Thoughts on the Election

(from the New York Times, Nov. 5, 2014)


Negativity Wins the Senate

By the Editorial Board, Nov. 5, 2014

Republicans would like the country to believe that they took control of the Senate on Tuesday by advocating a strong, appealing agenda of job creation, tax reform and spending cuts. But, in reality, they did nothing of the sort.

Even the voters who supported Republican candidates would have a hard time explaining what their choices are going to do. That’s because virtually every Republican candidate campaigned on only one thing: what they called the failure of President Obama. In speech after speech, ad after ad, they relentlessly linked their Democratic opponent to the president and vowed that they would put an end to everything they say the public hates about his administration. On Tuesday morning, the Republican National Committee released a series of get-out-the-vote images showing Mr. Obama and Democratic Senate candidates next to this message: “If you’re not a voter, you can’t stop Obama.”

The most important promises that winning Republicans made were negative in nature. They will repeal health care reform. They will roll back new regulations on banks and Wall Street. They will stop the Obama administration’s plans to curb coal emissions and reform immigration and invest in education.

Campaigning on pure negativity isn’t surprising for a party that has governed that way since Mr. Obama was first sworn in. By creating an environment where every initiative is opposed and nothing gets done, Republicans helped engineer the president’s image as weak and ineffectual. Mitch McConnell, who will be the Senate’s new majority leader, vowed in 2009 to create “an inventory of losses” to damage Mr. Obama for precisely the results achieved on Tuesday.

Mr. McConnell was assisted in this goal by the president’s own second-term stumbles — most notably the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act last year, an indecisive foreign policy, and revelations of domestic surveillance and improper veterans care. Republicans were also able to exploit nativist fears about immigrant children crossing at the southern border and some initial troubles in responding to the first domestic cases of Ebola.

In some races, missteps by the Democrats helped Republicans. In Iowa, Representative Bruce Braley may have cost himself the race by making a belittling comment about farmers. In Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes didn’t establish a reputation for candor when she refused to discuss her previous votes for president.

Virtually all Democratic candidates distanced themselves from Mr. Obama and refused to make the case that there has been substantial progress on jobs and economic growth under this administration.

But Republicans also had little to say about reviving the economy, and their idea of creating jobs seems to be limited to building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, cutting taxes further and crying “repeal Obamacare” at every opportunity.

In theory, full control of Congress might give Republicans an incentive to reach compromise with Mr. Obama because they will need to show that they can govern rather than obstruct. They might, for example, be able to find agreement on a free-trade agreement with Pacific nations.

But their caucuses in the Senate and the House will be more conservative than before, and many winning candidates will feel obliged to live up to their promises of obstruction. Mr. McConnell has already committed himself to opposing a minimum-wage increase, fighting regulations on carbon emissions and repealing the health law.

“Just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict,” Mr. McConnell said in his victory speech. As the new Senate leader, he must now prove those are not empty words.

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Published in Politics & Religion


  1. patak

    Although I have no right to comment on the outcome of the elections in the states the above article is interesting in that applies throughout the democratic world. Where one party finds itself in opposition they frequently campaign on the negatives and make personal attacks on the head of state. We having gone through the worst financial crisis of our generation we should be grateful that governments in power during this period have steered their nations to a point where economies are recovering, unemployment is falling and our futures look brighter than they were a few years ago. For myself I have reached a conclusion that politicians are no longer interested in what is good for their constituents, they are only interested in what is good for them and they will promise the earth to get elected. This frequently means attacks on welfare, immigration and spending. We in the UK are no different but with elections looming here we have the added complication of continued membership of the European Union. Returning to the article with both houses set against the president how can a country be governed. Would it not be better and more stable to do away with mid term elections. One election every 4 years for both houses and the presidency will allow proper governance. This is just my personal view.

      1. roseinbloom

        Laurie, I read the article and learned a lot, but I still don’t know how often the congressmen should be elected. Thank you for expanding my awareness.

        1. laurie Post author

          Rose, members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms and are considered for reelection every even year. Senators however, serve six-year terms and elections to the Senate are staggered over even years so that only about 1/3 of the Senate is up for reelection during any election.

  2. roseinbloom

    Laurie, thank you for the blog. Patak, you certainly have a right to comment and that is a big reason I am on this chat site. We have midterm elections to keep experienced people on the job and it has been working well for a long time. One problem is we have too much time involved in elections, but we can throw some rascals out quickly if we think we need to. The New York times got a lot right. I am feeling very unhappy today by the senate situation.
    Here in Kentucky, I feel that Obama is demonized and that racism may be involved.
    The New York Times won’t say that and may not know it.

          1. roseinbloom

            merryjay, We may differ on the use of the word “national”. I am saying that the opinion is shared by people in states far from mine. It doesn’t mean that it is the majority opinion by most people in this nation.

  3. Gael

    And good luck to the Republicans trying to get a candidate to run for the presidency against Hillary when the time comes.

    Jed Bush? Good God!

    1. ustom

      Well we had enough of the Clintons sex in the oval office
      what a Bum and she flunked the course as Sec of State
      she has dead men on her watch!

      1. Gael

        Why are you referring to it as the “Clintons” sex in the oval office. As if it were plural.

        And tell me about the dead men on some of the Republican president’s watch. They’re the war mongers who want the massive military budget no matter what the cost.

  4. charles1

    Interesting article which fails to understand the basic role of politicians in a Democracy. Since the Athenian Democracy of 600BC politicians have found it necessary criticise opponents in order to be elected. When the gap between politicians and their Party’s narrows to a perceived point of nonexistence how are they to be distinguished if not by criticism – ‘negativity’. The above comments by members clearly show their political prejudices, replace Bush with Kennedy and would the same views be stated – I doubt it. I mention this point to illustrate how divisive democracy really is.
    I very much doubt if the New York Times would have published this article if the negativity of the Democrats had been successful.
    It strikes me that the fear of an opponents programme is a legitimate tool for politicians to use. We may not like this approach as electors prefer details of positive actions. Party election manifesto’s cover this approach although we are all very cynical of their delivery. People have to be bribed – often to the state of bankruptcy – to an extent that appeals to the most common view.
    We are far from Athenian Democracy in which each elector was consulted on all issues and decided the outcome. In the UK we have delegated the decision making to Members of Parliament most of whom are unelected. Only Members of the Commons are elected. One of our political parties considers that giving votes to 16 years old is an attractive way of preserving it’s future. How does this fit in with the concept of citizens being mature enough to determine national direction? Not at all is my view.
    We also have to decide whether democratic government is such a vital issue to human development that we continue to spend billions attempting to convert nations. This money is mostly spent by the US and Britain and is mainly focused on the Middle East.

    Can the people wrestle back power from the politicians and have a greater direct say in the decision making process? Yes I think they can.
    How? Through the use of technology enabling a referendum to be undertaken cheaply and quickly. Some countries, Switzerland, have used this mechanism for decades. The UK lags behind in the superior belief, promoted by the chattering class, that we have a much better system.
    We clearly do not.
    May I suggest that next time we express our democratic right to criticise politicians we think for a moment and reflect – am I to blame?

    ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’
    Mahatma Ghandi

    1. laurie Post author

      Thank you Mahatma, most enlightening. In future I will be sure and inform myself at the font of your knowledge rather than waste my time reading such an inferior publication as the New York Times.

      1. Gael

        Haaa, Laurie! And here I was thinking the NY Times which has won 114 Pulitzer Prizes, more then any other news organization, was a respectable source.

    2. Gael

      Why would you possibly replace Bush, a republican, with Kennedy, a democrat? If you’re going to make analogies, at least get the parties right.

      And of course people have political stances which are not “prejudices” per se. Everyone has a preference.

      Politics is dirty business and by now we all know that by now or should.

      “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
      ― Groucho Marx

    3. patak

      Charles, i’m afraid I have to take issue with a couple of points in your comment. Why should we think that allowing 16 year old’s the opportunity to take part in elections is a bad thing, do we think they are not able to make decisions. I can think of many so called mature adults who I would not trust with a vote. My second issue is your fascination with the swiss system over the system we have here. My view of the swiss method of elections and referendums does not allow stable governance of a nation. Switzerland only functions as nation because of the existence of the European Union trade agreements you may find many of these agreements will soon fall by the wayside. Our system of electing governments may not be perfect but is far and away better than having continual referendums on major issues. Pat