If there was ever an indictment to suggest that the Purple Americans are a force to be reckoned with it was yesterday’s election. Although the rhetoric from all the pundits is still rings of the pre-election fear mongering, the results demand a smarter debate that reflects on more than the last six months. Hopefully after the election dust settles, the media pundits, the new mix of legislators and the Obama administration can actually stop selling us agenda with sound bites based on misinformation.
Listening to various shows giving their post-election summaries this morning I get the idea that the media is as disconnected from reality as is Washington D.C. It is clear that to get to the table as either a guest or pundit, for the most part, you have to be loudly on one side or the other. I am not suggesting that being loud is a bad thing just that being loud on any side is what Citizens just voted against. I will suggest that like the shows, most of the newly elected legislators have yet to get the message and that is one thing you can thank the cable news networks for showcasing. It is clear that if these shows served one purpose this morning it is to capture the lack of new spirit coming into the House and to a lesser extent into the Senate.
The scariest new power broker who seems to be suffering from the continued lack of an ability to listen to Citizens is the future Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and (R-OH). It would appear that the wash of Red in Ohio is fogging up his ability see what his new national responsibility will be. At least that is what I get of his initial post-election speeches that have focused on his perception of a new mandate. His sobbing press conference where he appears to be picking up a political bat to take to his new desk suggests he isn’t interested in anything unless it will get Obama or the Democrats out of the Presidency in 2010.
Taking a look at the elections over the last 10 years and what I think helped stuff the Blue folks in the corner yesterday was the same energy that evicted Bush and Co in 2008. People were tired of big government, excessive spending and an economy on the ropes. Bush spent the Government into a massive deficit funding the dual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while fostering a pro-business atmosphere that lead to the economy getting raped by Wall Street and various banking entities.
Despite Bush’s 2003 tax cuts, his agenda was evicted. Bush and Co. was also responsible for bailing out Wall Street and the car companies. Stimulus was Bush’s last hurrah, a mega favor to businesses that had committed on the minimum irresponsible acts, paid massive bonuses to CEOs despite a lack of performance and in some cases pursued clearly unethical business practices. What Obama hasn’t done up to this point is to distinguish himself from the previous administrations despite his message of “change”. Even his focus on Health Care, or more accurately Health Care Insurance Reform, was misplaced when people wanted to hear when they would be going back to work.
If there is any message screaming to be focused on it is that the Citizens want both sides to meet in the aisle and start thinking about what no one is really talking about and that is getting serious about austerity. A focus on austerity isn’t going to be a popular sell, but necessary if we are going to see the fundamental defects in our economy put on the road to correction. Here is where the post election message is still disconnected from reality. With the exception of what I heard from Senator Elect Rubio (R-FL) a Tea Party candidate who moderated his Tea Party rhetoric and suggested post election that the elections was no mandate, the victory messages have been focused on “Obama better get it by his speech this afternoon”. I would say that politics as it has been better get it.
I do find the “cut spending and get back to a constitutionally limited government” as put forth by Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA) another sign of a disconnection the day after. He also suggested that rolling back the government to 2008 levels was going to be his mission as the new Majority Leader in the House. His response was in reference to a question put to him on an early AM post-election new show that asked if he learned any lessons the 1994 Mid Term elections. In 1994, as in this election, the Republicans took back the house in some part due to failed health care policies by the Clinton administration. The word “overreaching” was used back then just like it is being used today. Mr. Cantor denied answering the question put to him since he “wasn’t around” in 1994.
If Rep Cantor didn’t pay attention in 1994, which included a government shutdown due a budget impasse that was a result of a new shift of power in the House, we will stay wrapped in old school politics. Mr. Cantor was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1992, so I am sure he experienced 1994. Instead of addressing how he looks forward to his responsibilities as the new Majority Leader, he just repeated with the message of “less government, less spending”. Furthermore Mr. Cantor has been in Congress since 2000. So when I hear the future Majority Leader who swims in a deep Red version of Republican politics, talk tough about how he is going forward, I see reasons for not having much faith in bi-partisan cooperation. It doesn’t escape me that Rep Cantor has been in Congress for ten years; Obama has been President for two.
Instead what I hear in the mixed message of “we can all get along as long as the Obama gets a clue” is that the next two years is going to be focused about making sure there will be change at in the Presidency in 2012. Mitch McConnell, (R-KY) current Senate Minority Leader since 2006 who was hoping to be Senate Majority leader, said this in October. Pairing this attitude with the post election rhetoric really buries my hope that the real message of the election has been heard. It seems as if Washington D.C.’s new and existing power brokers suffer from what many sales people suffer from, an ability to listen, but not hear. Having been in retail, I understand that problem well. “Yes Mr. Smith, you tell me you want a square red box with blue stripes”, well try this orange ball with pink dots on for size; I am sure it is what you really want…”
There are other Republicans that seem to at least admit to getting it this morning. Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI) stated as much when he was working the shows suggesting that the midterms showed a repudiation of the existing administration’s policies, but not some kind of Republican mandate. At the same time Rep Ryan also admitted “we screwed up two years ago”, but I don’t see the same honesty coming from other Republicans, especially those who didn’t have anything to on the table. Pairing a concerted message from either side about getting together on creating smart, honest policies to push a stronger economy, I see that the Republicans are still confused on how to deal with internal schisms and that doesn’t count dealing with the new, moderated i.e. co-opted Tea Party movement.
It would seem that at this point, I have had little to say about Democrats, the Blue side of this equation. At this point there is only one message to be listening for and that is what President Obama will say at his 1PM EST speech. There are a lot of ideas of what he will say and more suggestions about what he better say. If there is one thing all the pundits and most of the politicians agree on is that the ball is now in Obama’s court and he has to get on a conciliatory path if he cares about the short term future of the Democrats in Washington. Most pundits seem optimistic that Obama will reach out and respond to the same mandate that the new House members suggest is the message. Surely if Obama has a brain and the ability to independently articulate his vision, he will at the minimum acknowledge the energy in Washington must shift. Even that is a lot to ask from a President. This isn’t some kind of post marriage counseling press conference where the bad husband acknowledges his excesses and now admits a need to work with his wife who has been handed all the family cash.
I expect that although Obama’s initial energy will be to acknowledge there needs to be a change, he is beholden to the arrogance of the far Left/Blue agenda. I use arrogance over “overreaching”, the new buzz word because it is clear that when there should have been a focus on tax reform and policies that focused on real job creation strategies beyond tax supported jobs building infrastructure. Instead Obama was focused on making “historic” Health Care Insurance Reforms. Sort of a handing the country a raw steak when folks just wanted a drink of water.
I do agree that Obama stepped away from the message that catapulted him into the Presidency which was about “Change” and “Hope”. From the layperson, there was no change and if no one, in this case Obama, seemed to be listening, hope wasn’t sustainable. It is almost a replay of how the Democrats lost the ball in 2000 where Bush was able to push what for Republicans was a moderate platform that included novel concepts such as bridging the partisan gap, tax and health care reform, but seemed to focus more on foreign policy to a slim victory obscured by a few years of Republican lead investigations of every aspect of the Clinton administration. Like the Tea Party and those who succeed Yesterday, the simpler, emotional message appealed to the voters over the sophisticated, intellectual, or as I suggested, “arrogant” one.
An aggressive agenda from the Red team that includes the wagging tail of “we can work together” teamed with the snarl of endless investigations won’t get Obama to maintain a conciliatory message even if he does promote one today. I doubt Obama will respond well to a House that decides allow Darryl Issa do to as he as stated, push an agenda of investigations of the Obama administration over an immediate, substantial, and honest debate on policy. Sadly I predict that despite any immediate “kumbaya” moments, we are going to see two years of the worst that both parties can do in pursuit of the Presidency in 2012. It will be all about the both sides declaring their intent to cooperate while the House throws every investigation it can at the White House while the White House points a finger at the House being even more obstructionist. In the middle the Senate will quietly lock down into gridlock.
So get used to a new level of 1994 Gridlock and the new power brokers. Darryl Issa will be the hangman for the Right, doing the dirty work via his subpoena power that his boss John Boehner will just say is “his job and prerogative” while pushing bi-partisanship with his other tongue. Look for the new New Deal to continue because despite the demand for smaller government and less spending, and tax cuts the Republicans won’t want to be seen as increasing the amount of families that have to shop for cardboard boxes to insulate their new homes under bridges. If the Republicans go after parts of the stimulus that is maintaining unemployment benefits as they have stated, people will start to remember that they gave a lot of money to Wall Street, banks and the auto industry. That will make great “anti-Red” propaganda in 2012.
I expect that crude oil prices will run up this winter and load up families that still have homes with higher expenses and drive inflation up across the board. The charts support that crude oil loves Republican administrations. That won’t bode well for the price of gas, heating and any commodity that depends on crude for production or transportation. I see the Republicans also running up against their rhetoric when it comes to Health Care Insurance reform since that industry put 60% of its funding into GOP campaigns at the Federal level. I see the Democrats crying foul and quietly pursuing Gridlock in the Senate. Of course there is a wild card there because politicians have been walking away from their votes to cover their re-election potential. I suggest that more Democrats will flee the base in pursuit of power so who knows what will happen in the Senate. If Democrats want to force Obama out, a few defections to the Red side will turn Obama from arrogant agenda maker to the obstructionist who vetoed the will of the people.
In a nutshell despite a very Purple American looking move to the middle, the voices that are loudest still scream from the deep Blue and Red sides of the aisle. Despite the talk of addressing most Americans, the energy seems to address de-funding oversight and legislative moves put in place after corporate American harvested a lot of wealth from the Citizens and then crashed the economy. I will admit that “We the People” can accept a lot of responsibility for allowing this to happen because like our government, we enjoy spending on credit and living an unsustainable lifestyle. What will be telling is that if we can live how we expect our government to live, a “spend what we have to spend” lifestyle. If we can’t accept an austere lifestyle to get our economy and jobs back on track, those we elect won’t have any energy to be honest and proactive when it comes to creating a government that lives in a smaller, austere house.