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Where Do Both Parties Go from Here?

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Thursday, November 3, 2010

Baton Rouge, Louisiana



The Republicans were big winners in last Tuesday’s national election, taking control of the House of Representatives, and coming close to a takeover of the Senate.  But is it enough to say that you are winning solely because the other side blew its opportunity?  The reality is that the same thing is happening now that happened in 2006 and 2008.  Voters are simply voting against the party in power.  Numerous polls show a majority of Americans view the Democrats as the party of big government and the Republicans as the party of big business.  And frustrated voters are wondering just who represents them.

This was an election to fire, not an election to hire.   Two messages came across loud and clear.  First, “Throw the bums out,’ was the battle cry.  The Democrats in charge were not doing their job.   But secondly, there was a veiled threat to Republicans.  It was not “we love you guys,” but rather “we are going to give you one more chance.  Don’t blow it, or we will look for options again in 2012.”

A new Rasmussen poll finds that 59% of voters indicate they will be disappointed with Republicans in Congress before the next national election.   Voters are saying that Republicans don’t have their trust, but they are going to have to earn it. Obama has not been a bargain for American taxpayers, but neither was Bush.

Has the President lost his mojo?  Democrats are saying there was a failure to communicate.  But it really was a fundamental disconnect in not understanding the priorities of many Americans.  The healthcare debate crystallized this lack of understanding.  A majority of Americans favor the new healthcare plan.  But for those who are over 65, 56% oppose any new healthcare proposals. They have Medicare and they don’t want to rock their boat with the threat of cutting Medicare spending.

Obama, the great communicator, failed to communicate on healthcare, and the administration took on much more than was practical and doable.  The economic meltdown created a fear factor for many Americans, and the current Medicare program was one of the few lifelines that older citizens could count on.  A column I wrote a year ago suggested that the way to begin covering more Americans was to expand Medicare, lowering the eligibility age, and bringing 31 million more people into the existing system.

Such a plan would be much simpler to explain, with no reduction of benefits.  But the President chose to undertake a complete restructuring of the healthcare delivery system, biting off way more than the public was able to accept.  It would have been a tough sell in good economic times.  But under the current economic doldrums, there was just no way to build a consensus of support.  The new healthcare mandates passed with no votes to spare in the House of Representatives, thanks to the one Republican, Congressman Joseph Cao from New Orleans.  He was overwhelming defeated for reelection this week.

Republicans, particularly in the House, now have the Tea Party to deal with.  Tea Partiers overwhelming supported Republican candidates. They are demanding less federal spending, but they don’t want to cut Medicare, social security, or the military budget including the two billion dollars a week spent on the war in Afghanistan. Sorry folks.  Just “cutting the waste and fraud” will not add up to any major reductions. New Majority Leader John Boehner and the House leadership know this, but they will open a can of worms trying to convince the newly elected Tea Party members.

Remember the Conservative Party Leader in England who, after losing three straight elections said of the voters: “What’s wrong with them?”  Tea Partiers will have a long memory and they will hold Republicans on a shorter lease than the Democrats in the coming two years. Practical Republican leaders know that many of the countries’ problems will take years to fix, but that many conservatives may not be that charitable. When frustrations boil over and families are fearful of losing the American Dream, the toleration level drops dramatically.

Any chance for civility among the two major parties seems to have been diminished by the lack of civility throughout society in America today. It’s not just in politics where the likes of Congressman Joe Wilson feels compelled to shout at the President; “You lie!”Â  We have watched Bill O’Reilly and the ladies on The View screaming at each other, and Serena Williams cursing out the umpire on Center Court at the US Open.  We were stunned as we witnessed Kanye West barge onto the stage of the MTV Music Awards in a lame effort to try to upstage Taylor Swift.  Yes folks, we live in a culture of aggression and bullying, and such despicable behavior is reflected in our politics.

In 2006, there was a public rejection of a bloodied and corrupt Republican Party.  Then in 2008, the country rejected eight years of Bush Republicanism.  The 2010 election will be remembered as a rejection of the Obama Administration’s failed attempt to continue and increase the spending spiral begun in the Bush years, and a further effort to move the country far to the left.

So in the past decade, we have witnessed a rejection of both parties.  For the third election in a row, voters kicked a party out of power. Now we witness the Republicans moving to the right, and Democrats unsure of just what to do or which way to go.  Since both parties have spent the country into massive debt during the past few years, many independent voters are wondering if the cure that ails us is just to elect more of the same.  Forty percent of registered voters now identify themselves as independent.  There are two independents now in the US Senate.

A presidential run by a well financed independent in 2012?  Don’t rule it out.  As this column mentioned last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is giving the race a close look. He’s a billionaire and he’s being encouraged by many disgruntled, but wealthy operatives who can raise big campaign bucks.

In the past two years, Obama and the Democrats have had control of both houses of Congress, and had the muscle to push through an ambitious legislative agenda.  But no more.  The President’s best hope is to make a concerted effort to convince Republicans that they now share with him the responsibility to govern. But whatever his legislative success, 2010 will prove to have been a cakewalk compared to the fire and brimstone that will be generated when the 2012 election comes around.  Just think.  Only 733 days to go.


“The two real political parties in America are the Winners and the Losers.  The people don’t acknowledge this.  They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead.” Kurt Vonnegut

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South.  You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com. The show is televised at http://www.justin.tv/jimbrownusa.

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