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November 6, 2014 / Sandy Asher

HO-HUM MIDTERMS by Harvey Asher, Ph.D.

While the maelstrom of hyperbolic analyses about the meaning of the mid-term Congressional election results swirls on, I invite you to join me on shore for an appropriately ho-hum perspective on why Republicans achieved smashing victories in both the Senate and the House, and what their triumphs mean long term.

The main reason for their success was widespread public disenchantment with the direction – or lack of direction – of our country’s affairs, for which a majority of Americans held President Obama accountable. Going into the elections, the president’s approval ratings hovered at 40%. Republicans ran against Obama’s unpopularity successfully; Democrats tried to run away from it unsuccessfully. Neither party’s candidates offered an uplifting agenda.

The president’s perceived negatives, in no particular order: the disastrous roll-out of the Affordable Health Care Act, scandals and incompetence in the VA, a domestic surveillance expose involving government agencies, and his handling of Middle East crises from the civil war in Syria to the rise of ISIL terrorists. He was also held responsible for the gridlock in government now in its sixth year — not surprisingly, though maybe unfairly. Add to his liabilities claims that he comes across as aloof, indecisive, weak, and inconsistent.

That said, a broader perspective on mid-term elections indicates that the party in power almost always loses seats in Congress. The vast majority of Republican gains this time round, especially in the Senate, in some unexpectedly close races, came in “red states” that had gone for Mitt Romney in 2012.  The GOP’s hard work behind the scenes to avoid placing extremist Tea Party candidates on the ballot, those prone to making incendiary statements on pregnancy and rape, for instance, also paid dividends.

So what now?  Not the end of the world or even of our democracy, certainly.  Over the next two years we can expect the Republicans to push their usual pro-business agenda: fewer banking, consumer protection, and environmental regulations, as well as reductions in government social programs.  But they will stop short of a full assault against Obamacare. Gridlock will remain the norm; however, given the propensity of Democrats to compromise and the necessity for Republicans to shift their image beyond the “party of no,” we will likely see modest reforms of corporate taxes and infra-structure and trade policies.

In foreign policy, there will be more bluster about using American power, but no significant changes in practice.

Gay marriage expansion, abortion restrictions, raises in minimum wages, and the legal use of marijuana will continue to be fought out on the state level.

The presidential election of 2016 will not be significantly influenced by what happened in Tuesday’s mid-terms. They were less important than what happened in 2010 when Republicans took back the House by adding 63 seats, added six in the Senate, and soon after began the tactics that ushered in gridlock.

Lots of unanticipated stuff will happen in the next two years that can help or hinder either party’s chances for winning the presidency.  Republicans will be judged more closely by what they do with their new majority status, while Democrats can count on much higher voter turnout.

Most importantly, the 2016 contest will depend on the party’s respective candidates at election time. The choice of a Ted Cruz or Joe Biden will assure defeat for their respective parties.  Might they run against one another?  I imagine that inspiring a total no-voter turnout.

Not all elections can bring the excitement and engagement of a race involving the first woman and the first African-American to run for president, but we do go on.  And our media pundits have to fill their time and space in any case, so they do rave on.  Personally, I’d rather watch the charismatic new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell host a TV show: “Saturday Night Dead.”




Leave a Comment
  1. Patrick Murphy / Nov 6 2014 3:50 pm

    Well written (as usual).

    Only thing this election does is make it impossible for Obama to get any judicial nominations approved. That’s a big deal, but he’s already remade the Federal judiciary in the two years since Harry Reid changed the rules so that important judicial nominations only require a Senate majority. The crucial D.C. Fifth Circuit is now mostly Democratic judges. In 2016 the Senate will revert back to the Democrats–25 of the 34 seats up for grabs will be Republican (this time it was the Democrats who were vulnerable).

    If I were Harry Reid I’d announce that my No. 1 priority is keeping the Republicans from passing any plutocratic legislation like low-tax repatriation of foreign profits and bank deregulation. I’d filibuster the hell out of those suckers and dare them to complain about it.

    If I were Obama I’d wave red flags at McConnell and poison the well for Boehner for the next two years by doing everything in my power to govern without compromising with G.O.P. reactionaries. It’s not like the Executive Branch doesn’t have a lot of process to fix. Streamlining the Administrative State would surely add to his legacy.

    “Interstellar” is getting stellar reviews.

    • Sandy Asher / Nov 7 2014 1:13 pm

      Yeah, the latest New Yorker has a good piece on O’s judicial appointments. It’s not in the nature of Democrats to become the mirror image of rigid Republicans.

      I’m game for Interstellar.


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