The cynic in me says that Democrats will learn nothing from the midterm election. They not only took a bath, they were effectively water-boarded by voters.
Democrats lost the House by a margin not seen since 1948. They lost 10 governorships while retaining two -- New York and California. Both states are insolvent and can be expected to ask for bailouts from the federal government, something a Republican House is unlikely to grant. Republicans will get to re-district most states in ways favorable to them for at least the next decade. Nancy Pelosi will step down as speaker, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid managed to survive a nose-holding election in Nevada.
While Democrats have complained about lack of cooperation from Republicans in enacting President Obama's agenda, don't look for them to show the way by cooperating with Republicans. The GOP has swept solidly into the House on a wave of voter anger at the elitism and condescension shown by so many Democrats and their big media allies who think the public is stupid because a majority do not agree with the notion of government as savior. Democrats aren't in a cooperating mood, as they usually aren't when they lose. And make no mistake they've lost big. By every measuring stick -- governorships, legislatures, independents, women -- Democrats have lost. Republicans would be crazy to water down what clearly is a mandate to stop the Obama-Reid-Pelosi liberal agenda.
I expect congressional Democrats, in collusion with the White House, to attempt to maneuver Republicans into another government shutdown. It worked before and since Democrats have not had a new idea in years -- or even a good, old idea -- all they know is class warfare, entitlement and grievance.
At his post-election news conference Wednesday, President Obama said many of the things he thought people wanted to hear -- common ground, consensus, working together -- but he steadfastly and perhaps understandably would not cede any territory on his administration's core policies, especially national health insurance. Newly-empowered Republicans aren't likely to compromise, since that usually means they are the only ones doing the compromising, which in the past has led to disgust by Republican voters who don't want watered-down conservatism, but spending reductions and smaller government.
Don't look for President Obama or the Democrats who survived the carnage to admit their policies were wrong, or that they misjudged the public. After so many in the leadership denigrated voters as being insufficiently enthusiastic about all government was attempting to do for them and questioning the smarts and the sanity of those ingrates who don't agree with their policies, I wouldn't expect such people to have a change of heart or mind. That is especially so since the mainstream media can be relied on to question every Republican effort to reverse the policies and spending initiatives of the last two years.
For Republicans the challenge is to maintain their "purity" in an environment that is the political equivalent of a brothel. Both Senators-elect Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, and Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, said in their victory statements that Washington is broken and they are going there to fix it. That reminds me of an old lyric: "It seems to me I've heard that song before. It's from an old familiar score. I know it well, that melody." A little more than two years ago, outgoing (thankfully) Speaker Nancy Pelosi pledged to "drain the swamp" that is Washington. Instead she built a hot tub. It's difficult to change Washington. More often, Washington transforms the reformers. It's the political equivalent of Prohibition. Maybe this bunch will avoid the "speakeasy" Maybe.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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