We have had divided government in the U.S. for the last four years. Although the Republicans have controlled only one house of Congress, they had a virtual veto over anything the president wanted to propose in terms of legislation because one side of Congress, the House, was enough to stop anything in its tracks. Combined with the arcane rules in the Senate, having a little power in DC has been enough to cause massive frustration for Obama and his team.
The public, in the main, doesn’t understand what’s been going on. They have tended to see it under the heading of “the mess in Washington” and, as the television news programs have called it repeatedly (if inaccurately) the “partisan bickering” and the “back and forth in Washington”. Everyone got the blame for to gridblocking by the House, but last night, the Republicans got the benefit of the doubt in states where they might have been expected to win anyway, states which are considered toss-ups, or background states where either side has a chance.
What next? CLARITY is what we are likely to see a lot more of over the next two years. The Republicans will have the votes to pass almost anything they like, but Obama doesn’t have to sign anything. Nothing. Nothing, that is, but the bills to keep the government up and operating and, as is more or less normal, the opposition party can try to load up the necessary bills with things the president doesn’t want and then dare him to veto it. If the Republicans choose the course of confrontation by things hidden in other legislation, they stand to get as much blame or more than the president.
So, now, we are facing a situation where cooperation IS REQUIRED for either side to get anything done. What’s more, the Republicans are likely to have to take much more responsibility for what happens. Now, they actually are in charge of one branch of the government. If things don’t get done, if repeated impasses happen, then they will get a major share of the blame. It doesn’t mean that Obama won’t be blamed, but that the Republicans might have to be more responsible and take credit (or discredit) for what goes on.
Generally, this is a good thing. Maybe for the first time since Obama came into the White House, we will see substantial negotiations on major issues rather than the last minute, do or die deals that happened over the budget, the Bush tax cuts and extending debt authorizations. Maybe we will see adults getting together (or not see them, if they are in the “back rooms”) making necessary compromises to help the country work and move forward.
If Obama were a bolder president, he would tell the Republicans what they face with his veto pen in a way that would both scare them and encourage cooperation. Obama will do little or nothing to turn up the temperature on the Republicans, still trying to play nice and get along. He’s only got two years left and, face it, with the election of a new president dominating the news throughout 2016, he will be eclipsed by other news during that year and 2015 as well.
The chances that Obama will be impeached are increased by the Republicans taking control of the Senate. Make no mistake, those Republicans who believe that no Democrat should ever occupy the White House will be pushing for impeachment. It can’t work, of course, since the Republicans will not have nearly enough votes in the Senate to “convict”, but the idea of further tarnishing this president and his party is going to be very attractive to many Republicans. It is a temptation that many have already shown they can’t resist.
Meanwhile, the Democrats will lick their wounds, tell themselves they lost in states where voters were more conservative anyway and try to figure out where they go from here. It will be refreshing, however, to see if the television news programs and news channels, along with the major newspapers, can figure out the new story line: the Republicans are now in charge and must take full responsibility, along with the President, for what happens.
Doug Terry, Nov. 5, 2014