Tip O’Neill, the oversized Democratic Speaker of the House during the Reagan years, used to say, “All politics is local.” And that is as good an explanation as any as to why my blog has been mostly silent leading up to the mid-term elections. While I voted Tuesday, I can readily understand and empathize with voter apathy, disillusionment, even revulsion, to the state of politics and government in America. Even when it resulted in electing candidates who clearly identify with and promote the causes of the rich, the general population made their voices heard, that they were dissatisfied with Democrats being ensconced in governors’ chairs and the majority of the U.S. Senate.
The politics of fear—Ebola and ISIS—trumped any benefits they saw from Obamacare, revitalized car and housing industries, lower unemployment, higher job creation. Democrats and Independents chose to sit this election out, as they often do in non-presidential years. They were aided by Republican efforts to keep voters out through restrictive election laws that required IDs and limited voting times.
But GOP tactics might not have mattered if Democrats ran smarter campaigns. One of the first laws of politics is that a candidate must define him- or herself, otherwise the opposition would do it for you. Sadly, too many Democrats chose to distance themselves from the achievements of the Obama administration, and let’s not have any snarky comments about “what achievements.” In a nutshell, Democrats lacked a distinctive message of positive accomplishments.
Despite early sound bites that they want to lead America toward future exceptionalism, Republicans will be hard pressed to act on that lofty ideal. House Speaker John Boehner and presumptive Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell will have to wield sharp party discipline swords to contain slash and burn members of their own caucuses. It is not beyond reason to postulate that on critical bills, such as raising the national debt ceiling, rogue Republicans will add unacceptable-to-the-president amendments aimed at killing ObamaCare, thus forcing repeated vetoes. Heck, in their Op-Ed piece in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal Boehner and McConnell pledged to renew efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
What will Republicans do on such controversial issues as global warming, reproductive rights, income inequality, immigration reform, financial markets oversight, environmental protections, court appointments? How will McConnell react to filibuster threats?
All this will lead to two repetitively revolting years of Washington insider news but very little advancement of the country’s good and welfare. There is, however, at least one silver lining from Tuesday’s election: Have you noticed your telephone is not ringing as often with those disruptive and annoying robo calls? Except, that is, from telemarketers who continue to call during dinner time despite your number being on the federal NO Call list.