Congressional Republicans are already scuffling amongst themselves as they prepare to take control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives next year. One thing is for sure: Republicans enjoyed a big victory at the polls last week, which is quite an achievement for a party that just two years earlier had been in turmoil.
Republicans smartly nationalized all of the Senate and House races. It
was as if each GOP candidate was running against President Barack Obama,
whose national approval rating is in the low 40s. The Republicans
mobilized their base and discouraged the Democrat base. In fact, only
36.4 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the midterms, the lowest
voter turnout since World War II.
Remarkably, several Democratic
candidates, including in Kentucky, Louisiana and Arkansas, did not
embrace their party's leader for fear it would drag them down. This
very public strategy only exacerbated the negative perceptions of the
president. In fact, the Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky, Alison
Lundergan Grimes, refused to say if she had voted for Obama, but
volunteered she had supported Hillary Clinton in 2008.
inexplicable why Democratic candidates so severely snubbed the
president. After all, they were running as Democrats, and President
Obama is the head of their party. And congressional Republicans have
an approval rating that is far below the president's!
candidates could have embraced the 10 million jobs that have been added
to the economy as a result of the president's economic policies. They
could have pointed to Obama's stimulus package, which halted the
country's economic free fall that was the result of President George W.
Bush's economic policies. They could have reminded voters that the
president saved the U.S. automobile industry, over the opposition of
many leading Republicans. Candidates could have pointed to stock
prices, which are at an all time high, and gas prices, which are at a
recent low. Are most Americans better off than they were when the
President Obama took office in January 2009? You bet!
candidates could have campaigned on the success of the Affordable Care
Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Despite its rocky launch, the ACA is
working. Millions of uninsured Americans now have health care
coverage, and the growth of health care costs has been slowed.
Ironically, the Kentucky version of Obamacare, known as Kynect, is a
huge success, yet soon to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
(R-KY) is determined to repeal the law.
Democrats could have been
more united on foreign policy. Republicans attacked President Obama's
policies toward Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq and ISIS. Yet Republicans
only loudly criticized, they did not offer any constructive solutions to
these complex problems. Democrats failed to mention that the Bush
invasion of Iraq in 2003 created the chain reaction that led to most of
today's crises. While it is legitimate to question some of the
president's foreign policy actions, Republican criticisms were
primarily designed to score political points.
exploited the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa by publicly questioning
the president's competence. Never mind that it was a Texas hospital
that blew it, while the state's Republican governor, Rick Perry, left
the state for a fundraising jaunt rather than take charge. There is no
more powerful mobilizer of voters than fear, and the GOP tapped into
that emotion. The president followed expert opinions that the virus had
to be stopped in Central Africa, and closing the US borders would be
counterproductive. So far only one person has died of the virus in the
United States, and he got it in Africa. Meanwhile, today the US is
Ebola free, and the Republicans cries of danger have quieted.
year's poor election turnout reflects apathy among many of those who
formed the Obama coalition that helped him secure victories in two
national elections. Fewer Hispanics voted last week than in 2012,
perhaps discouraged because meaningful immigration reform has been stuck
in Congress (because of House Republicans). Fewer black people voted,
perhaps because the president was not on the ballot, or the result of
new voter ID laws. Fewer poor Americans voted, perhaps discouraged by
the nation's growing income inequality. And fewer young people voted,
perhaps because they don't think their vote will change things.
Democratic candidates run on the president's record of success, would
the election results in some states been different? Probably. The
president himself accepts part of the responsibility for the election
results. "I think we have not been successful in going out there and
letting people know what it is that we're trying to do and why this is
the right direction," Obama said on CBS News' Face the Nation.
All politicians must ask themselves why, in the world's greatest
Democracy, did 60 percent of the country's eligible voters fail to cast a
ballot on election day.
Republicans employed a campaign of
deception, distortion and voter suppression to succeed this November.
Now that they will be in charge of Congress, and all of its key
committees, they will turn their attention to dismantling Obamacare,
repealing Dodd-Frank, cutting social programs, passing the Keystone
Pipeline bill, enacting tax reform and reducing government regulation.
They will refuse to act on meaningful immigration reform, and they will
pursue hawkish foreign policy initiatives. In other words, we'll have
two more years of politics as usual.