In the wake of last week’s midterm elections, the future of the nation remains uncertain. The large Republican gains in the House of Representatives have produced a split Congress, and the legislative effectiveness of the government hangs in the balance. With a Democrat in the White House and Republicans in Congress, will cooperation or disagreement result?
Two years ago, the American people voted for change by electing President Barack Obama. Now, the same voters have changed their minds again. Many experts, such as political commentator George Will, feel that the recent election represented “nationwide recoil against Barack Obama’s idea of unlimited government.” Most of the newly-elected Republicans agree, and hope to reverse the increased spending that resulted over the past two years of the Democratic majority. Speaker in waiting John Boehner (R-Ohio) frequently criticizes the stimulus spending of 2009, calling it a “spending spree” that failed to create American jobs and sent them abroad, instead. In the words of Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the people are “tired of business as usual, they’re tired of political rhetoric, and they’ve had enough.” The Republicans will find it hard to compromise regarding the recent stimulus and health care legislation, creating disagreement that might hinder future legislation.
Obama, on the other hand, believes that the election was a “referendum on the economy” and that the Democrats were unfairly blamed for the struggling circumstances they had inherited. Rather than reflecting a criticism of the American people on the government’s actions, President Obama argues that the election was won by the Republicans as a result of the state of the economy and a perception that the Democrats have failed to solve the problem. In the opinion of the Democrats, continuing the recent policies of increased spending will be the best way to proceed and the only way to repair the economy. This fundamental disagreement could be crucial in the coming months, as Republicans attempt to counteract the legislation which has been passed by the Democratic majority over the past two years.
Despite these differences, bipartisanship was a huge part of Obama’s 2008 campaign and presumably a trend he will attempt to continue over the next election cycle, especially because of the presence of a divided Congress. Cooperation between the two parties has the potential to produce valuable results for the American people by cutting unemployment and righting a struggling economy. On the other hand, failure to cooperate could result in a stagnant government that fails to produce effective legislation.
There is hope, though, as both sides agree that something must be done. Boehner told reporters in a recent interview that the Republicans “know if we do nothing, this crisis is likely to worsen and put us in an economic slump the likes of which we have never seen.” Both parties realize that action is needed to right the economy. Obama released a statement after the election, saying he was looking forward to working with Republican leaders to “find common ground, move the country forward, and get things done for the American people.” In this, there is a glimmer of potential. If both parties realize the severity of the situation, and are able to dispose of even a modicum of partisanship to work together and solve the nation’s problems, the future of the American economy looks somewhat brighter.
Most economists predict that the economy will right itself over the course of the next few years. With a Democratic president, the American people will most likely attribute this success to the Democrats, regardless of legislative production over the next two years. The pressure is subsequently on the Republicans to cooperate, as failure to do so will result in the production of no legislation at all and a very negative public image. Though they may have won the House, the Republicans certainly have not won the government. As we have seen in the complete reversal of voter behavior between the past two elections, the Republicans cannot rely on the continued support of their constituents for their campaigns in 2014, and must cooperate with the Democrats or risk losing credibility. After all, they were elected to try to solve our nation’s problems, and failing to do so could result in angry constituents.
Over the next two years, voters expect the Democrats and Republicans to put the recent election behind them. While the motives of voters have been an important influence on legislation throughout American history, continuing analysis of the recent reversal of the voters will only result in continued disagreement between the two parties. As the President said, it is imperative that partisanship be set aside for the betterment of the American economy and the American people.