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Yes, elections have ramifications

July 28, 2011

By Mal Boright
Observer correspondent

In 2008,we elected Democrats to the presidency and control of Congress. In return we got a needed but little understood health care law that mostly takes effect a couple of years from now, plus some overreaching by the Donkeys.

Then came 2010 and more Republicans — partly as a result of Democratic failures in job creation and making the case for health care — took over the U.S. House with many state governorships and legislatures.

That gave us gridlock, a possible U. S. Treasury default and in general, chaos in Washington and several states.

In the words of former Alaska Gov. (resigned with two years left) and Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for ya?”

Just ask the good citizens of Minnesota, where a GOP legislature hammered a no taxes pledge and a Democratic governor shut down state government for two weeks because a new state budget created a stalemate. Compromise was no longer in the political dictionary.

Take the query to Wisconsin. In Madison, newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker and a GOP-controlled legislature chopped up public employee unions even though the unions agreed to some pension cuts. It should be noted that Walker exempted the police and firefighters’ unions that supported him during the election. The governor and legislators of both parties are now facing recall votes.

And, as of this past Monday, ask stock and bond holders (perhaps yourself), how this past Congressional election that brought more than 100 rabid conservative ideologues to the U.S. House is working out for ya. These Tea Party enthusiasts are major contributors (but not the only ones) to the cuckoo’s nest atmosphere that has enveloped Washington, leaving the nation at the brink of default on its debts.

Leadership is thus far not very effective. House Speaker John Boehner and Whip Eric Cantor have to play to their hard core Tea Baggers, who themselves got elected in gerrymandered districts by hard core GOP voters.

No new taxes and stop big government were the basis of their elections. Oh yes, that and blind, almost fanatical opposition to anything President Barack Obama might propose. As a result, there were no compromises.

Senate leadership appears to be somewhat more flexible and that was where a glimmer of action was taking place at the start of the week.

While the Elephants are holding fast to their ideological positions, the Democrats are just as obstinate about entitlements, essentially Social Security and Medicare. So far they rigidly oppose even small changes around the edges.

Many believe this too will end with the required hike in the debt ceiling before default is reality. Don’t be too sure. The fault lines in Congress are as deep as they have ever been and that goes back to the pre-Civil War days.

A recent book, “1861—The Civil War Awakening” by Adam Goodheart, tells a lot about attitudes in a divided Congress during that tumultuous year.

According to columnist Thomas L. Friedman in Sunday’s (July 23) New York Times, help may be on the way but much too late to assist in the present crisis. Friedman writes that a third party “Americans Elect” is about to appear on the electoral stage and open the presidential nomination process from the Republican and Democratic parties that seem only interested in their ideologies and power.

This new movement would govern from the middle of the spectrum, which would give it far more flexibility in resolving issues

That sounds good. But it does not at first blush solve the vexing situation that our election by big bucks has gotten us into. To win election to national office, the hopeful needs big time party support and the largesse of individual and corporate givers who put their money where their self-interests are.

Since House and Senate members — when winning for the first time — look at their newly won office as a nice plush career, the stakes become much higher, the quest for money becomes much more vital, and the chances of casting a vote that disturbs either loud constituents or well heeled special interests are much more rare.

Congresspersons and, in some states, legislators who would vote for their nation or state first and career second are an endangered species.

Confession: This scribe was raised in a Northeast Kingdom Republican stronghold where it was said by citizens, “By golly I would vote for that fence post if it were Republican.” Much later when it came to national political parties, this individual decided, “a plague on both their houses.” However, the Republican Party now in Washington in no way resembles the thoughtful GOP members in the Kingdom years ago.

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