There is no doubt that the Republican party is poised for a big night - some are even predicting an historic night - next Tuesday when America goes to the polls.
But the seeds of GOP failure have already been sown during this campaign and it is extremely doubtful that Republicans can achieve any of their short term goals, much less change the culture of America to reflect their outdated views of small government, low taxes, and a much stricter interpretation of the Constitution.
There is no doubt government can be “smaller,” taxes “lower,” and judges put in place who would take a friendlier view of original intent. But the exaggerated goals of tea partiers and other conservatives is a pie in the sky impossibility — the result of a fundamental misreading of modern American society and a refusal to recognize that, as in life, a nation cannot “go home” and recapture a period in time now lost to the ages.
Most analysts now agree that the Republicans will take the House next Tuesday. While it is doubtful they can sweep the table and take the senate as well, they will certainly score significant gains in that body. But will this sweeping victory be due to any ideas the Republicans have been promoting? In other words, can the GOP rightfully claim a mandate to govern?
Getting the deficit under control and getting people back to work are legitimate GOP aspirations and if voted into office, members of congress can claim a broad mandate to accomplish those goals. The “return to Constitutional government” - whatever that means specifically - is also broadly accepted as part of the Republican platform, although such a nebulous goal can be interpreted a thousand different ways. Then there is the rollback of Obama’s agenda in health care, financial reform, and other Washington power grabs that enjoy the support of a plurality of voters - if that.
How much success will the Republicans have in accomplishing any of those goals? The answer is, this is an agenda bred for failure.
As long as President Obama remains in office, it is not likely that any GOP measures to cut the deficit, create jobs, repeal Obamacare, repeal FinReg, or “return” the country to someone’s idea of Constitutional government will succeed. The Republicans will not have anywhere near the numbers to overturn any Obama veto. And the idea that 20 senate Democrats and 40 House Democrats will suddenly see the light and vote to emasculate their own party’s president by refusing to uphold his vetos is not in the realm of possibility on this planet.
A compromise with the Democrats might get some of those items passed into law. But incredibly, the GOP has already signaled that there will be no compromise.
Unable to get anything passed because their numbers are too few, the GOP will refuse to deal with the president because their rabid, frothing at the mouth base of partisans equates compromise with weakness. The art of governance is lost on these mountebanks — as it was with their counterparts on the left in 2008 — because so certain are they of the moral rightness of their cause that they regard compromise as dealing with the devil (or, for the left, whatever the secular equivalent). Hence, we had the spectacle of rabid leftists calling for the heads of more moderate Blue Dogs because they dared to seek compromise with Republicans on the major agenda items. Similarly, compromise with President Obama by Republicans on anything will be deemed as a betrayal of the electoral “mandate” the GOP will win next Tuesday.
With the nation in an economic crisis the likes of which have not been seen since the 1930’s and the American people crying out for leadership, the GOP will freeze like a deer in headlights, terrified that any move to get anything done in Washington to alleviate our economic problems will be seen as “caving in” to Obama and the Democrats and rile the tea party crowd, leading to a slew of primary challenges for members in 2012. Hence, the prospect of gridlock while the nation continues to sink into economic stagnation and ennui.
Note that there has been very little talk about the GOP “Pledge to America” since it was rolled out a month ago. In fact, the party leadership has avoided specifics about what they plan to do with this great victory. No grandiose plan to get the jobs machine pumping up employment. No details about a legislative strategy to repeal Obamacare or any other agenda item. There is nothing but empty platitudes and harsh criticism - well deserved - of the Democrats.
It begs the question of just what Republicans plan to do with their victory?
What appears they will do is investigate the Obama administration for a host of transgressions - real and imagined. There will be endless posturing about the debt. The president’s commission on the deficit will receive short shrift from both sides, so their recommendations will have as much impact as those of the Baker Commission on the Iraq War. Obama will blame the “do-nothing” GOP congress while the Republicans will blame “obstructionist” Democrats.
And in the end, we’ll all come back to square one and be stuck with the same high unemployment and sluggish economy, with no prospects for improvement.
It needn’t be this way but it will be. Political polarization is so ingrained in the system now that breaking free from the Gordian Knot of intractable, devastating partisanship is not even on the radar. It would take real political courage and statesmanship for both sides to build a bridge across the abyss we have dug for ourselves and meet in a spirit of real bi-partisan compromise. There are no giants in congress anymore, only misshapen trolls and midgets whose cynicism about the system requires that they gather as much wealth and power as they can before being retired by their constituents or leaving office to find an even more lucrative position in the revolving door of Washington interest peddling.
Cynicism in Washington breeds cynicism among the populace. And the coming Republican failure to fulfill the wishes of the electorate will only add to the feeling of hopelessness that stalks the land in the second decade of the 21st century. Where will we be 10 years from now? Contemplation of our prospects does not engender confidence in our future. And perhaps more than anything else, that shows just how far America has fallen.