There are a multitude of articles and comments on the results of the midterm elections. Those articles and comments will go on for a few more days. If voter turnout is any indication, most people in this country are tuned out and not listening. Midterms have historically been low turnout elections, most often bringing out the base and little else. This particular midterm, by virtue of the states and candidates that were at play, was predictably going to produce a GOP victory. Whether we interpret the results as a rejection of the Obama Administration and its policies, or the simple lack of enthusiasm of the Democratic base, or the approval of the GOP behavior of the past 6 years is unimportant. What is important is not what is said and done today. The words coming out of the mouths of Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Barack Obama are full of conciliation and hope but tomorrow is another day. However, we need to listen and watch carefully during the coming days and weeks to know what the future holds.
What is clear to even the most ill-informed citizen is that things are not good in Washington. While our Founding Fathers purposefully created a governmental structure of checks and balances, they didn’t intend for it to be a government of inaction. Nor did they foresee a government composed of professional politicians who need to spend the bulk of their time raising funds and campaigning for reelection. Obviously, this reality impacts on the way in which members of congress react and act on any given issue. This is to say that often instead of acting in the interests of their constituents, they act in the interests of those who fund their campaigns, enabling them to successfully run for reelection. Certainly, this reality should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following this year’s campaigns. What is also clear is that at times the interests of the political funders are at odds with the interests of the country and even the local constituents. This is obviously not surprising either. However, if we accept these two realities as fact, we acknowledge that we no longer have representative government. In fact, if only those who are funded by the rich, or those who have personal wealth can afford to run for office, we have moved to a plutocracy. It obviously gives incredible power to the likes of the Koch Brothers.
It seems that this election, as others in the recent past, has illustrated the damage that money has done to our system of government. The Citizens United Supreme Court ruling and the unapologetic attitude of those who fund these elections has created a serious challenge to representative democracy. The election last night wasn’t representative of national attitudes or preferences. It was, in fact, such a small turnout that it would be a terrible mistake to interpret it as a sign of either approval or rejection of Obama. It was a great victory for money and politics. The true challenge of the coming years is to move back to a demand for representative democracy and defeat those who have corrupted the system by allowing money to rule.
I will not predict what the years ahead portend for us. If I believe the words uttered by our leaders today I have hope. But if it falls back to politics as usual, serving the egos and needs of the funders and political ambitions of those who have been given the high honor of serving us in Washington, I have no hope. I don’t expect the parties to suddenly agree, but I do hope that the art of compromise, a seemingly lost art, will again be learned and practiced. Time will tell.