Yesterday's elections results are now being spun by both political parties to their advantage. Most Democrats are minimizing losing two governorships in Virginia and New Jersey, while Republicans are hailing their victories as a shot across the bow at Democrats in Congress and President Obama. In truth, both sides are overplaying their hand, which should not be surprising. Nevertheless, Republicans have reason to be happy today, though their celebration should be guarded, and Democrats ought to be concerned, although they are hardly on the path to minority party status.
The first lesson that politicians should have learned a long time ago but have not, is that, contrary to popular political mythology, elections are never mandates from the American people. Yes, there are those partisans on both sides who want their party to ram their agenda down the collective throat of the country come hell or high water, but most voters are not so ideologically driven. For the most part, elections are not expressions of confidence in someone or one group of politicians as they are a no confidence vote in those who fail to get elected. The reason the Republicans controlled all facets of government up until 2006 was because the American people lacked confidence in the Democratic party to govern. In 2006, we began to see the public's lack of trust in the Republicans. Thus, the 2008 election that swept the Democratic party into the White House along with bigger majorities on Capitol Hill, was not a show of support for those elected as much as a no-confidence vote in those who had been in office. Change elections are really a "get rid of the bums" kind of event. Yes, I know that there were more than a few, particularly young people, who were part of the "Obama Messianic Movement," but most supporters of President Obama are more realistic and down-to-earth. Unfortunately, what has happened in the last year is that the Democratic party, newly in power, has assumed, on account of their hubris, that the American people have given them a mandate for their agenda, for their political program. Such an extreme approach to governing is starting to result, ever so slowly in another "get rid of the bums" election now directed at the other side of the aisle.
But what yesterday's results reveal is that the American people will not tolerate politicians gone wild in either foreign or domestic policy. The American people were fed up with George W. Bush's hubris on foreign policy, and yesterday they indicated that they are not pleased with the hubris shown by President Obama and the Democrats in the last ten months on domestic affairs. If the Republicans think that the gaining of two governorships now means that "new winds are blowing" as RNC Chair Michael Steele said this morning, they over-estimate what the American people think of the Republican Party's ability to govern in all matters. At the same time, if the Democrats interpret yesterday's results only as the public's frustration at their inability to put forward their agenda on health care, etc., they have badly misunderstood that a segment of the American people, who are likely representative of a certain cross-section of the country, have only one year after an historic election, sent a not-so-subtle message to them that their election did not mean a mandate in support of more government control of the private sector and the mortgaging of their children's and grand children's future in wild deficit spending.
Elections are never mandates; they are temporary charges given to a few people by many people, who expect those so elected to govern humbly and reasonably. If politicians and political parties took themselves and their views less seriously, they might, at some point, come to understand this.
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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian