Last night was something special. It was either a typical mid-term election, where the balance of power once again swings back the other way, or it was a major tidal change in American politics. A lot of that depends on which cable news station you prefer.
Now the Republicans have the House and they’ve closed the gap in the Senate. I have a new senator (Roy Blunt) and representative (Billy Long) serving me in congress and a new face on the Greene County commission (Jim Viebrock).
But what does it all mean?
I’ve put some thought to this today and I’m equal parts cautiously optimistic and aggressively pessimistic. The Republicans are saying a lot of the right things right now. It’s the old “I’m sorry, baby. I learned my lesson. This time’ll be better, I promise.” And, as a born-and-raised conservative, I want to believe them.
But there are thorns on that olive branch they’re extending. Rep. John Boehner, the future Speaker of the House, has already said the Republicans will confront the Democrats when they don’t agree with “the people.” It’s that part that scares me. Who are “the people” he’s talking about? How will he decide what the people want? If the public turns favorable on health care reform, will they back off? I’m doubtful.
Perhaps the most telling Republic quote of this election cycle comes from Mitch McConnell, in an interview with National Journal.
“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
I have no doubt that he means it, and that’s what bothers me. If things turn around – and there’s reason to believe they will – the Republicans stand to lose some momentum going into the 2012 elections and may even fail to reclaim the White House. So this is the moment of truth: Will they throw themselves into real reform to ensure the country is on the right track, hoping they’ll reap the credit in 2012? Or will they continue to obstruct and sandbag, and use a faltering economy to push for bigger gains.
The adventure beings for all of us in January.