Thank God thats over.
Our windstorms of a couple weeks ago were little more than light
breezes compared to the hot air spewed by politicians of all stripes
the last six months. Their television and radio ad barrages have
both insulted our intelligence and tried our patience.
The commercials and mailings produced by state and national party
organizations were especially onerous, equaled in poor taste only by
those financed by the third party groups with the harmless sounding
names and mysterious billionaire contributors.
Hard as it might be to believe, several states featured campaigns far
nastier than what we saw in Michigan. California, Nevada, Alaska,
Colorado, Pennsylvania and Delaware all had races that plumbed the
depths of campaign negativity, reached the bottom and just kept on
And then there was the race for the U.S. Senate in Illinois. Oh, dear.
The Republican, Mark Kirk, who won and will assume Barack Obamas old
seat, spent most of the campaign trying to explain why he had lied
outrageously about his military service. The Democrat, Alexi
Giannoulias, had to explain why he did just fine financially despite
the collapse of his familys bank and why he had borrowed money from a
couple of guys with, well, lets call it unsavory connections.
Republicans now have a solid majority after an historic victory in the
House but it will not be veto proof, making it extremely difficult for
the more strident newcomers to repeal Obamacare or fiddle with Social
Security or cut much government spending. The rift in the Republican
party between entrenched conservatives and the new breed of
fire-breathing, anti-government tea partiers and their supporters will
not help their cause. We could well be witness to a three-way battle;
Democrats versus Republicans versus tea party Republicans.
Well soon find out if the right is as impatient and fickle as the
left has proven to be. The traditional honeymoon period once enjoyed
by newly elected officeholders may last about 15 seconds with this
group. In fact, though Republicans dominated the midterms at record
levels, the pollsters tell us people dont like them any better than
they like Democrats, which isnt much.
If the public expects rapid and dramatic changes, which they will not
get, the grief will now fall onto the GOP. The demands of ideological
purity from the extremes of both parties, and the accompanying
presumption that they deserve 100% of what they want, is more
destructive to progress than helpful.
We can hope both sides will now recognize the folly of their
absolutism and decide to actually work together. Not likely but we
The Democrats, who have maintained a slim majority in the Senate, are
now gravely debilitated. They were victims of circumstances, some of
their own making and some not, and their own ineptitude, unable to
coherently define the direction they wanted to lead us and unwilling
to defend those actions they did take.
Republicans did a tremendous job of defining the issues and placing
blame. They convinced a majority of Americans to believe the stimulus
program has failed and the bailouts were unnecessary. (Most economists
disagree, claiming it is far too soon to judge the stimulus and the
bailouts prevented an economic cataclysm far beyond what were now
More importantly, the Republicans laid both the bailout and stimulus
spending directly on the doorstep of the timid Democrats despite the
fact that both programs began under George W. Bush. And the
Republicans, quite rightly, brought the trillion dollar plus annual
deficits into the debate early and often.
Democrats, on the other hand, did a horrible job of defending
themselves. Traditionally confused in the best of circumstances, they
mumbled and fumbled and made excuses for themselves while their
opponents beat them senseless with rapid-fire rhetoric that
super-glued them to every catastrophe imaginable and some that are
not. They had no justification for the outlandish deficits because
The bad news is weve gone through another election cycle without much
discussion of real issues or practical solutions. Virtually every
campaign for every office at every level quickly devolved into a shin
kicking contest full of vitriolic nonsense, half-truths and outright
fabrications. We deserve better but seem unwilling to demand better.
Also disheartening was the voter turnout. Its hard to believe, given
the importance and potential consequences of this election, that less
than 60% of Michigans eligible voters bothered to show up.
The good news is weve survived another election cycle. American
elections are a beautiful thing. Men and women of all races,
religions and beliefs, dutifully standing in line awaiting their turn,
some with their children in tow to share the experience. Volunteers
working long shifts to make sure the process worked smoothly and
efficiently and it did. No gun-toting troops needed.
When our new leaders are sworn in and take office in January, despite
a dramatic shift in power, the transition will be smooth and peaceful
and well continue marching forward. The losers will accept their
fate, some less gracefully than others, and the battle for 2012 will
begin. It is a system unique in the world.
Despite it all, our United States is a majestic place.