The first impulse of Tuesday’s national mid-term elections is to ask what it means, and then how it occurred. Believe it or not, I don’t think either of those questions are as important as one that is simpler: What happened?
What happened is that the balance of power shifted dramatically in the U.S. house of representatives from the Democrats to the Republicans. Furthermore, each party’s delegation in this body is now closer to its party base, that is, the Republican members are now more conservative than in the previous Congress, and the Democratic members are more liberal. A large number of moderate and establishment Democratic members were defeated for re-election. This will probably enable soon-to-be former speaker Nancy Pelosi, and current senate majority leader Harry Reid, both to the left side of their party, to win re-election for their leadership positions. Liberal initiatives for legislation are now finished, and conservative initiatives will take their place. As the branch of Congress which funds government and government programs, the house will now be in constant conflict with President Obama and his administration, and will act as a check on his policies.
A working majority in the U.S. senate on most important issues now is 60 members. The Democratic majority in the last Congress was usually able to muster that number to pass their legislation, but their majority is now significantly reduced. Senator-elect Joe Manchin, furthermore, is a very conservative Democrat who ran on the promise that he would oppose many of the liberal proposals passed in the last Congress, and advocated by President Obama. A popular governor, he must now go before West Virginia voters again in 2012 with his voting record since he was elected to fill the remainder of the late Robert Byrd’s term. Other, and surviving, centrist Democratic senators observed what happened to their like-minded colleagues in 2010 who went along with the very liberal leadership. With a presidential election now coming up, Mr. Obama’s ability to nominate liberals to government positions and to the judiciary is now restrained.
The conservative majority on the U.S. supreme court was not affected by the 2010 elections, although the impact of the voting is likely to affect any nominee the president might send to the senate for confirmation in the future.
A significant reversal in state governors now places the majority of state executives in Republican hands. Control of many state legislatures also changed hands in the Republicans favor. Combined with demographic changes that have been favoring Republicans over the past decade, these circumstances give the conservative party a decided advantage in the redistricting process that will occur in 2011, following the 2010 census.
In short, the prospects for conservatives and the Republican Party have been markedly improved, and those of liberals and the Democratic Party have been diminished.
The nation’s critical problems, however, remain, and the time remaining to resolve these problems is less, hour by hour, day by day, month by month.
No matter how it is “spun” or rationalized, the 2010 national mid-term elections was a nationwide rejection by the electorate of the first two years of the Obama administration. But it is not a judgment on the next two years. A national election is an organic act of the citizens. It is, in fact, their only collective way to express their opinion of the actions and behavior of their government.
By keeping the two most prominent faces and promulgators of the past two years in place, the Democrats are, in effect, thumbing their political noses to the American electorate. This is a very dangerous game for a political party in power to play, especially going into a presidential re-election. We still have a representative democracy, and in almost every case when a political party ignores or trespasses the will of an electorate, they are promptly and summarily removed from the temporary power given to them by that electorate.
2010 was a clear, unmistakeable warning. Mr. Obama, Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid can cling to any illusions they may have about this election, but you can count on 2012 making this year’s election seem mild if they do not change course.
Democratic elected officials at all levels of government, and who must go again before the voters in 2012, now must make some of the most difficult political decisions in American history, not only about their course, but who they want to lead them. No excuses will be allowed in the next election.