Apparently some sort of big election happened in the United States last Tuesday. I guess a whole bunch of government positions’ terms were up, and there was the possibility that a lot was going to change. But nothing did.
How about that?
I’m realizing more and more that just because one party has a majority in Congress, it doesn’t mean solely partisan legislation is going to be pushed through.
I watched the election results as they came rushing in to the various TV newsrooms on Tuesday, and I must say I was not surprised one bit.
The Republican primaries alone threw enough mud on Mitt Romney to all but guarantee he was unelectable, no matter what the other side did.
He also didn’t help himself with the various gaffes and foibles he suffered through on the campaign trail, which were focused upon in the public consciousness in a way that platforms and messages never are.
Throw in his obviously last-gasp run at Pennsylvania — that even I knew was a complete waste of time, and I supported the guy — and Romney’s hopes were sunk.
The same did not occur to the GOP side of Congress, though.
The Republican control of the House of Representatives, which they gained in stunning fashion in the hilariously lopsided 2010 midterm election, was unshaken.
The Democrats made some gains in the already Democrat-controlled Senate, but the new edition of Congress very much resembles the last. But if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right?
That is where I began to realize why things shook out the way they did.
Back in 2008, when the Democrats staged a massive takeover of the federal government, they controlled both the White House and a majority of seats in both houses of Congress. If they really wanted to pass something, that was a sure sign from the public that they had a mandate to do so.
The Democrats were basically unstoppable at that point.
The public figured this out, though.
It’s easy to see that, generally, Americans have a pretty negative view of the people we put in charge — ironic, since we’re the ones that put them there in the first place.
Seeing the highest level of government suddenly freed to actually make sweeping changes according to the ruling party’s philosophy, I would argue, scared a lot of Americans.
Think about it: We are not used to any one party having its way too much, that’s why all the bills that are finally passed into law are compromised shells of their former selves.
In 2008, a larger-than-usual fraction of the population decided they wanted the same thing — a democratic majority — and the resulting government ended up in a position to, shockingly, actually deliver.
But expectations had been tempered for the new government; they always are, since there is always a lot of compromise before anything is written in stone.
The public was going to get more than they bargained for.
And so the 2010 buyer’s remorse election happened. Fast-forward to Tuesday night.
The years of minimally-hindered Democrat rule from 2008 to 2010 had been replaced from 2010 to 2012 by having basically just enough Republicans to throw a wrench into everything the government majority wanted to pass. The endless wrangling of the parties without much progress was actually what the constituency wanted.
Nobody likes being told what to do, especially the American public, and with any one party in charge, that is appeared as the only logical outcome.
Sure, government still passes laws that tell us all what to do all the time, but they are the result of significant compromise between conflicting views, and so are actually rather moderate and somewhat lacking in authoritative tone.
If one party was trusted to make changes independently, then they would be elected in droves immediately, as the Democrats were in 2008.
But right now the only thing the public can trust the government to do is fight amongst themselves, so they set up the conditions for that to be the only thing our leaders can do.
Partisanship is not a curse.
By the time ideas for change are passed through the civil war that is Congress and out the other side, they are usually stripped of anything that might cause problems down the road.
Unfortunately, that might mean that they are stripped of their original purpose, too.
I am not opposed to a divided government, since one that operates more slowly will, to my thinking, make fewer mistakes.
That’s simply a reflection of the country’s division; you can see it in the markedly close popular vote count for president.
Until the unlikely event that the party system disappears and the government runs the way it was actually designed, this is the best we are going to do.
Garrett Cimina is a freshman majoring in finance and is a Daily Collegian columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.