the first bailout of banks and major corporations, a return to this policy by a Republican dominated House would be political suicide. 

4.  Continuing to be the party of “NO” without offering viable solutions and then being willing to compromise and work through the gridlock.  Insisting on their own agenda, and not engaging in negotiation with Democrats will not win friends and influence people.  Nor is it wise to ignore the opposition after a mid-term election that gives you a false sense of popularity.  The number of people who voted on Tuesday fell far short of the numbers who turned out in 2008, which means that even though the GOP pulled down slightly more than 50% of the vote on Tuesday, that majority is about 40% smaller than the President’s vote total in 2008.  Millions of Americans voted against the GOP on Tuesday.  To coin phrases like “The American People said…” or “They need to do what the American people want to do…” is to ignore what almost half of the American people said, or what they want.  And that could be a fatal mistake.

5.  Don’t underestimate President Obama’s electability.  There isn’t a poll that has been done in the past year that doesn’t show his ability to beat everyone on the GOP short list of potential presidential candidates.  And while his job approval rating is hovering in the upper 40% range (which Bush would have sold his left leg to have) his personal popularity runs higher than that.  Head to head, even Fox news has to admit that he’d beat Sarah Palin rather handily. 

Not only that, but the election results on Tuesday give the President a distinct political advantage over the next two years.  He’s got a highly visible place to pin the blame for whatever doesn’t transpire to please the electorate.  Those “Republicans in Congress” can now be blamed for legislative and political failures, and you can bet that the President’s staff is loaded with public relations consultants who can take full advantage of every situation.  If unemployment stays high, he can blame the House.  If the economic situation improves, he’s in a position to take full credit for it.  Any move the GOP makes which looks like an attempt to inhibit the President’s chances at re-election will be seen as playing politics, and that is clearly not what the voters want to see now. 

I’ve even seen a few comments suggesting that a Republican controlled House should try an impeachment.  Not a good idea.  With the economy being the highest priority, a political move like that would be disastrous.  With the Senate in Democratic hands, it would be a futile effort, seen as wasteful and politically motivated, and the end of GOP control of the House.  The GOP is going to have to choose between working to help the American people recover from recession or trying to bring the President down.  They can’t do both.

President Obama and the Democrats swept into office in 2008, running on a platform of “change.”  The change didn’t happen quickly enough, and the voters reacted.  The Republicans now have an excellent chance to become the party of change, and have great influence over what that will look like.  Politics as usual will blow that chance, and it seems that, these days, the voters can turn things around quickly.  In order to effect change, they are going to have to work with the other side of the aisle.  That’s what the American people want to see.  If they don’t the pendulum will swing back before there’s another major election. 

In the meantime, I’ll wait and see.

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About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

5 responses

  1. Colby says:

    Running Sarah Palin as their presidential candidate in 2012 would guarantee Obama a second term. Likewise, I agree with your assessment that if the GOP “plays politics” and does what Mitch McConnell has suggested, they’ll make sure Obama gets four more years. After they took both houses in 1994, it took a year, and some real failures, for them to settle down and get to work. The end result of that was the voters becoming sympathetic to Bill Clinton, re-electing him, and whittling down the Republican majority.

    Regardless of whose agenda is in place, the economy has already made major strides toward improvement under the Democrats, and the unemployment problem is eventually going to be resolved, though the Bush administration exported some jobs in some sectors of the economy that aren’t likely to come back. If the GOP appears to be serious about working through partisan gridlock, they might get a lot of credit for what happens. If they continue to push to “get Obama out” they’ll generate enough sympathy for him to easily beat anyone they put up in 2012, and with the mood of the voters now, a swing back to the left is also very likely.

  2. Christiane says:

    I think that the stated goal of Mc Connell is to oust Obama in 2012. But I don’t know what his influence is now on the party.

    I can see the perfect trifecta:

    A. Party of ‘NO’ repealing Obama’s programs
    B. All energies aimed at ousting Obama in 2012
    C. Sarah Palin or a similar ‘tea party’ favorite
    running for President in 2012

    The ‘negativity’ ? It’s there already.

    Plus the drive to ‘cut taxes’ for the top 2 % (our wealthiest citizens) while having to borrow billions to make up for it, and thereby increasing the debt big-time

    As for decreasing the debt? If you ask what programs will be cut, no one wants to mention the sacred ones, such as Soc. Sec. and Medicare, Defense spending.

    That leaves programs that, if cut, will not impact the national debt hardly at all.

  3. Lee says:

    Yeah, I think the GOP is way out on a limb with all their talk of stopping deficit spending, not borrowing billions from China, and cutting the budget. That’s just talk. They’re not any more serious about cutting the budget, or avoiding budget deficits because they want to continue the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy, they want to increase defense spending, and they aren’t about to touch medicare or social security. They were willing to hand banks and financial institutions billions in bailout money when Bush was in office, without any oversight or regulation of it, giving them more money to pay extravagant bonuses and waste. But those are their buddies.

    Palin is unelectable. She jumped on the tea party bandwagon because she saw where it was going. The exposure she got as McCain’s running mate sealed her fate. Only the most die hard conservatives take her seriously. What happened in Alaska’s senate race is quite telling as far as she is concerned. Lisa Murkowski articulated it well, she ran out on the people of Alaska. Her personally endorsed candidate for senate will lose to a write-in candidate. She’s done.

    If there is smart leadership in the GOP, and I think there probably is, then they’ll dump the remaining Bushites and field candidates from the crop of newbies that swept into office this midterm. That’s where their brains are these days.

  4. Jack Matthews says:

    Looks like you are right about the voters throwing them out if they don’t do something about the economy, but it doesn’t look like the GOP leadership understands that, at least, not those who are poised to set the agenda.

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/11/07/election.post.mortem/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn

    Pawlenty: “Voters want to see results on creating jobs, and if Republicans don’t produce, we’ll be thrown out in two years.”

    The Republicans apparently don’t get it. They’re going to take the same path they did with the futile “Contract with America” that Newt Gingrich led back in 1994, but they don’t have nearly as large of a mandate this time, and they are going to open the door for Obama to win relection in 2012. They aren’t a majority, and if they succeed in making moderate to left wing voters “mad” in the next two years, there are more than enough of those who didn’t turn out this time around to reverse last Tuesday’s results.

  5. Lee says:

    Independent voters, swinging from support for Democrats to the GOP by about a 10% shift, are responsible for the Republicans gaining in the house. They are not interested in pushing the right wing agenda, according to the exit polls they want to see gridlock end and the parties work together on the economy (65-70% depending on the poll). If the GOP doesn’t move in the direction they want to go, it won’t take much to reverse the 60 seat gain, give Obama a second term, and send the GOP back to minority status. Democrat turnout was also a little lower this time around. If the GOP wants to stay on top, they will have to realize this, and act accordingly. It doesn’t appear that Boehner, McConnell and Co. are going to do this, which means that the Dems will pick up enough independents and increase their own turnout in 2012 to take the house back and keep the White House. The social issues backed by evangelical Christians, which have yet to be given fair consideration, keep getting further and further behind.