The 2014-midterm elections have been a landslide victory for the Republicans and the next two years look like one big uphill battle for President Obama. On the state and national levels, Republicans have won big. Very big. They now control both houses of Congress and picked up 6 governorships in key states (Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, and Massachusetts). With Congress going all red and the White House still blue, what choices does President Obama have in the next two years?
In the simplest form, he can work with a Republican Congress and work to pass comprehensive, bi-partisan legislation or he can simply use every part of his executive power to veto everything Congress tries to pass. Is it acceptable for him to say “no” to the same party that has said “no” to him for the past 6 years?
Apparently, saying “no” worked for the Republicans. This midterm election is no bigger example of that. But if President Obama decides to say “no” for two years he, and his party, have a lot more to risk, most notably the presidency in 2016. Rumors continue to swirl that Hillary Clinton will run then and nothing would hurt her and the Democrats more than an inactive, disgruntled White House left behind by President Obama.
A president also has his legacy to consider. If Obama vetoes everything for two years not one history book or pundit will discuss the first 6 years of his presidency where he attempted to be bi-partisan and was given the cold shoulder from a disgruntled, gridlocked Congress. They will only remember the last 2 years where he decided to do everything possible to prevent the Republicans from passing legislation.
So he isn’t justified, is he? And everyone in America now expects him to work with a Republican Congress that never tried to work with him when they only had control of the House. They expect him to work with congressional leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, the former being someone who is attempting to sue the President. Both of these Republican leaders feed into the extremist base of the Republican Party. Political scientist Alan Abramowitz summed it up perfectly on the eve of this election: “We’ll have a Republican caucus that is more conservative than it is now, and a Democratic caucus that is more liberal than it is now, [because] you’re subtracting moderates from the Democratic caucus, and adding very conservative Republicans to the GOP caucus.” With such sweeping victories by the Republicans this is exactly what has now happened. And no two leaders are better at rallying their troops than Boehner and McConnell. America, get ready for the pendulum to swing far right. Let the extremist legislation commence.
And yet, Obama has to work with them. The Democratic Caucus will force him to. But why is it the Democrats that always have to yield to the Republicans. They’re the ones that have to compromise. President Clinton had to work with a Republican-controlled Congress during the latter stages of his presidency as well.
With this election, Americans have said that it is okay to say “no” until you get your way. The Republicans have been let off the hook by the American voter and rewarded them for acting like a child with full control of Congress. This mid-term election has taught us the importance of all three branches of government and over the next two years we will learn what President Obama intends to do about his legacy.
I leave you with a clip from freshman state senator Jeff Jackson from North Carolina that perfectly sums up the dysfunction in politics today: