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Careful What You Wish For

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Election Day, quite possibly my favorite day in November. Thanksgiving is nice and all, but honestly, I am just too much of a fan of our unique liberties as Americans for Election Day to not get favored status. This is a time when no matter what your political persuasion, we are united in our uniquely American right to cast our vote in the greatest democracy known to humanity. Never has any other form of governance done so much good for so many.

And yet, while we like to remind ourselves that our democratic traditions stem from ancient practice, the reality is that the world itself has been largely un-democratic until very recently. That is why I get so upset when I see low voter turnout on Election Day. Sometimes, less than half of all eligible voters turn out for these things, which just boggles my mind, because then people have the nerve to turn around and complain that the country is being ruled by special interests. No duh, Sherlock. When you stay at home and watch a re-run of Jersey Shore instead of fulfilling your electoral duty, then yeah, you get the democracy you deserve.

I doubt that will be much of a problem this year, though. There is an awful lot of voter anger out there at a Democrat power structure that has been able to accomplish some sweeping changes in what amounts to a very compressed timeframe. It all reminds me of an Economist editorial after W’s first year in office (when his ratings were still pretty good) that openly hoped he would not get as much done in the years to follow as he did in his first year alone. In business, we speak of the dinosaur syndrome: the bigger the organization, the tinier the brain gets. The federal government is a really, really big dinosaur, and when it runs full tilt in any direction, people are bound to get nervous.

I suspect that the GOP will pick up control of the House by a sizeable margin, they won’t get the Senate, and we’ll have a divided Congress that won’t get much done anymore. This is almost certainly a good thing; historically, our economy does better with the parties fighting for control, and if memory serves, our most dramatic prosperity in recent years occurred under a Democratic president and a split Congress, so here’s to a sharing of power.

But the GOP, the Tea Party and the various folks who are venting their spleen at the ballot box over Pelosi and Obama and the rest, need to be aware of something. They have had it easy since 2006. As they gradually lost more and more control, their voices on Capitol Hill became increasingly taken under advisement by a power structure that had the rare ability to ignore them. That could only have lasted for so long; if we as a people need one thing, it is an empowered voice of opposition, and the conservatives in this country didn’t have that. Now they will have their chance to actually get back on the debating floor and wield some influence.

Some of these lawmakers will be political rookies who are most likely unprepared for the deeply entrenched and corrupting influence of Washingtonian politics. But the GOP will have its voice once more, and with that comes responsibility. It has been easy to point at the Democrats and accuse them of running roughshod over the will of the people. Now the GOP can be part of the problem again. But it must be careful what it wishes for. Should the GOP become nothing more than a contrarian roadblock it will have to answer for that one day, too. After all, politicians tend to become the very monsters they went to Washington to fight.


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