Things are at the point where people are starting to call the race, and granting a Republican Party victory. And while the right side of the aisle would hoist a flag and buy each other a beer, little thought is spent towards the sad truth. The Republican Party will disappoint their constituency if they do, in fact, win the Senate. The reason being that there is a sort of adorable naiveté towards what the actual change in the behavior of the legislature would be. As much as people would prefer to play out the Disney style of a climactic confrontation, kicking the doors open and striding in with a “mandate” of the people, both sides of the aisle were carrying as many mandates as they could stuff in their pockets from the moment they were elected.
Nancy Pelosi claimed a mandate as she strolled up to the Capitol Building with a comically oversize gavel, getting ready to “fix” healthcare for everyone. That was a grievously overlooked visual metaphor. The Tea Party insurgency in 2010 claimed a mandate, and they had one, a mandate to control government spending. Today, the national debt stands at $17.9 trillion. “Mandate” is basically a meaningless term, because everyone who got elected in the first place ran on a platform, and the majority of people in their race voted for them. There really is not much of a rhetorical distinction between having a mandate and being elected in the first place.
A Republican Party win Tuesday would look like a vote of “no confidence” for the Affordable Care Act, which would be good, because that is essentially what it is. None of the people who voted for Sen. Barack Obama to become the next president, out of the sense of participation in a generational feel-good moment, understood what it was going to look like when that particular piece of legislation became the law that controlled their relationship with their doctor.
The practical effect? More gridlock is likely a safe enough bet. And that does not have to be a bad thing, either. Most people probably could not think of what their “favorite” law is, because each proposed law has a subtractive power, not an additive. Laws mostly have the power to take away, rather than to give. At least they do not generally have anything to give out, that they did not take from somewhere first. It would be quite the trick to stay in office where the job is to make laws, without making laws. If the win comes through for them in the Senate, the Republican Party will disappoint their faithful constituency when they end up having to go through the motions of sending bills to Pres. Obama’s desk in a tortured pantomime of a functional government.
The point to take from this is that nothing much is going to show right away. There will be bragging rights, of a sort. The Republican Party will have ample opportunity to give President Obama a hard time, which should be fun. However, nothing much will change, other than the odd rhetorical swap over which party is to blame for what dysfunctional aspect of the government. It is going to keep on being the same puzzle whether they look at it from the left hand side, or the right hand side. If the Republican Party wins the Senate, then they lose the claim that they are being obstructed, although without a veto-proof majority, it may disappoint them that they would be. They will have to take responsibility for something that they cannot actually change. They cannot force anyone to sign a budget. What the hypothetical Senate looks like when the Republican Party hypothetically takes it Tuesday, is a pendulum slowly swinging back and forth.
Opinion by Brian Whittemore
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Government – Public Domain