A sense of feckless national drift, many Americans felt,
seemed to be overtaking the U.S. prior to November 4,
littering the political countryside with the detritis of failing
programs, unsupportable policies, manipulated economic
statistics, unfulfillable expectations, and just plain wrong
On election day, a wave of rejection of these circumstances
came from the voters of America, and the nation began the
long process of clean up and redirection.
It would not be true to say that all of the debris of the past
several years, much of it from Mr. Obama, but some of it
from his predecessors of both parties, is gone. If the truth
be said aloud, many of the presumptions of both major
political parties have been shown not to be working well at
home and abroad alike.
That is why the most dynamic locations for policy innovation
and change today are not located in Washington, DC, but in
various states and state governments. In addition to the
rejection of the federal drift leftward the voters unmistakably
confirmed the efforts of conservative governors and legislatures
in Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, South Carolina,
Georgia, New Mexico , Kansas, Nebraska, and Nevada; and
brought in conservative leaders in Arkansas, Massachusetts,
Illinois, Texas and Maryland. They also seem quite satisfied
with innovative conservative governors not up for election this
year in Indiana, Louisiana and North Dakota. Interestingly, the
only major GOP governor to lose re-election was Governor
Corbett of Pennsylvania who, unlike his many conservative
colleagues, failed to make innovations despite having a
legislature controlled by his party.
Conservatives are not the only elected officials being
challenged in the next two years. Liberal and moderate
Democrats who do not share the more radical views and
policies of President Obama, and Democratic leaders
Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, have the opportunity to
bring their party back to the political center where it can
once again compete for a majority of voters.
Some commentators have called for an end to national
midterm elections. The vote just held demonstrates just
what a terrible idea that is. The way the American
representative democracy works, regular and periodic
evaluations of the performance of its representatives
must happen. In the pure democracy of ancient Athens,
the voice of the people was immediate and direct, but that
was the infancy of modern civilization with vastly smaller
numbers of citizens and lacking the subsequent two millenia
of the range, complexity and technology of the human species
now covering most of the planet.
The much repeated commonplace expressed in the days since
November 4 is that the Republicans, now in control of both
houses of Congress, must put forward proposals and
policies of their own to replace the rejected policies of the
current Democratic administration. But that is only half the
story of the conservative challenge. The other half is the ability
of GOP leaders and activists to rethink how to translate
their principles into new and specific forms of governing.
When Newt Gingrich and his colleagues set out their “Contract
With America” in 1994, they not only won a wave election,
they also reshaped national governing politics, even without
a president from their own party, for a generation.
Of course there will initially be an internal debate within the
Republican Party. There are some differing views about
priorities, methods, forms and rhetoric of the policies which
are needed to replace and reform the policies just rejected by
the voters. Let that debate take place, but it should be followed
by a clear, understandable and practical consensus of policies
if the conservative party wants to transform the voter rejection
of 2014 into voter affirmation for a Republican presidential
candidate and his or her congressional colleagues in 2016 and
Otherwise, the political roller coaster will continue to take the
nation back and forth, up and down, accumulating even more
political flotsam while the rest of the world, led by China, Japan,
Brazil and other nations, leaves the U.S. behind in its wake.
Copyright (c) 2014 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.