Jon Stewart and W. Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, respectively, were both right. The biggest debate in the wake of Tuesday’s Republican victory was what to call it: a wave, a sweep, a tsunami, whatever.
Call it what you will, it was impressive: seven, possibly eight Senate seats, (twice the post-WorldWar II average for a President’s party in the sixth year of a second term,) up to 15 House seats, a working majority in both houses for the first time sine 2,006. Divided government, here we come!
Throw in gubernatorial victories in certifiably blue states like Maryland, and there is a whole lot of shakin’ going on.
What was behind it? Republicans, shrewdly, spent tens of millions on ads demonizing President Obama and tying Democratic candidates to him. News organizations bought into the depiction of Obama’s unpopularity, repeated it again and again, and presto! His poll numbers plummeted and Democratic candidates ran for the exits.
Inexplicably, Democrats failed to fight back, failed to embrace Obama’s accomplishments in the economy and healthcare, failed to stress the things that have gone right in contrast to those that have not. There are two sides to every story but only one was featured on the airwaves.
Instead, many Democratic candidates distanced themselves from the President, floating in a neutral ether that was self-defeating on election day.
What now? In dueling news conferences yesterday, the soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the President laid out their priorities for the next two years. McConnell’s list included energy legislation, trade agreements and corporate tax reform. Obama: jobs, raising the minimum wage, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and early childhood education.
Not identical lists to be sure, but there is significant overlap and real possibilities of progress if House Speaker John Boehner can use his enhanced majority to keep his own caucus in line. Stay tuned on that one.
The President even offered to drink a little Kentucky bourbon with McConnell and lose, again, to Beohner in golf, if that is what it takes to “get stuff done.”
Looking further ahead to 2016: the only real message to presumed candidates like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush or Rand Paul was a cautionary one. The political waters are roiled and dangerous. You’d best get an early start, probably earlier than you would choose, raise vast sums of money and pay attention to a public mood that is grumpy at best. As Tuesday showed, it is not going to be a cakewalk for anyone