The results are mostly in and they went kind of as anticipated.
When I lived in the more politically diverse Fort Wayne, Indiana I could call myself a moderate; since my move to a particularly “red state” portion of Texas, I’ve had to rebrand myself as a “progressive”. I’m never quite sure what that means. As far as I can tell it means I’m in favor of progress as contrasted with “conservatives” who oppose progress. (Strangely, most of them also oppose conservation.) But, that’s a discussion for another day.
I’ve been pouring over the returns and (this may shock some people) I actually think there are a couple pretty bright spots here:
- The country has moved right, but isn’t “insane”. While the GOP, and to a lesser extent the “tea party”, did have some significant wins: Rhode Island has elected what will be the fourth openly gay member of Congress. Sharron Angle was defeated; I’m not excited to save Harry Reid, but crazy was the alternative, and the voters rejected it. Christine O’Donnell was soundly defeated, suggesting that at least in Delaware, common sense has survived. We may have marched to the right, but not off a cliff.
- Obama can be Obama now. For the last two years, the President has been completely unsuccessful in controlling his own party. Instead, a fractious coalition that is the Democratic Party has dragged him around, forcing senseless compromises into every major piece of legislation that has been passed but leaving him in position to have to “own” the results. And, those results have been largely disappointing: The stimulus was too small and timid to really turn the economy around, healthcare reform ended up being a welfare program for health insurance companies, energy policy and immigration reform have gone nowhere. Barack Obama, regardless of what you think of his politics, is a very bright man, and an excellent orator. In the new world order, the Republicans will be able to obstruct nearly everything if they want to, but they will have to take responsibility for their actions. And, they don’t have the votes to override a presidential veto. Obama needs to wield the veto pen with moral courage and take the important debates to the American people. He can stop pandering to every force inside his own party and focus the public debate on the real decisions that need to be made. In this respect, I’m hopeful that with a loyal opposition, we can see something more like Obama the candidate running the country for a while. This may be a configuration of power better suited to letting him play to his strengths as a speaker and an inspirational leader, instead of making him spend so much time as a politician. Only time will tell.