Toward the end of May 2014 there was an article in the L. A. Times entitled “Number of American Liberals surges, poll says.” The article dealt with pole changes in the way people consider themselves. It concluded that there was a significant change in the way people think of themselves, with a large number moving to the political left in their consideration of themselves. Is this valid? What does it mean for the country?
Barak Obama was reelected to the presidency on November 6, 2012 by a vote of 322 electoral votes to 206 for Mitt Romney or 65,455,010 popular votes to 60,771,703 for the Republican candidate. He clearly won not only the electoral vote but also the popular one.
In the Senate 33 seats were decided, 1/3 of the Senate was up for election. Democrats had 23 seats up for election, including 2 independents who caucus with the Democrats. Republicans had 10 seats up for election. The Democrats retained majority control of the Senate and picked up two additional seats. Obviously, while the Senate did not have a Democratic super-majority it still had an overwhelming majority.
For the House of Representatives this was the first congressional election using the congressional districts that were apportioned in the 2010 Census by Republican majorities in many state legislatures. Elections were held for the 435 seats in the U.S. Congressional Districts. Elections were also held for the delegates from the District of Columbia and the 5 U.S. territories. Although House Democrats won a plurality of the popular vote (48.3% to 46.9%) House Republicans were still able to retain the majority of elected delegates in the House. They achieved 234 seats against 201 for the Democrats.
The Republicans were able to win because of gerrymandering even though the Democrats across the United States cast over 25,000 more votes for members of their political party. To stop Republican filibustering the Senate Democrats need a 60 vote supermajority which they do not have. The Senate rules on filibustering presidential appointments were changed because the Republicans virtually refused to approve appointments of Democratic judges for Appellate and lower federal courts. There have been no bills dealing with fiscal policy which would create jobs and possibly improve the infrastructure of the country.
Even though they were not the majority the Republicans were able to hamper virtually all legislation that President Obama attempted to get passed and forced him to act by executive order. Then they threatened to sue him for acting as every president before him since George Washington has acted. Interestingly the current Congress holds the record over the entire history of the United States for passing the smallest number of bills. They seem to have an innate ability to both ignore and exacerbate all problems in the nation; and the ability to verbally blame everything, much of which they cause, upon the president.
The 2012 Election was the first one to be impacted by the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision: Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission. The United States Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions. The case is extremely controversial for increasing the influence of money in elections in contrast to other developed nations that have limits imposed on all election spending. Can money freely spent buy elections? The answer is probably No; but can excessive spending strongly influence elections? The answer is not necessarily negative.
Some of the other issues in the 2014 Midterm Election are being carried over from 2012 and earlier. Immigration reform stands out brightly polarizing sections and cities within the United States. The issue thousands of children, with and without their mothers, coming into the United States and surrendering to the Border Patrol. Are these illegal immigrants or refugees fleeing from disorder and possible destruction? They are overwhelming border facilities and the courts. The Republicans in Congress seem to be refusing to pass legislation that would help expedite and solve this problem. The President has called for legislation; but so far all that has happened is that the Republicans are postulating. They want a solution but they don’t want to spend any money. This issue may be strongly present in November when the midterm election occurs.
Another carry-over issue(s) is rape, pregnancy, and abortion, as well as the overall war on women. The far-right tea-party leaders of the Republican Party and their evangelical cohorts do not seem to be able to trust women to make sexual decisions affecting their own future lives. These people want to legislate how women must behave.
The Republicans in the House are again, for the fifth or sixth time, investigating what happened in Benghazi. They want to beat up President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the members of the State Department. Somehow one item that has been overlooked in all these Republican investigations is the fact that the Benghazi and other attacks against Americans were largely engendered by the release of a You Tube trailer advertising the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims,” which was considered blasphemous throughout the Muslim world. The Republicans felt that the Consulate should have been better guarded; even though they cut the Consulate protection budgets earlier in the year. The current investigation is also being used as a means of soliciting contributions for the November Election.
Attempts were made to restrict voting in states controlled by the Republicans, particularly in district with high minority and youth voting. How successful they were is not known. In Florida some people had to wait in line for eight hours in order to vote in 2012. People had their names arbitrarily removed from the voter roles as having moved or died and could not vote. All sorts of devices were used to limit non-Republican voters. New games will be played in the 2014 election to limit the vote. We will see how successful they are.
Some Primary Elections have been held or are about to be held for the 2014 election. The Republican Minority Leader, Eric Cantor, ran against a Tea Party unknown, David Brat. Before the results came out the question was: By how much would Cantor win? The results, however, shocked Republicans throughout the Party. Brat won on a campaign of Cantor presumably favoring immigration reform because he had presumably discussed this at some point with President Obama. Ultimately to the Tea Party Cantor was too liberal.
What will the results of this be? I suspect it’s moved the Party much farther to the right. Republicans at this point are afraid to even mention the term immigration, except that they are against it. And all of this with the refugee problem or crisis along the southern border of the country. President Obama has asked Congress to allocate 3.6 billion dollars so he can reasonably solve the problem. If the Republican legislators support this they are presumably going against their base? If they refuse to act on this issue they are exacerbating the problem. This is a perfect instance of being caught on the horns of a dilemma; you lose if you do and you lose if you don’t.
Mitch McConnell, the senate minority leader defeated his farther-right Tea Party challenger but he is currently running 4 points behind his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes. In fact his approval rating in the state of Kentucky is below that of President Obama. He is still avidly opposing Affordable Health Care, woman’s rights, and immigration reform.
Virtually anything can happen in this election. If the Republicans were to gain control of the Senate and keep control of the House of Representatives virtually nothing would happen over the next two years. If the Democrats could get 60 votes in the Senate and control of the House then the country would go through a period of intense reform and economic growth. The choice, of course, is up to the voters, many of whom don’t know they have a choice.