Peering Through Dust Clouds

Well, it’s happened. The Republicans, after a long, hard-fought battle, have taken control of Congress and survived several Democratic almost-victories. The left is treating this like all four horsemen of the apocalypse have broken loose or like nothing has happened at all, while the right is dancing through the streets in victory.

This is all very premature, because Obama is still President of the United States, and the Republicans do not have a 2/3 majority in both houses of Congress–that being what is needed to override a veto. However, Harry Reid, is no longer Senate Majority Leader, meaning Republican initiatives will actually make it to the President, assuming they don’t get filibustered to death (said rule, by the way, was only removed in cases of certain nominees for high office.)

So, here’s what we can expect over the next two years:

A. Expect all roles to be flipped in media narratives. Those who praised Republicans as principled for filibustering will call Democrats obstructionist for doing the same thing, and vice-versa. Those calling for Bush to work with Democrats in 2006 will demand that Obama not give in to Republicans in 2014, and vice versa.

B. Expect some effort by Obama to work with McConnell and Boehner, and the reverse. Do not expect such efforts to last into next summer. Campaign season, after all. The Iowa caucus will be less than a year away by then, and as we all know, getting power is more important than actually using it.

C. Expect a more fragmented House of Representatives. Supermajorities in that chamber are always unstable, mostly because of swing districts. Republicans will need to tread carefully if they are to keep their majority in 2016. Due to not having control of the Presidency as well, they may not follow the path laid down in 2008-2010 just yet, but still have the opportunity to.

D. Expect the Senate to be a bit wibbley-wobbley. Early prognostications indicate that eight of the twenty-four Republican-held seats up for grabs in 2016 could have a fight on their hands, while only two of the ten Democrats do. This will affect Republicans’ ability to hold the line on certain issues.

E. Expect foreign policy to be even more muddled, albeit more hawkishly, as the Senate and President will be frequently at ideological and political loggerheads on the matter.

F. Expect politics to get downright vicious. The Republicans are getting ready to exact revenge for four years of unfair exile in the political wilderness and four more years of fighting to get back to the levers of power, while the Democrats are getting ready to hold the line against a band of mad malcontents. Traditional media is dying and desperate to find ratings, while the Internet is allowing for the creation of truly vast echo chambers of doom. Twitter is allowing for instant communication of ideas that can be boiled down to 140 characters–think mainstreaming bumper sticker politics. This combination is the equivalent of dangling a 100 gallon bucket of chum by a fraying rope over a water tank full of hungry mako sharks.

G. The stakes over the next two years for both parties are really high, while both parties are riven by internal dissension. The Republicans need a 2016 nominee whose last name isn’t Romney, Santorum, or Paul, and need to be in a position to say that they can govern, while being troubled by the conflict between Rockefeller country club Republicans and Goldwater Tea Partiers. Meantime, the Democrats need to find a new presidential candidate period, while needing to win back all the people who voted against them, and while dealing with the conflict between the Humphrey establishment Democrats and McGovernite OWS participants. To make matters even worse, this isn’t just politics in either case, it’s an identity crisis for both parties, which means the intra-party battles will be as bad as the inter-party battles, if not worse (See the 2012 Republican primary, except throw in the Democrats doing the same thing).

H. Do not expect sudden economic boom times. Things will keep getting better, barring unexpected catastrophe, but don’t expect the 1990s or even early 2000s to come back any time soon.

In summary, don’t expect to see anything drastic, and be prepared to be extremely disappointed with our political leadership–at least if you were counting on them acting like adults.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness


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