You did it! Congratulations to all of you on this extraordinary victory for the American people! The victory was bigger and deeper than expected. The U.S. Senate has a new Republican majority of 53 seats. The total is likely to be 54 after the Louisiana runoff on December 6th.
The power of Harry Reid to singlehandedly block consideration of Bills – preventing some 360 House Bills from reaching the Senate floor – has been broken. Congressional gridlock has been broken.
The election was a repudiation of Obama and his policies. Republicans can now methodically present in the form of legislation a series of policies outlining their plans for the country. Obama may exercise his veto making him the “Party of No!” and thereby isolating him even as a positive agenda is laid out before the country.
If Obama decides to flaunt the will of the people by further reckless, illegal and dictatorial use of the Presidency, this dynamic will tee up the likelihood of a Republican Presidency in 2016.
The Republican House added 16 new seats giving them their largest majority since 1929! Boehner now has wiggle room in his caucus and a nearly irreversible majority for 2016.
The most dramatic and it could be argued most far-reaching changes took place in the statehouses. Republicans now hold 67 of the 99 state legislatures in the country with two still undecided. It is said that all politics is local and begins at the grass roots. These grass roots run deep and stand tall and thick.
The Governors’ races provided a solid showing with some dramatic surprises. Republicans won in the deep blue states of Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts, while posting victories in blue Michigan, bellwether Ohio, swing-state Florida and hotly contested Wisconsin.
Scott Walker won re-election by a wider margin in Wisconsin than in his previous contests. He succeeded in beating back the teachers’ unions, defeating a recall effort and refuting phony charges against him/ These victories have made him into a GOP hero and potential nominee for President in 2016. The electorate is craving someone with executive experience – probably a Governor – after the incompetent, corrupt and ideological presidency of Obama.
Finally, Cory Gardner is now the Junior Senator from Colorado. The liberal Washington Post named him the best candidate nationwide. Cory is a relentless optimist and a cheery spokesperson for the “American Dream.” The drop of 8% in the median income of families during the Recovery makes this a timely message. He also has bi-partisan appeal on “women’s issues” even though he is a conservative. He is pro-life but supports contraception unequivocally.
Cory faced stiff competition for the honor of being named the best by the Post. There was Joni Ernst – first woman Senator from Iowa – triumphing in a blue state; Tom Cotton – a conservative super-star who graduated Harvard law and served in the U.S. army – won by a whopping 17%. His triumph certifies Arkansas as a red, red, state having flipped from blue possibly faster than any state in history; and Ed Gillespie’s “nearly flawless” campaign in Virginia – where he lost by 16,000 votes out of 2.1 million cast after having been behind by nearly 20 points – puts Virginia in play for 2016. Pretty impressive!
Colorado also turned the state Senate red and nearly did the same in the state House. Colorado’s long trend blue has now shifted “officially” to purple with a blue Governor, House and U.S. Senator (Bennett). Juxtaposed to these are a red Senate and Republican Cory Gardner.
The Significance Beneath the Statistics
The Progressive agenda has been set back for at least a decade. The underlying center-right nature of the country reasserted itself. A conservative, legislative majority is well-positioned to beat back or successfully oppose a reckless executive branch and its compliant media during the next two years.
The battle lines are drawn. It appears that Obama is prepared to blow up all hope of bi-partisanship. Obama and the Democrats are about to discover that when you pick up hot coals to throw at someone you are the first to be burned. But that is another discussion for another time.
The Democrats’ adoption of the left-wing strategy of identity-politics and grievance-politics showed itself to be seriously frayed if not altogether in tatters. As predicted, African-Americans either stayed home or voted 89% for Democrats which was down from the low to mid 90% in 2012. In Chicago, blacks voted 20% for the Republican Governor of Illinois and 25% pulled the lever in Ohio for Republican John Kasich enabling him to stack up a big win with 64% of the vote. The Democrats tried having it both ways by mostly running from Obama then having him address black communities at the last minute.
Hispanics went 44% for Republicans in Texas. In the Texas Governor’s race, male Hispanics went 50% to 49% for Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate. Pueblo County in Colorado, blue and Hispanic, went approximately 50%-50% for Gardner.
Women overall went only 51% to 49% for Democrats; the Jewish vote was down to 55% to 45% for Democrats and likely voter millennials, according to a Harvard study, went 50% to 49% for Republicans. All these sectors showed lower turnouts. As far the “vaunted” Democratic Ground Game went – there is the old adage: you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make ‘em drink – especially if there is a funny taste.
The Republicans, for their part, seem to have consolidated and increased the white vote, the rural, working class vote, the male vote, and the middle-class suburban vote and have broken the blue lock on New England.
The Republicans must now prove themselves. Obama was repudiated and the Republicans were the beneficiaries. They too will be repudiated if they do not present their positive program and win the battle for public opinion.
The key to their agenda must be to unleash capitalism’s animal spirits and lift the growth rate to above 3% with the promise of more in 2016 if they gain the presidency. They must also offer an effective national security program. In addition to the economy, fear and uncertainty about rising international dangers and a porous border also figured into the national mood.
The policy agenda means – among other things – addressing marginal tax rates, wooing back industries, forming trade pacts, bolstering energy policy, lifting oppressive regulations, repealing Obamacare and strengthening the military.
It also means vigilance and skill in checking Obama’s dictatorial inclinations at every turn. The fate of the Republic as a healthy and democratic container will continue to hang in the balance so long as he is still sitting in the Oval Office. It will be an interesting two years.
Special Moments on the Election Trail
We are back home in Los Angeles and I’m about to turn my attention to the private pursuits of spiritual teaching and attending to family. There were many great moments on the election trail that remained unmentioned so I’d like to allude to a few in closing.
You may recall in #10: Battlefield Colorado that I sketched a critique of “Absolutism vs Constitutionalism” and traced the origins of that struggle to the Magna Carta. Below, in a second interview with Jimmy Sengenberger, I outlined some of these ideas the week before writing the essay with Obama’s abuse of power in mind. It might be a useful review for you and I include it below:
On the Saturday before the elections I had the honor of speaking at a rally on the same platform with one of the Benghazi Guys – Mark “Oz” Geist – who defied the stand-down order and risked life and limb to save our Ambassador and others on 9/11, 2012 just weeks before the election. Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed on the roof of Building C in that rescue effort while Oz, along side them, was seriously wounded.
The rally was organized by various Conservative groups. I concluded my remarks that day on the cusp of the elections with the following:
“I’m a national security hawk so I guess that makes me a neo-conservative; I’m pro-life so that makes me a social conservative; I don’t mind gays marrying because I’m confident the boy/girl thing will never be transcended so that must mean I’m a libertarian; I oppose the fiscal indebtedness we’re saddling the next generation with so that makes me an economic conservative; and I’m definitely a classical liberal in the stamp of John Locke, Adam Smith, John Adams and the other Founding Fathers. So who do I vote for? It’s not so hard. If I agree 70% with the candidate, they can count on my vote. I only hope I can adopt the tactical flexibility and realism of the establishment Republicans while remaining true to the Tea Party’s assertion of fundamental principles and understanding of just what a serious pickle we are in.”
On the Thursday before the elections there was a gathering of all the campaign workers at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Jeb Bush came into town and spoke at the event along with Cory and others. It was a chilly night. Cathy was standing near a railing when she noticed Jeb Bush walking along alone. She waved. He waved back and came over and both leaned on the rail from opposite sides. “How are you doing?” says she. “I’m freezing” says he. “Want my jacket? she offers. “Thanks, but it’s probably too small.”
Then they chatted a bit. It was a relaxed and otherwise unremarkable encounter except that, for me, it captured Cathy’s selflessness in offering her coat. She is always freezing. It also spoke of Jeb’s ordinariness and lack of airs – a fine fellow from a fine and distinguished family.
One of the main highlights of the entire experience for me took place on election day. In Colorado, you can register and then vote on election day. I’m a friendly guy and I made friends over time with a worker at the Inn where we were staying. We bonded, in part, because my father was from Odessa on the Black Sea and an immigrant like my friend. He was of Russian-Estonian origin and had been a U.S. citizen for many years.
He had been a professional boxer and trainer but – like many others – had never mastered English. He was a very sweet, humble and respectful man. It turned out he also had Republican inclinations and liked Cory but had never registered nor voted in his new country.
We arranged after much back and forth to meet at our apartment on election day morning. Cathy and I were committed to husbanding him through the process. He showed up all spic and span in a nice tie and shirt and off we went. Due to complications, the process took 3 hours but we had a grand time. It was so gratifying to have had personal contact of this sort that arose from life itself on the very day of the election.
I’d like to give special shout-outs to Malia and Arden, Theresa and Kirk, and on the Western Slope – Susan and Lester – all of whom welcomed us into their homes.
The wonderful ecologist Aldo Leopold once said:
“It is only in the mind that shining adventure remains forever bright!”