Take partisanship out of it, President Barack Obama and the Democrats were wiped away in a powerful political and punishing tsunami on last night. House Republicans gained their largest majority since WWII and Senate Republicans will rule the roost in the upper chamber after picking up seven seats to gain control when they only needed six.
Let’s go down the ticket for a moment. Republicans also won governorships in deep blue states like Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois.
I am a Democrat but even I am honest about the raging reality of last night. The 2014 midterm elections were a rabid repudiation and rejection of President Obama and his policies. Yes, you can argue that Congress failed to work with him and purposefully obstructed Obama at every turn in the road. Yes, you can argue that the electoral map did not favor Dems especially with such Democratic stalwart senators as Tom Harkin, Tim Johnson and Jay Rockefeller retiring. Yes, you can even argue that Obama has had to endure what no president has had to endure because of the color of his skin. While all of these things ring and resonate with truth, the bottom line is that 59% of the people who voted from Maine to Miami and from North Carolina to the Pacific Northwest and a plethora of places in between were “angry” with the Obama administration.
They were angry about Obamacare. They were angry about ISIS. They were angry about Ebola. They were angry about Veterans care and so much more.
There was a reason that Obama had to sit on the sidelines and not campaign for his candidates. He was seen as a terrible and toxic liability to their chances to win re-election. There was a reason that Bill and Hillary Clinton had to be dispatched to the Deep South in a failed bid to save Democratic candidates in Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Louisiana. Obama simply could not go.
Neither the powerful Clintons nor President Obama could lift Democratic boats on a stormy night in which voters rejected everything Obama and solidified Republican power on Capitol Hill.
So where does Obama do now? First, this is not the end of the world. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush had to govern with their opposing party in power after their re-elections and midterm losses. Each of the aforementioned presidents raced to govern from the center and got a lot done in their last two years. So can Mr. Obama.
President Obama must run to the center immediately and cut deals from the center or he will be a lame duck president and he will limp into his legacy.
Second, Obama should abandon any acts of overt defiance now that Republicans reign supreme on the Hill. Going into the midterms, he was seen as too defiant. Yes, he was frustrated but frustration must be balanced with carefully thought out actions. Of course the president has the power of the veto pen to hold Repubs at bay but he cannot wield it wildly. Instead, he must use it wisely.
Third, Mr. Obama must seek to find common ground with the Republicans if he wants to accomplish anything of substance over the next two years. In reality I believe that there is only about a nine month window to get anything passed because many of the Repubs will be running for the 2016 presidency.
As bad as last night was for Democrats, America did not give Republicans a blank check. Thomas B. Edsall correctly writes in today’s New York Times, “The results are not a mandate for the Republican Party and the question is: can the leadership contain the whackos and legislate on immigration, taxes and the few other areas where deals are possible.”
Clearly the pressure is on the Repubs to deliver on what they ran on. Anything short of that and we will see a blue wave in 2016. The American electorate is very volatile and demands results.
In the meantime, President Obama must navigate these new political waters with wisdom and compromise.
In England they say, “God save the Queen!” Today, I say, “God save the President!”