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THE SENATE TOMORROW – NO CHANGE

November 5, 2014

THE SENATE TOMORROW – NO CHANGE

I am writing this essay on election evening before results of the various races for the Senate are known. It appears as a matter of tradition that the outs in this 2014 mid-term will gain Senate seats and perhaps a majority of the total Senate count. The pundits are ready to acknowledge the tradition with little discussion of how such a tradition ever became one. I think a lot of it has to do with voter fatigue.

Obama, like Bush (credit card wars and tax giveaways) and Reagan (Iran-Contra and felonies within his administration) has low voter approval in his final lame duck two years. That’s the tradition. Things happen to people who are doing things which risk failure. Politically speaking, it’s a matter of voluntary exposure to criticism if one’s plans and policies do not pan out. No president escapes the inevitability of time and changing circumstance. All do or have done things which warrant criticism to some extent.

Candidates for the House and Senate of the party which holds the Oval Office often complain that they are not running for the presidency and that their opponents’ campaigns should get off their backs with such propaganda. It is not propaganda. When you cast your lot with the leader of your party (whether Bush or Obama), you should be prepared to defend his plans and policies and take the good with the bad. You can’t have it both ways and when you try you rightly demean yourself in the eyes of the voters.

Other than elevating John McClain to Chair of the Armed Service Committee in the Senate (a scary idea in and of itself given his hawkish and neocon leanings), I think we have overstated the horrors of a Republican Senate. Should they win a senatorial majority (with McConnell as majority leader) and the chairmanship of all the Senate’s committees, they still have the prospect of overriding Democratic filibusters (for a change) and, of course, the White House’s veto pen. Republicans have been good over the last several years in using the filibuster for everyday legislation, so now if they ascend to the majority in the Senate we will see how they like it when the shoe is on the other foot. Additionally, of course, there is the veto power of the executive, a potent roadblock to right wing hubris.

With a senatorial two-thirds override of vetoes impossible, it appears we will be back in a “do nothing” gridlock mode and that we will continue to fight one another so that we can continue our drift in a world inhabited by ISIS, increasing domestic poverty, Chinese takeover of the marketplace and many other problems and issues that we should be addressing but for our self-destructing political brawls.

If we fall from First World status, this will not be the first time in history a great power has fallen from within due to internal dissension on how to allocate the spoils accumulated and accumulating from its prior successes. It would be nice to think that the United States of America is more than a mere marketplace for the rich to become richer and a convenient venue for our politicians to display their political egos, but unfortunately, that seems to be a fair description of what this country is about these days. Statesmen and women dedicated to leading this nation and its people to greatness are missing.

What happens if the Senate goes Republican tonight? Not a lot, because the system (unlike the parliamentary system) is constitutionally rigged to favor equilibrium and continuation of the status quo (and accommodate fights). What happens if the Senate remains Democratic? Not much. The fight goes on. When even the vote changes nothing, how will we ever get “change?” I have no clue. GERALD   E

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