Some thoughts on the "new" 112th U.S. Congress:
Last month, The New Yorker ran a fascinating profile about incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner. It was a surprisingly impartial, intermittently flattering portrayal of the Ohio congressman, though one point in the article resonated with me. His rise to power in the last two or three years, a steady climb that began in the early '90s and was almost derailed when he answered a lobbyist's siren song, has been a remarkable story of political strategy not only on his part but his allies and opponents as well. Boehner positoned himself as a Tea Party sympathizer when he agreed with maybe 50% of their platform, and his prominence in the house made him a willing target of sorts for both Democratic bigwigs and left-leaning pundits. The icing on the cake came just before the election, when President Obama himself called Boehner out during a speech, a moment that evoked the one-on-one, partisan deus ex machina between Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich 15-plus years ago. The parallels are quite striking, though you can draw the similarities on your own.
Now that we're halfway through President Obama's first term in office --yes, I'm looking at the glass as half full-- I confess that I don't regret voting for him in 2008. Rest assured, this is not liberal bluster. If I had to choose between the candidate that responded immediately when the economy collapsed against a candidate that temporarily suspended his campaign to figure out what he was going to do, I'd go with the guy that already had a plan. I'm not saying that the Obama economic agenda is perfect, but at least his team had a strategy in place. It's not that the government shouldn't be spending our tax dollars on rebuilding America's physical, sociopolitical, and economic infrastructure so much as it's the little frivolities that grinds my gears. A government cannot function without some type of financial redistribution; it's just a matter of how that money is spent.
As I alluded to in my midterm election blog two months ago, the GOP's takeover of the House of Representatives has short-term consequences, but what happens in 2012 is still anyone's guess. The Democratic blowout of the 1982 midterms was a response to President Reagan's wobbly first two years in office, but he won reelection two years later in a landslide. The "Republican Revolution" of 1994 was a rebuke of President Clinton and his failed attempt at health care reform, but he was elected to a second term in 1996 by a clear margin. Then again, the GOP gobbled up the house in the 1978 midterms when President Carter's economic and foreign policies were non-starters, and look what happened there. The number of X-factors that will pop up between now and November 2012 are infinite and endless at this point.
I know I've railed against the GOP establishment many times over the years, and I'm still hesitant to give credit to the Tea Party candidates, but all this fresh blood will help our government in the short term. The passings of Ted Kennedy, Robert Byrd, and (indirectly) Ted Stevens in the past 18 months gave way to young, unproven but determined voices in our nation's highest legislature, fresh points of view that were badly needed. The question is, will these conservative young guns provide new ideas, or merely serve as resistance and vocal dissention to President Obama? Will the two or three new Democrats go in lockstep with the President, or find their own voice? Will they push or shove?