The American people have spoken and President Barack Obama is now a lame duck. Conservatives are gloating and liberals are freaking out. Liberals everywhere: abandon all hope. Let’s not panic and move to New Zealand just yet, however. Democrats lost dismally, but the Grand Old Party that won on Nov. 4 was not the GOP of the last four years. Gone is the Tea Party hybrid, pledging to dismantle this or that department and presaging the biblical end of times. This election went well for the Republican Party, but it may spell the end of the foaming-at-the-mouth neo-conservatism that reigned in the 21st century––that’s something to smile about.
Midterms are classically described as referenda on the presidency. This is not to say they reflect whether or not the president is doing a good job, just whether or not voters regard the administration positively. Halfway through a second term, they rarely do.
I sound like a sore loser—because I am—but the way Obama found his way to the Oval Office was not much different than the way Republicans won this election. Once again, the result had more to do with a throw-the-bums-out mentality than actual support for a platform.
There was something different about this election, however. Republicans did not run on bold slogans and bolder promises like Obama did. They just had to sit back and watch as Democrats unsuccessfully tried to convince their electorate that they hate the president too.
As cowardly as the Democrats were, the most memorable refrain of the past year was a meaningless dodge by Republicans. The default response to questions regarding global climate change was, “I am not a scientist.” This is a non-statement. Like Kentucky Democrat Allison Grimes’ refusal to admit she voted for Obama, it says nothing yet speaks volumes.
This is not to say the likes of Republicans United States Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Boehner have given up on ignoring scientists. It really isn’t unfair to characterize the Republican Party as anti-science when its most reasonable spokespeople believe that the veracity of evolution is a matter of personal opinion.
It does show that, at least with regards to impending climate disaster, public opinion is swaying toward the evidence. It is a good sign that McConnell has to evade denouncing environmental science in such a hive of progressive thinking as Kentucky. In red states like Alaska and Louisiana, the reality of warming is becoming impossible to ignore.
So the new U.S. Congress isn’t the “Crazy Caucus” of 2010. It is still composed of some really frightening individuals, however. The soon-to-be chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee Sen. Jim Inhofe is the author of The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. Political satirist Bill Maher’s “Flip a District” campaign failed to unseat Rep. John Kline in Minnesota, who is notorious for his relationship with the parasitic for-profit college industry.
Due to the Republican takeover of the Senate, both of these incumbents will be in better positions to legislate for their psychotic agendas. Just because the rhetoric has been toned down a bit doesn’t mean the GOP will instantly turn from the far-right organization of the last decade into the fairly centrist party of yesteryear. This does not do much to suggest that the promises of compromise by McConnell and Obama are anything but posturing.
Again, this doesn’t signify the end of the world. The Republican Congress will most likely set about passing ridiculous bills so they can point fingers at the president when he vetoes them. Gridlock will continue. And maybe, just maybe, the most obstructionist and fringe elements of the party will finally be held accountable.