03 November 2010


The 2010 midterm elections are mercifully over, and as predicted by any number of newscasters and political commentors (I refuse to use the faux word "commentator" -- what does it mean to "commentate"?), Republicans gained numerical control of the US House of Representatives, and Democrats retained control of the US Senate. Which begs the question, is it possible that the American electorate is so lazy, or has such a herd mentality, that we simply vote according to the conjectural predictions of talking heads on TV? But that's another story.

For now, the most unsettling aspect of yesterday's election is that, as a result of the witless, kneejerk "throw all the bums out" attitude by many voters, we now have elected representatives in both the House and the Senate whose philosophies lie at the extremes of liberalism and conservatism. This is a recipe for continued gridlock, acrimony, and disservice to the nation. If you look back on the legislative and social history of this country, true progress occurs when there is mutual respect and cooperation between parties, made much more likely when moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans hold sway. The increased polarization of the new congress does not bode well for those for whom congress works -- we, the people.

It is remarkable that our democratic republic has survived so much ineptitude, corruption and malfeasance by individuals from both political parties. One reason may be that a small minority of presidents, members of congress and supreme court justices chooses to decide and act in a truly selfless, enlightened fashion. Timothy Egan describes one such instance in his detailed article How Obama Saved Capitalism and Lost the Midterms. It is a truism that the perceived shortcomings of the Obama adminstration have been the target of innumerable attack ads and generally vicious distortion. It is equally true that most Americans are largely unaware of Obama's successes in office.

Egan focuses on three. "The three signature accomplishments of his first two years -- a health care plan that will make life easier for millions of people, financial reform that attempts to level the playing field with Wall Street, and the $814 billion stimulus package -- have all been recast as government blunders, rejected by the emerging majority. But each of them, in its own way, should strengthen the system. The health care law will hold costs down, while giving millions the chance at getting care, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Financial reform seeks to prevent the kind of meltdown that caused the global economic collapse. And the stimulus, though it drastically raised the deficit, saved about 3 million jobs, again according to the CBO. It also gave a majority of taxpayers a one-time tax cut -- even if 90 percent of Americans don't know that, either .... Of course, the big money interests who benefited from Obama's initiatives have shown no appreciation .... Money flows one way, to power, now held by the party that promises tax cuts and deregulation -- which should please big business even more .... Obama saved them, and the biggest cost was to him."

Irony, thy name is the American electorate.

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