Sunday, October 17, 2010

Is This Election About Consent?

So much has been written about the motivation of the voters BEFORE this year’s mid-term national elections. Some have contended that the primary phenomenon this year is the “anger” of the voters brought on by the widespread economic conditions in the U.S., including very high levels of unemployment. Others have argued that it is unhappiness with the Obama administration, including the Congress it controls, and their radical policies and legislation. Still others say that the voter dissatisfaction seen in the polls, and in special elections, is not much more than the usual reaction midway in a first presidential term, something which traditionally happens to many presidents, regardless of party.

I think we need to be careful about any final conclusions about voter motivation until we have counted the votes. There is no doubt at all that voters are unhappy, but we need to see the dimensions of their dissatisfaction before we can try to accurately diagnose what is on the mind of the American public.

If indeed this election brings historic or near-historic change only two years after President Obama was decisively elected president, and after two national elections (2006 and 2008) in which Democrats were given increasing majorities, then I think it is fair to say that the 2010 election will not have been merely a traditional off-year dip for the party in power. The losers, of course, will attempt to rationalize the results, putting blame on this or that component of the national circumstances, but a megadramatic election result would signal a very profound trespass of the American consensus.

I employ the word “consensus” carefully here because I am increasingly coming to believe that a very decisive rejection of Democratic incumbents in the Congress and in state elections across the nation would signal that voters individually and together feel they no longer consent in what their governments are doing. We can name the individual issues, i.e. rising taxes, larger government, bailouts and other interference in private business and conduct, radical and unpopular foreign policies, and so forth, but taken together, we might say that government in general, and Obama-Pelosi-Reid Democratic government specifically no longer has the “consent of the governed.”

There are legitimate arguments to defend or criticize the policies of any government, but it is a fundamental principle of the United States of America that any of its governments must have a consensus to hold power and to proceed with its agenda over time.

Since we have no votes yet counted in 2010, I am withholding any final judgments until they are tallied. All I can say at this point, with two weeks to go, is that I have not ever before seen the one-sided energy I have seen in this campaign season. Sometimes, however, appearances are not fulfilled in results. And sometimes, strong appearances are even exceeded when votes are counted.

If the morning of November 3 brings the latter, it would mean that those in charge are not merely wrong, but that they have crossed a fundamental line in our national body politic.

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