There has been a lot of rhetoric surrounding the recent election. The line has been that this has been a wave, tsunami, etc. in which America has spoken an declared a dissatisfaction with Obama, democrats, health care, etc. or given a clear mandate of support for Republican ideals. It’s a really nice claim, and makes for good infotainment, but it really isn’t reality. Instead, the real meaning of this election will be found in the decisions made from this point, decisions that will show us if our government is about leadership, or about power and control.
There were victories, but no mandates. Only a minority of Americans voted (again), and though there was dissatisfaction with the past two years, not all of it was because they thought the Obama administration went too far, many felt it did not go far enough. As a result, the group that was motivated to elect Obama did not show out of frustration and learned helplessness, leading to change in the people who voted, not a change in who people were voting for. In addition, the majority of those democrats who lost out were the blue dog democrats, while the high profile Democrats like Harry Reid, Barney Frank, and even Nancy Pelosi remained in power. As for power, the Republicans have control of the house, but they do not have an absolute power, as there is enough of a difference for the system of checks and balances to keep them from fully monopolizing power.
Instead, what has happened is a condition that requires cooperation for the government to run. As it stands now, no one party has absolute control over the government, and this is probably a good thing. As a result, a decision now needs to be made between compromising and working between parties to get work done, or do nothing by sticking rigidly to ideological lines.
It may seem that the choice is clear, that the situation is such to finally force parties to begin to talk to each other again. The problem is, even though there is an incentive to work towards accomplishments, there are equally powerful incentives towards doing nothing. This is because there are certain ideas and goals that strike a deep visceral chord, but are horrific in application. For instance, the Islamophobia that lead to the protests against the Islamic cultural center, if turned into policy, would create a precedent for religious persecution. If abortion were to me made illegal, we would see an increase in deaths due to the reliance on back alley abortions, and then we would still have to deal with the decision of how to deal with the new class of criminals,aka, the women seeking abortions for reasons included pregnancy caused by rape. Even for more moderate goals, there can be more reward for failure than success. This is because when you reach a goal, the fight ends, and your supporters go back to their lives, but when you don’t reach it, you can keep people fighting perpetually, and perpetually maintain the support that keeps you in power. This is why politicians these days propose near-impossible goals, like constitutional amendments, because they know that a victory would actually work against them. If they win, people grow content, but if they fail, people remain outraged. As for being held responsible for a lack of accomplishments, they have an answer to that: it’s always their opponent’s fault.
So in the end what we have now is a test of the true priorities of our politicians. If the politicians truly have the nation’s best interests in mind, they will have to negotiate, compromise, and actually talk to each other. However, if all they are interested in is holding and maintaining power, they will remain rigid and choose gridlock over decision. Essentially, it is a decisions between being effective, or being an ideologue; a choice between leadership or demagoguery.
So what does the election of 2010 really mean?
It means we get to see the real motives of the people we elect.