In 2008, voters were war weary at the beginning of the election year and in a state of economic shock at the close of the campaign. After ending Republican control of Congress in 2006, they overwhelmingly elected Democrats to the presidency and to the Congress in huge numbers in 2008. Those giddy Democrats interpreted that vote as a “mandate” to govern from significantly left-of-center. That choice was thoroughly repudiated on Election Day 2010.
The voters were shocked in the fall of 2008 to find out that the big, sprawling swarm of government in Washington couldn’t police the financial markets sufficiently to prevent the staggering economic losses engendered by the financial market meltdown. Big government had failed them, and they were mad as hell about it. To add insult to injury, they watched the Potomac crowd bail out major financial institutions and the automobile industry—with money borrowed from the Chinese.
The Democrats—with a secure lock on power in Washington—then embarked on the path of making government even larger and less responsible to the voters. An ill-conceived “cap and trade” bill that would have greatly impacted energy costs and the private sector energy industry was jammed through the House, greased by sleazy back-room deals. Next, an $800 billion “stimulus” bill was rammed through Congress—legislation that ran up the massive national debt to record levels but did little to stimulate the economy. Then the Democrats spent a year refusing to listen to the voters’ objections and pushed a massive and controversial bill through Congress that will totally redefine how health care is delivered and financed in America.
If the United States were a left-of-center nation, those initiatives would have been extremely popular and would have lifted Democratic fortunes in the recent elections. The lack of voter support for those initiatives can be effectively gauged by the approximately 64 seats the GOP picked up in the House and six seats in the Senate.
The nation remains right-of-center. The President and the majority of the remaining Democrats in Congress are manifestly left of left-of-center. The Republicans now have a sizeable majority in the House. Democrats retain control of the executive branch and have a small majority in the Senate. Something has to give.
It is now time for our elected representatives to interpret the results of the election. President Obama seems to interpret the returns not as a repudiation of his policies but as a sign that the voters want less partisanship. He seems to believe that “cap and trade,” the bloated stimulus, and the health care bill are magnificent ideas that would have been accepted by the public if only he had gotten the Republicans to go along with them. If that is his take on the election results, he really is not in tune with reality.
The Republicans should realize that they were simply a tool of the voters in this election. Most Americans wanted to stop the lurch left that Obama and the Democrats embarked upon in 2009, and the GOP was the vehicle they selected to advance that cause. The voters danced with the Republicans on November 2, but they didn’t marry them. If the GOP makes serious inroads toward cutting federal spending and reducing the suffocating federal debt, they will likely get another dance in 2012. If the Democrats do not rediscover the maxim that this is a right-of-center nation, they won’t be dancing much for the foreseeable future.
by Dan Juneau, President and CEO of Louisiana Association of Business and Industry
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A week after the 2010 midterm elections, the Bipartisan Policy Center is heading to New Orleans for its annual Political Summit, Beyond the Ballot: Making Washington Work. The day-long policy conference will feature prominent Republican and Democratic political strategists discussing whether the new Congress and the President can effectively work together to tackle the problems facing the nation. http://bipartisanpolicy.org/nola2010