The midterm elections marked a huge victory for the Republican Party, which claimed control of the Senate with at least 52 seats and solidified its control of the House of Representatives, adding 12 seats. The very blue states of Massachusetts and Maryland, moreover, now have GOP governors. Lovers of freedom should enjoy it for a while more.
But some time over the weekend, when you are cleaning up the confetti, stale beer, and cold pizza from the celebration, it’s time to think about what this tidal wave that surprised everyone really means.
I would love to be able to say that this election was won because the people picked good old conservative values over progressive policy, but I won’t because it’s not true. Certainly many GOP voters cast their ballots on that basis, but according to exit polls, many voters simply weren’t crazy about either party.
This is not to denigrate the great job the RNC did in messaging, training the candidates, and turning out voters. But the message they helped to create was a big part of the victory also. The GOP made Barack Obama the issue in the election and the Democrats made “I’m not Obama” their campaign slogan, which simply fed into the GOP strategy.
Voters are tired of the gridlock, and judging from the initial reaction of Mitch McConnell and many of the newly elected members of Congress, Republicans “get it.”
Understand one important thing about wave elections: They cut both ways. And in recent years, voter frustration has been creating wave elections at an accelerating pace. Democratic waves in 1974, 1982, 2006, and 2008 were answered with Republican waves in 1980, 1994, 2010, and 2014.
Since Tuesday’s midterms, pundits have been saying things like “The Dems are in disarray,” “the GOP looks much younger than the Dems,” “the Dems have to reevaluate,” and “the GOP ran an effort in all 50 states.” These are the exact same platitudes we heard after the 2012 election. The only difference is now they are being said about Democrats.
In order to keep 2016 from being simply a wave going the other way, Republicans need to get things done. And it’s not just about passing bills that Obama will veto. That is just moving the gridlock to a different point in the chain. What the GOP needs to be prepared to do — deep cleansing breath, folks — is compromise.
Now before you dash off those angry cards and letters, kindly note that I said compromise, not capitulate.
There is going to have to be tax reform, entitlement reform, and — yes — even comprehensive immigration reform (although not the awful bill passed in the Senate). Those issues need to be solved in a way that addresses conservative values, but unless it has veto-proof support in Congress, it will have to be done in a way that is palatable to Obama.
If in 2016, the GOP cannot say some of the above or other big issues have been addressed, the U.S. will have another frustrated electorate choosing between a rock and a hard place, leading to another wave election. And this time the tidal wave will be going the other way, and it could include a President Hillary Clinton.
Cross-posted at The Lid