Saturday, November 13, 2010
So, now that we’ve had our week and a half, for the dust to settle, let’s figure out what has happened to our government and what it means. For those coming out of their cave, the Republicans took the house, and Democrats held the Senate (barely). So my initial reactions are: oh, why can’t everyplace else in the country be as the smart as the places I live. In South Bend we sent back Joe Donnelly despite the tough competition of his heavily funded Tea Party opponent. (Seriously, was anyone else sick of seeing her face before EVERY YouTube video and on the side of EVERY web page?) And back in my wonderful home state of Massachusetts, the hyped-up “Scott Brown effect” turned out to be nothing more than hype, as we stayed completely blue in all 10 districts in addition to electing a Democratic governor, treasurer (shout-out to Steve Grossman, because well my Mom was once his campaign manager), and auditor. It reminded me of this image depicting Nixon’s 1972 presidential win. There even more so than now we were the rock of blue in a sea of red.
But, I digress. So let’s return to examining the state of the union. In MY opinion there were two real lessons in this election.
Lesson one was the economy is first and foremost, and people want it to be the top priority. Let’s be honest, Obama was concerned with the economy, but was also taking care of bigger issues, like reforming Health Care. The lesson was NOT that Obamacare and big government are evil. The statement was really, “Do something that will actually have a noticeable positive effect in the mess that my jobless life has become.” People can’t truly hate something they don’t understand especially when a huge chunk of the changes haven’t even happened yet. And a huge portion of people who aren’t happy with the bill, wished it went further. The Republicans missed the message however, because they think we should waste valuable time trying to repeal Obamacare. Rather than fix the big issue that is affecting everyone’s lives, the Republicans want to continue to battle that is already over. Some people accept defeat gracefully and move on and focus on the greater picture. The Republican Party lacks a little bit of grace it seems.
To me this whole thing seems truly remarkable. When you think about it, repealing Obamacare is fairly un-American. Oh yes, I went there. What do I mean, you ask? The backbone of America has been innovation and creativity. Politicians on both sides throw those words around all the time, but what does that really mean? Neither of these concepts involves being afraid of trying something new and different. There’s a reason the message of “change” energizes people. In America, we have seen that when people take risks and do new and different things, we move forward. Innovation is what made our country great. So why would we be too afraid to try a different type of health care? We all admit the current system is broken. And anyone who looks at the bill could tell you that most major changes are still on the way. Shouldn’t we give a legitimate idea a try BEFORE we spend all our energy trying to kill and stifle it? Revolution didn’t seem like a great idea at the time, but people ran with it and it worked. Let’s see where Health Care takes us, instead of wasting months and months trying (and most likely failing) to repeal it. Instead let’s maybe FOCUS ON THE ECONOMY, like voters want clearly want Congress to do.
So now that rant part one is complete, I will draw back to emphasize the other big lesson of this election, when combined with the last election. People are sick of Washington. They are sick of both parties. They want something new and different. Obama campaigned on change. And the changes he accomplished (which were big) were just not seen. So the Tea Party came along and promised to change the establishment. Time will show that they aren’t planning to do that either. But the point is this, Americans want visible change. We’ve lost faith in both political parties. Obama was seen as an untouched guy; a fresh newcomer, untouched by the taint of long-standing corruption and allegiances. The Tea Party was a group of people outside the mainstream Republican Party. They may have all been batshit crazy, but they were a fresh group of faces. We want different so desperately that we buy into the new and fresh, and avoid the issues. If we were voting on the issues there is no way that the wave that the same country that overwhelmingly voted Barrack Obama as President, would subsequently vote this Republican Party into power. On the matter of the issues, they agree on basically nothing. The only thing that's similar, is that both campaigned as being sick of Washington, and that's something Americans identify with right now.
But here’s my thought. People weren’t that sick of Washington before we voted in President Bush and the Republicans. Under Clinton we were pretty happy with our government. But 8 years later, we were stuck with two wars we shouldn’t have been in, with a skyrocketing debt, a tax system that made life easier for the rich, while they were screwing us with a far too deregulated Wall Street, which eventually led to a financial collapse from which we still have not recovered, and a broken health care system that was skyrocketing in costs. There was a reason to be sick of Washington. But in two years, a lot of those things have begun to change. The problem is people don't want a beginning to change. They want fully formed and completed change. But seriously look at what we've done.
We got out of one of those unnecessary wars, and while we still need to evacuate the other one, that’s a step in the right direction. But nobody seems to have noticed that we have NO combat troops in Iraq anymore. The debt is still skyrocketing, but the broken economy should take precedence over the debt. Drive the debt up, by fixing the economy, and when everyone is prosperous again, you will be gaining more money from taxes, and be spending less and the debt will reduce again. The idea of focusing on the deficit while the job issue looms is simply backwards. It’s the great Republican deception. Follow the left hand problems of debt to ignore the right hand successes on the job front. And yes, I realize Obama didn’t immediately stop job loss and therefore failed to fix the economy in the eyes of the American people. But in the end, he did stop the hemorrhaging, which was going at its strongest when Bush finished up (see chart below). Without a stimulus we would undoubtedly be in double digit unemployment. The deregulated Wall Street is on its way to being more regulated, with the passing of Financial Reform. Health Care is also on its way to being fixed. The impact of these two laws cannot be measured yet. It’s far too soon. That kind of change is long term. That’s what the American missed between 2008 and 2010. Obama promised change and he delivered.
But people haven’t seen it yet. History will show the truth, but we don’t live in history. We live in a world of instantaneous gratification. The lesson of the election really is that true change will cost you. If the focus is always going to be on the next election, change doesn’t sell. Because no one trusts change until it’s over and it’s worked. People want change, but while in the actual process of change, people become scared. What they really is for change to have happened not to be happening. That means doing something worthwhile will mean losing an election or two. For those Democrats who lost their seats, because they voted for Cap and Trade or the Health Care bill, I commend you. Governing is not about winning the next election. Governing is about doing what’s right, and what’s good for the country. And history will show that Democrats did that. So while we sit through two years of gridlock, as the House prepares to shut down the government entirely, let’s remember and enjoy that we did something real and concrete, and that history won’t remember or like the people who sat on their asses while the country needed change.