By Patricia H. Kushlis
Why is it that the Republican Party continually thinks it needs to claim mandates to govern this fair country when the voters say otherwise? Is this another piece of the same hubris – or self-inflicted delusion -that resulted in Mitt Romney’s unhappy surprise the evening of November 6? Or is it a piece of a deliberate Republican disinformation campaign that somehow thinks that declaring something to be true makes it true – even if it’s not?I don’t know whether the party of the right needs to rely upon more honest pollsters or whether it needs to emerge from its Fox News-rightwing radio talk show cocoon - but someone needs to tell the Republicans in the US House of Representatives that they do not, repeat, not have a mandate to shove this country off a fiscal cliff or stonewall on other legislation during the next two years. Compromise yes. Stonewall no.
In fact, had they not gerrymandered the Congressional districts the way they did after the 2010 census, the Republicans would not even have a majority of House seats because, although the vote was tight, they did not obtain a majority nationwide.
The last time this made-in-America electoral peculiarity happened was in 1996. If this country was not a federation with its power scales weighted in favor of rural states, regions and whites, then – ahem – the Democrats would have gained control of the U.S. House of Representatives on November 6, 2012 as well.
The Republicans' desert mirage
It’s clear that John Boehner knows that his party needs to compromise with the White House – or at least had that figured out immediately after the election as demonstrated by his amazingly conciliatory speech. But does he control the more radical in his party? They have been his cross to bear all along. Because in the days following the election, Boehner seems to have changed his tune and declared a mandate despite the fact that this supposed mandate should be seen more as a mirage in the desert than anything else.But there’s another factor the Republicans need to think about. Not only did Obama win a respectable second term from the voters and hence control of the executive branch, this country has a system of divided government. Let’s go back to the US Constitution for a minute: the Constitution established the checks and balances system with three equal branches of the federal government: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. The House of Representatives, therefore, represents one half of the legislative branch or one/sixth of the federal power equation. And the distribution of seats in the House gives the Republicans 54 percent if they win that last outstanding race (a special Congressional race in Louisiana is set for December 8.) 54 percent of one of two legislative bodies does not a mandate make.
As things stand and will stand for at least the next two years, the Republicans do not control the other half – the Senate. The Democrats (who have been in control of the US Senate since January 2007) have just picked up two more Senate seats for a total of 55 out of 100 0r 55 percent. I haven’t heard them claim a mandate.
This increases the Democratic control of this half of the federal government’s legislative power equation. And even though the House controls the budget, nothing much gets passed without Senate approval: deals are made in legislative conference committees and these committees represent both legislative houses. After a bill goes to the President, he can veto it preventing the bill from becoming law although a presidential veto can be overridden by a two/thirds vote of the House and Senate. The numbers are pretty clear on that one: there’s no way such a veto override is going to happen over the next two years. The Senate Democratic majority and the House minority will not let this happen.
So please. Let’s get over and on with it. I’m fed up with seeing a roiling stock market spurred by needless fear-mongering on the right attributed to power games in Washington. The 1 percent rolled the dice and lost. But, hello there, it’s neither the end of the world nor the end of their wealth: there’s way too much at stake for the 99 percent - from jobs to pension and private health plans - to send this country’s economy into a tail-spin just because of the inflated fears of a tiny but powerful minority who make more than they’ll ever need.
Previous WV posts on US Elections 2012
Patricia Lee Sharpe, Four More Years: Obama's Menu Starting Now, November 8, 2012