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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Let the GOP try to prove itself

    It was obvious going into Tuesday’s election that the Republicans would win. Every two-term president since President Ronald Reagan has dealt with an opposition Senate in their last two years of office. In an average sixth-year midterm, the president’s party loses around six Senate seats according to The American Presidency Project — exactly the number Republicans needed to gain a majority.

    So the Republicans had to really blow it out of the water if they wanted to make any impact.

    They did.

    American politics is built to swing, but this election was swingier than it needed to be. With the Republican Party flipping at least seven Senate seats, another 13 House seats and picking up the governor’s mansions in blue states like Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts, the Democrats need to concede that the Republicans won this round, (mostly) fair and square — dark money and voter suppression likely played a role in the magnitude of the vote, but not the overall direction.

    But now it’s the morning after, and it’s time to define the voters’ new relationship with the Republicans.

    A national exit poll conducted by Edison Research on behalf of The Associated Press found that 58 percent of voters said they were dissatisfied or angry with the White House. 59 percent said they were unhappy with the GOP leadership in Congress.

    That’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the thesis that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus floated on ABC News Tuesday night, that, “Republicans were affirmed … so the policies are accepted and the policies of Obama were rejected.”

    Yesterday was a protest vote, plain and simple. It wasn’t about issues.

    There were a lot of legitimate grievances being aired as Americans went to the polls Tuesday: The past two Congresses have been the least productive since World War II, worse than Truman’s Do-Nothing Congress from 1947-1949; we’ve seen a government shutdown and suffered through multiple budget crises; and the business of government is going undone while President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner bicker.

    But to protest these problems, voters handed the entire job of legislating over to the Republicans, effectively signing up for a GOP legislative agenda. The evidence that the voters meant to embrace those policies, though, is less than convincing.

    Look at Arkansas, where voters opted to raise the minimum wage by a margin of more than 30 points even as they re-elected a Republican state legislature that has stood in the way of minimum wage increases in the past. Or look at Colorado, where voters rejected a proposal to ban all abortion and certain forms of birth control while electing a Senate candidate who has sponsored similar legislation at the federal level.

    Now it falls to the GOP to convince Americans that they actually like Republican policies as much as they dislike the Washington dysfunction that Republican strategists have effectively branded as Obama’s.

    For the next two years, the GOP has no excuses. It has all the votes it could ever want to get its favorite bills onto Obama’s desk. The debate about Republicans’ ability to govern can finally be settled.

    My gut tells me we won’t be seeing a farm bill or a balanced budget or an attempt at immigration reform emerging from this new Congress. My money is on politicking and posturing, impeachment proceedings and fights about judicial nominees.

    But for the sake of our republic and its citizens, I hope our new Congress members act with wisdom and leadership.

    And most of all, I wish them the best of luck. They’ll need it.


    Jacquelyn Oesterblad is opinions editor. Follow her on Twitter.

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