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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Is Mr. Smith Truly Going To Washington

"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual -- or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country." — Samuel Adams, in the Boston Gazette, 1781

In my last blog, “Will This Election Matter?”, I predicted the high probability that the Republicans would gain control of the United States Senate and the low turnout of the electorate. Both prediction of the low turnout was not too difficult as this is the historical number for mid-term elections. The prediction of control of the Senate was a bit more risky, but most pollsters were predicting this. I was, however, more that a bit surprised at the success of Republicans in gaining control of statehouses. Scott Walker of Wisconsin staved off the third attempt to unseat him. Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois, and Arkansas, all blue states, elected Republican governors for a net gain of +3 (Pennsylvania Republican governor lost to his Democrat challenger). Now there are 31 Republican controlled statehouses and 17 occupied by Democrats with 2 races undecided. This was no doubt the largest surprise of the night.

On the Senate and House races the Republicans had a net gain of 7 seats to take control of the Senate 52 to 45 with two races still undecided (Alaska and Louisiana) Alaska will probably go to the Republican Dan Sullivan. With 100% of the precincts reporting Sullivan leads his Democrat opponent Mark Begich 48.96% to 45.34%. In Louisiana Mary Landrieu will face a runoff with her Republican challenger Bill Cassidy next month. The total for the two republicans in the race is 54.72% and Landrieu’s is 42.08%. Louisiana is becoming a Red state it is not to risky to say the Cassidy will win this seat. Also it is doubtful the Democratic Party will pour any money to support a losing candidate. If these two Senate seats are claimed by the Republicans their majority will increase to 54 to 45 with one independent.

For the House of representatives the Republicans picked up 3 seats to increase their majority to 243 to 179. There are still several undecided races but they will probably be split so there will not be much of a difference. This is the largest Republican majority in the House of Representatives since 1946.

So now what comes next? 31 (or 32) statehouses are now occupied by Republicans and 27 state legislatures are controlled by Republicans with 4 states with split control. States such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Mexico, Florida, and Virginia (all states that went for Obama in 2014) have Republican controlled statehouses and legislatures. That bodes well for the nation as the states can play a dominant role in the Republic.

Republicans made historic gains in state legislatures in 2010. They held on in many states in 2012, or made up for losses in one state with gains in another — even though Democrats won the national election. And they won even more in 2014. This isn't an accident — it's the result of strategic fundraising from national Republicans, beginning in 2010, aimed at engineering statehouse takeovers. Out-of-state contributions were shuffled to states where they would make a difference, particularly as congressional partisanship and gridlock made policymaking in Washington increasingly unlikely.

And at a time of national gridlock, state legislatures have done an immense amount of legislating. Since 2010, 30 states, most controlled by Republicans, have passed a total of 205 new abortion restrictions. That's more restrictions than were passed in the entire first decade of the 2000s, according to the Guttmacher Institute:

Twenty-two states, 18 with Republican majorities, have passed laws making it more difficult for people to vote.

After the Newtown shootings, most new state laws surrounding guns actually eased restrictions on owning and carrying firearms. Seventy new laws loosening gun control were passed, 49 in states with Republican legislative majorities and Republican governors, compared to three in Democratically controlled states.

Then there was the fiscal experiment in Kansas, where Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and a Republican majority in the legislature slashed income taxes. State revenue came in well below projections and threatened Brownback's re-election — but he won, and has promised to accelerate the tax cuts in the future.

It should be noted that in 2020, state legislatures will redraw congressional district lines. That will mean that the GOP will have an opportunity to carve out districts favorable to their candidates. For those who cry "gerrymandering," I would gently point out that both parties do it and that almost every state's redistricting is subject to judicial review.

Republican wins at the state legislative level underscore just how complete their vanquishing of the Democrats on Tuesday was.

Now that the Senate and House will be under the control of the Republicans it will be time for them to begin lying out an agenda for the next two years. This is a moment when a meaningful change could be made to our nation’s downward trajectory.

When politicians on the Left win, they quickly abandon all man-of-the-people pretensions and reveal their true ideological devotion, which has to do with making democracy safe for activists, abortionists and the NEA.

As for conservatives, the old joke, oft repeated, is sadly applicable: They come to Washington believing it’s a cesspool, but soon discover it’s really a Jacuzzi.

Republicans are noted for, shall we say, losing their reformist edge. The combined influence of well-connected lobbyists, well-financed pressure groups, and well-ensconced party leaders tends to stoke the appetite for higher office and dampen enthusiasm for being tagged a loose cannon by standing on principle.

Whether GOPers can break old habits remains to be seen. But it’s never been more urgent that they do so. This country is in trouble. Serious trouble. And everybody knows it.

There’s a feeling abroad in the land that things are cracking apart. Barack Obama didn’t create the cracks, but the policies, decisions and actions of the last six years have pried them much, much wider.

What’s needed at this moment in history is more than mere tinkering around the edges of policies in place. We must reexamine the philosophical assumptions that have taken over our system of government and come to dominate our public life. We must ask some fundamental questions, like…

What happened to the notion that citizenship is a privilege involving both rights and duties — and for those seeking it, qualifications?

Where are the clear lines of legal jurisdiction and fiscal responsibility that once distinguished the various levels of government and kept power from becoming too concentrated?

When did the concept of civil liberty turn into a license for conduct unrestrained — or, for that matter, a mandate that everyone must accept any behavior, no matter how destructive, all in the name of personal autonomy?

Why is it we can no longer assume the protection of certain basic freedoms of conscience, opinion and expression?

How did the humane desire to help people caught in tough straits become an expectation of unlimited support?

Can they curb the vast influence over our state and local run public education system from Washington?

Will they curb the over regulations from the EPA and the rest of the administrative state.

Those are just a few on the domestic side. Let’s throw in some with a global scope, like…

How can we regain respect in a hostile world that sees us as increasingly irrelevant?

When will we reassert our territorial integrity, affirm our legitimate national interests, and recapture our status as the center of economic and technological leadership?

Can we ever achieve true strategic independence — in terms of both freedom from extreme overseas financial obligation and self-sufficiency in domestic energy resources?

Are there rational plans and realistic methods for beating back the latest waves of totalitarian revival and religious barbarity — which is to say, of securing our children’s freedom and spiritual patrimony?

All hold vast implications for policy development, which means there will be plenty of debate and — let’s hope — honest analysis. But more than that, they demand vision, courage, unity, steadfastness, and no small measure of moral courage.

Are Republicans up to the job?

Do they have the wherewithal to devise logical, comprehensive approaches to addressing our numerous problems? Can they build the necessary party discipline, restrain their individual ambitions, achieve the long-term perspective required for the daunting tasks of restoration and renewal?

Will they be able to craft a coherent message and develop means of communication sufficient to overcome media resistance and rally the people behind them?

Can they hold together solidly enough to oppose a radical administration unfettered by reelection concerns? Will they be confident in withstanding the accusations of “racism,” “misogyny,” “homophobia,” “exploitation,” and all the other contrived charges that have provided life-support to a failed ideology and a corrupt political cabal?

Then, beyond all that, are they prepared to defend their policies and actions in staunch defiance of Hillary’s inevitable onslaught?

Yes, I know this is the GOP we’re talking about — the party that hasn’t been able to save the 100-watt incandescent light bulb.

Many people are deeply disillusioned with the politics of our day. They’ve watched the demolition derby that’s gone on in Washington over the last few decades — since the end of the Reagan era, really — and they’ve concluded that there’s “not a dime’s worth of difference” between the parties.

I understand their feelings, but we now have an opportunity to find out whether their assumption is correct.

According to President Obama and his minions in the media Tuesday was not a reflection on his policies or lack of policy on his part. It was the fault of electorate who did not turn out. Most intelligent people know this is pure spin and balderdash. He will never move from ideological progressive/socialist roots. McConnell and Boehner will have to hold a firm line to get anything past his magic pen. This will require unity and public support. The public support will have to come from a unified message frequently delivered to the American people.

This past Tuesday might have been a turning point. Might have been. Now we shall see.

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