After enduring the heartbreak of the 2006 and 2008 elections, I have sympathy for what the Democrats will endure tomorrow. I am thrilled for my fellow Republicans, but Barack Obama is still President and he can veto anything they pass. I am also not joining the GOP chorus and predicting the President will be defeated for re-election.
Republicans lost 26 seats in 1982 and Reagan’s approval rating was a dismal 35%. He came back two years later to carry 49 states. Any GOP gloating will be muted by remembering the loss of so many fine statesmen over the past four years.
What I am hoping for is that Democrats and Republicans will listen to the message of the 2010 campaign. Liberals will not want my advice but perhaps they will listen to a few of the veteran elected Democrats who are now leaving the political arena. This group includes Governor Phil Bredesen (D-TN) and Congressmen Marion Berry (D-AR) and Brian Baird (D-WA).
Governor Bredesen believes the Democratic super majority was detrimental to the party. He says in hindsight it would have been far better if Democrats had worked with Republicans rather than narrowly jamming through their own agenda. He says health care reform is a major example of this problem.
In late 2008 there was considerable speculation Obama planned to make Bredesen his Secretary of Health and Human Services, but he was eliminated because of his enthusiasm for deficit reduction and entitlement reform. His nomination was publicly opposed by liberal activist groups such as MoveOn.org. Bredesen says:
I wish we could get back to the middle of the road. We need to get the party out of the control of people who are pushing us in a very different direction.These deficits are nothing more than mortgaging the future productivity of the country. You can’t possibly sustain doing it at the level we’re at. The political cost of this spending for the Democrats is huge.
Congressman Berry worked in the Clinton administration before being elected to the House in 1996. He says the Obama White House is politically tone deaf. He recounted meetings with White House officials where Berry pleaded with them not to force moderate Blue Dogs Democrats “off into a swamp.” The Congressman said it would be foolish to make these lawmakers cast votes which would be unpopular back home. Berry says:
The President himself, when that was brought up in one group, said, ‘Well, the big difference here and in ’94 was you’ve got me.’ We’re going to see how much difference that makes. I began to preach in January of 2009 that we had already seen this movie in 1994. We didn’t want to see it again because we know how it comes out. I just began to have flashbacks to 1993 and ’94. No one that was here in ’94 wants to go through with this again. It certainly wasn’t a good feeling.
Congressman Baird told the Wall Street Journal that Democrats “need a lot of rethinking.” He voted for the stimulus, cap and trade and ObamaCare, but acknowledges the flaws in all of them. He says Democrats have “an authoritarian, closed leadership.” He says the Pelosi Democrats have resorted to tricks:
Now we’re authorizing programs for three years instead of five in an attempt to pretend we’re saving money. . . You don’t get real reform by pandering to every special interest. With cap and trade we wound up with a bill that didn’t accomplish much, was enormously complicated and expensive. . . When I was first elected I was puzzled why Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were holding events in my honor as a mere freshman. I asked myself, why is a federal entity so involved in political activity?
I hope the new Speaker will not be a Republican version of Nancy Pelosi. In four years she never held one meeting with the GOP leadership, she was not able to pass a budget this year and no appropriations bills passed. Many believe Pelosi will not be the Democratic leader in the next Congress, and that post will instead go to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD). Hoyer worked with Republicans on foreign policy and national security issues, and lets hope that will now happen on economic issues.
An excellent place to start will be next month’s report of President Obama’s deficit reduction commission. Democrats can start to repair their image by working with the GOP on a major effort to cut the deficit. This will have to impact some of their special interest groups, but we can not ignore high unemployment and low growth.
The current House and Senate is the most polarized since the Civil War, and far too many lawmakers now define success by the failure of the opposing party. The goal is often obtaining a headline which will be embarrassing to the other side, rather than passing useful legislation.
The dramatic comeback of the Republican Party is exciting, but the success of our nation is more important. Passing bills that Obama will veto could help the 2012 campaign, but so many of our problems can not wait for two years. There are many essential health care reforms which have broad bipartisan support, but they were ignored in the current Congress. The cap-and-trade bill was awful, but our energy security needs should be addressed and we need to work together to advance nuclear power.
My hope is that Democrats will be willing to compromise in the national interest, and Republicans will abandon the tricks and divisive leadership of the Pelosi/Reid era. If that happens we really would have something to celebrate.