The votes have not yet been counted, and no one should take the American voter for granted. It is not a certainty that Republicans will win control of one or both the U.S. house and senate, but laws of gravity tell us that Democratic losses will be great and significant in any event.
Should the GOP win control of the house of representatives, there will be a most interesting interval between the first week of November, 2010, and the first week of january 2011, when the new Congress is sworn in. This interregnum allows for critical opportunities and very high risks for both parties. This interval will happen no matter what the election results are, but if there is a changeover in control of one or both houses, there will be extraordinary temptations laid before both winners and losers.
Some Democratic leaders and many in the media have speculated that there will be a “lame duck” session of Congress in November and December in which Democrats will try to enact radical legislation they could not pass before. Republicans should only be so lucky to have their opponents try to do this. The negative reaction in the country would be enormous, and the opportunity for the Democrats to recover by 2012 would be irretrievably lost. Not only that, the effort would fail because no sane surviving Democratic member of Congress would dare to vote for such an effort. It would be political suicide. As for the many losers, Speaker Pelosi no longer would have the power ot enforce her will, nor would such losing members risk such a vote if they have any desire to run again. So forget about a lame duck session.
The Democrats would be well advised to take the results to heart, and move back to the political center as fast as they can before 2012. New leadership in both houses of Congress would be in order, and a new approach from President Obama the only viable course.
But if victorious, Republicans would be well advised to take a deep breath, tone down any gloating or promise of revenge in the new session, and put the onus on President Obama to work with them in the new year and session. After all, the voters will be sending a message, and it is the obligation of any American elected official to pay attention to the voter. Barack Obama will still be president in January, 2011, and no one is predicting that, even if a landslide in November for the GOP, that either house would be able to override his veto.
It will be a tricky chess game, then, in the period after the mid-term election, and both sides will need their best players in the game. It’s not too soon for either side to think out and plan for this possibly historic interregnum ahead.