There were no surprises. The Republicans took the House of Representatives with room to spare. The Senate remained Democratic, but with a much larger GOP minority. The reign of unfettered Obama statism is over. So far, it’s 1966.
Considering today’s political realities, this is the ideal setup. In 1994, the Republicans rampaged to full control of both Senate and House, and President Bill Clinton used the next two years using the GOP congress as a punching bag, and won re-election in 1996. With a divided congress, President Obama will have a hard time employing that kind of strategy, although he will try. A repeat of 1994 would probably have greatly enhanced Obama’s re-election prospects, given the GOP’s philosophical agnosticism.
Speaking of that, the signs are not good. Already, we’re hearing about the Republican’s coming “moderate” approach. Political incrementalism is a workable strategy only when backed up by firm principles. As I’ve noted, the Statists (mostly Democrats) have done just dandy expanding government power in bits and pieces, while cleaving solidly to their collectivist/socialist ideals. America needs desperately for the Republicans to be just as strong in upholding individualism/capitalism ideals. The political battles can be fought with the usual give-and-take, but the philosophical battle is necessarily between the two extremes. This is where the GOP must stand tall.
Will they? Without an explicit statement upholding the individual’s right to live for his own sake, there is no way for the Republicans to effectively advance a free market political agenda. One must know what one stands for. The Democrats do. For the next two years, Obama will talk “compromise” and “cooperation” with the House Republicans while framing the debate in his collectivist terms. The GOP must call him on it, and present the clear philosophical alternative, or he will steamroll them.
The new element in this year’s GOP triumph is, of course, the Tea Party Movement. The Tea Party began, ironically, as a rebellion against the Republicans and their 2008 Tarp bailouts (although the name had not yet been coined). It then swarmed the Democrats in 2009. In late 2009 into 2010, the Tea Party flexed its muscles in elections in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial, and Massachusetts senatorial, races, with Republicans being the prime beneficiaries. The Tea Party continued its emergence into the political arena with the midterms, riding the minority Republican Party as the vehicle for expressing its growing cultural power.
The Republican leadership would like to have us believe that they harnessed the power of the Tea Party by heeding their message. But, the Republicans have harnessed nothing. They have grabbed a tiger by the tail. The unofficial motto of the Tea Party is, “Don’t Tread on Me!”. The Tea Party, that leaderless conglomeration of disparate, often contradictory elements, will not stand patiently by. It is a movement by and for independents. It wants government out of the business of running our lives. If this GOP crop doesn’t battle hard to roll back statism, the Tea Party will turn on them as fast as it turned on the 2008 Republicans and the 2009 Democrats.
The result, if the GOP fails this time, could very well be the emergence of a third major political party in 2012 – a literal Tea Party, this time.