The results of the midterm elections are not yet fully known, but it is safe to say at this point that Republicans won a historic victory.
As of this writing, the Republicans have won a 52-seat Senate majority outright. Republican candidates are expected to take seats in Alaska and Louisiana, resulting no less than a 54-seat Senate majority in the 115th Congress. NBC News projects that the GOP will hold a 250-seat majority in the next Congress, among the largest Republican majorities in generations. On the gubernatorial level, where Republicans were expected to lose ground, the GOP defied expectations and picked up four new executive mansions while losing only one. Republicans now control governorships and state legislatures in 24 states while Democrats control those in only 7 states.
Given the above conditions, it is safe to say Republicans had “a good night.” That is, in fact, precisely what Obama said. But the president also opened what everyone expected would be a conciliatory press conference with a shot across the Republicans’ bow. The president letting the incoming majority GOP Congress know that the only reason why they enjoyed such successes at the ballot box is because most of America did not vote.
“To everyone that voted, I want you to know that I heard you,” Obama began. “To two-thirds of voters that chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too.”
Obama made sure to draw a contrast with Republicans in Congress by noting that he is the figure with the most political legitimacy. “I’m the guy who is elected by everybody and not just from a particular state or a particular district,” Obama said when asked to address the “devastating losses” his party endured, “and they want me to push hard to close some of these divisions, break through some of the gridlock, and just get stuff done.”
And what “stuff” would that be? Obama insisted that the voters turned out on Tuesday night to support initiatives like increasing the minimum wage, rebuilding notorious roads and bridges, funding universal pre-kindergarten education, and expanding access to Medicaid.
In fairness to the president, he did say that he will seek an authorization for the use of military force against ISIS; a display of constitutional deference to the Congress which the Congress should have long ago demanded. But that seemed to be the extent of Obama’s willingness to reach across the aisle. According to the president, the voters who delivered a landslide victory to the GOP also are entirely supportive of Democratic policies.
He is not serious, of course. This is posturing for a deeply dispirited progressive base and a credulous press corps. The White House is a spent force, and America will be governed from Congress for the next two years when the president is not issuing executive orders which will necessarily be narrow in scope as they will not enjoy the support of the legislature. Obama’s pantomimed pugnacity may lift some progressive spirits for a time, but that will be a short-lived experience. They will soon find out that Obama has been reduced to talk and talk alone.