The Upcoming Elections
April 24, 2014
Almost everyone seems to think that upcoming elections, what are called the “off year elections,” because there is no presidential election, are important. More precisely, it is said quite often and probably every day somewhere that the senatorial elections are most important, the supposition being that if the Republicans take over the Senate or the Democrats hold on to the Senate majority, something important will have happened. And, of course, this is based on the idea that if the Republicans take over the majority in the Senate, important changes are forthcoming. I respectfully dissent.
I don’t think that anything of much importance will change if the Republicans take over the Senate. Why? Well, my sample is limited, but in investigating those who are seeking the Republican nomination in my home state of North Carolina, I discovered that, with a few, very few, exceptions, these people will continue to support the major aspects of the prevailing political agenda and will, therefore, become, quite quickly and comfortably, members of the prevailing political class.
“The major aspects of the prevailing political agenda,” I say, knowing that most will shake their heads in bewilderment that someone would think that there is, in these intensely divisive times, anything like a prevailing political agenda. Ah, but there is, and all the intense rhetoric that is spent by Republicans and Democrats to convince us that D.C. is a deeply divided place serves only to hide this agenda. So, it certainly looks like Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided and it sounds like that too. But in this case, appearances and sounds are deceiving.
Let me take one example, one often thought to divide the two parties in a way that is immune to compromise or accommodation, “Obamacare” or the Affordable Care Act. It is thought, because it sounds and looks like, Republicans and Democrats occupy two, fundamentally opposed positions here, with the Republicans prepared to jettison the ACA as soon as they have majorities in the House, the Senate, and a Republican president. But the interesting thing is that few, and certainly not a majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate are committed to ending the ACA in toto. And, of course, it is always unwise to confuse votes which don’t matter, that is, which won’t change anything in reality, with what those representatives or senators would do in a vote that did matter. Nor is it obvious that a Republican president who manages to get elected would support ending the ACA, any more than it was obvious that Obama would end Bush II policies like the war on terror, torture, the war in Afghanistan, whistle blowers, etc., etc., etc. And here is some confirmation from none other than John Boehner:
“’Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there and it has driven all types of changes in our health care delivery system. You can’t recreate an insurance market overnight,’ Boehner told a group of his constituents at a Rotary Club meeting in his home district. “
It will useful for me to insert here a caveat, which will also surprise a lot of people. One thought it is useful to get out of your head is the thought that politicians look at elections as a way of guaranteeing change, even though that is what they promise when they are seeking office. This is just not the case, although it may be in some elections and for some of those seeking office. Most politicians, especially the incumbents, which are the overwhelming majority of those seeking office, look at elections as potentially dangerous events. Why? Because these elections give the people the opportunity to “throw the bums out,” as is said colloquially, and create a new political class who embrace a new political agenda. This danger is particularly pronounced in times of popular distrust of government and popular dissatisfaction, which is certainly the case today.
This is one reason the rhetoric is so intense these days, to convince us that our prevailing political class is devoted to change, even to big change. But, of course, this cannot be the case because really big change would mean that a new and different political class would take power and this class would embrace a new and different political agenda. You know, something like a Tea Party take over or an Occupy take over. Now that would be BIG CHANGE.