Mandates and messages from the people are the phrases on the lips of political reporters and party leaders at the moment. In our democracy, mandates seemingly last only as long as the next great political talking point. Even though all of the analytical evidence relating to stimulus is unequivocal in stating the bill’s success, the numbers from the midterm elections point to that bill as the biggest Democrat-killer. Almost 1/4 of the seats represented by Democrats who voted for Stimulus were taken by the Republicans. But does that point to public anger, or does it reinforce the deep misunderstanding of the body politic for economic issues?
Reagan’s Republican Revolution was sidetracked by major losses in the 1982 midterms because of a recession that reached its peek that summer. Just as with President Obama, Mr. Reagan’s first budgetary effects on the economy would not have been felt until autumn of the first year of the term at the earliest. That factors like unemployment and foreclosures are lagging indicators (as death is a lagging indicator of an injury causing internal bleeding), is a concept that very few voters contemplate. But what of the other key issues in the so-called Obama/Pelosi agenda; what of Health Care Reform and Cap and Trade?
Just over 81% of the seats held by Democrats voting for Cap and Trade stayed in the liberal column. Similarly, just under 81% of those seats voting for Health Care Reform were rewarded with another Democratic term. If those numbers stand in contrast to the new themes peddled by the conservative mainstream media, then consider one more number. More than 84% of the seats held by Democrats who were loyal to the so-called Obama/Pelosi agenda are still held by Democrats. Theses are not numbers that describe, by themselves, a broad ranging repudiation of Mr. Obama’s agenda. These numbers, taken in combination with the broad range of defeats at both the state and federal levels, speak to a rather typical electorate frustrated and nervous about a poor economy.
For progressives (those with courage still call themselves liberals), the message can not be clearer; vote your conscience and then stand behind your votes. The entire Democratic Party ran away from their votes on these bills. Why should any reasonable independent or middle of the road Republican have believed these acts to be anything more than frightening, when the very people pushing them were afraid of them? Last minute efforts to “stand behind” health care reform do not count; voters see them for what they are…desperate acts. There are lessons to be learned, for liberals, from this cycle. There are real stories, anchored in facts, to be told by the media. Even my Las Vegas upbringing won’t give me the courage to bet on either of those things happening.
In the meantime, Republicans in Congress and the good folks who voted for them won a fairly contested election. Our democracy will realign per the results of this cycle, and move on as the Constitution and tradition provide. Of course this all means that John Boehner will get to prove how he can balance the budget, cut taxes, and keep everyone happy at the same time. Good luck Mr. Presumptive Speaker!
The Rational Middle is listening…