Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Midterms

So...yeah...midterm elections. In some ways they're just a horrible idea altogether. The Republicans picked up 60+ seats in the House, not so much because so many of the voters who voted for Obama two years ago hate him now, but because a different set of voters showed up this time.

But I don't think I'm actually proposing that midterm elections be abolished. Four years is probably too long to go without checking in with the electorate...just think what a difference 2006 made...and people who are disenfranchised because they're too lazy to vote when it's not exciting aren't exactly sympathetic characters. (I'd happily sign on for abolishing special elections, and preventing voter initiatives from appearing on the ballot during the primaries and other minor elections, but that's a different issue). Midterms are a flawed but necessary part of the process. But I think it's a mistake to give them more power than they actually have. The House belongs to the Republicans now, and they have every right to use that power to its fullest (I hear they want to put climate science on trial, which um...good luck with that). But Barack Obama did not get unelected or recalled, and while the Republican "mandate" may be more recent, his comes from a larger share of the he has every right to use the power of the Presidency to the fullest as well, as do the Democrats in the Senate.

I honestly don't know what happens when the Obama agenda meets the Republican house. Probably not major climate change legislation. Maybe not any kind of legislation. Back in the spring, it seemed hopeful that Republican gains in the House and Senate would mean more moderates like Mike Castle and Tom Campbell...but thanks to the Tea Party there weren't that many moderates running, at least for Senate. I don't know if any new moderates made it into the House, but I think the lower profile races just made it more possible for Rand Paul/Christine O'Donnell/Sharon Angle types to fly under the radar and get elected. Gridlock seems much more likely than happy, skippy, bipartisanship. The stereotype is that Presidents who face opposition at home start to concentrate more on foreign policy, where they have more freedom from Congress. If this means that Obama gets aggressive now about ending things in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think that could be very positive. (I'm choosing to ignore the suggestions that Obama might make common cause with the Republicans to escalate in Afghanistan or attack Iran, because I can't imagine that he'd be that stupid). But I think it's really just kind of wait and see right now.

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