If you pay attention to federal politics for long enough, you might find that what happens on the surface of things is far from mere chance. While the results of the 2014 Midterm Elections might be puzzling, there was an architect who designed a plan to create this precise result.
That man is former Senate Minority Leader, now Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
In 2008, Barack Obama won a dynamic victory, carrying huge majorities among women, Hispanics and African Americans. His victory inspired many Democrats who believed that their newly-elected champion would go on to establish a legacy that would be a gold standard for generations to come.
Six years later, it is hard to imagine such a narrative as Obama’s legacy, in large part because Republicans have fought tooth and nail to prevent it.
This claim is not partisan bluster. At a Republican retreat at the Library of Congress following Obama’s 2009 Inaugural address, McConnell reportedly claimed, “There are enough of us to block the Democratic agenda as long as we walk in lockstep. As long as Republicans refuse to follow [Obama’s] lead, Americans will see partisan food fights and conclude Obama failed to produce change.”
That statement, which makes the innocuous-looking McConnell sound more like a child throwing a tantrum, has been followed with a full commitment to that strategy. In the 2010 midterms, Republicans capitalized on reduced turnout from Democrats, and took control of the House of Representatives. From that point on, gridlock was the goal.
House Republicans refused to pass the President’s nominees for judicial and executive branch positions and blocked legislation at each and every turn. By 2013, 81 filibuster motions were filed against Obama’s nominees and 307 filibusters against legislation. By comparison, Democrats filed 38 filibusters on nominees and 130 on legislation against President Bush during his entire presidency from 2000 to 2008. But it is the little things that cut into the Democratic agenda the most. By filibustering so much legislature, controversial or otherwise, government nearly stopped completely. All this culminated in the asinine decision in 2013 by House Republicans to reject a previously agreed upon budget proposal, which resulted in the government shutdown.
Frustrated by continual filibuster, the Democratic Senate led by former Majority Leader Harry Reid, D- Nev. took what amounted to political retribution for the lack of statesmanship shown in the above political maneuver. Reid would go on to block nearly all of the legislation that passed the House, even when in opposition to the wishes of Barack Obama.
The President, desperate to leave a legacy defined by more than gridlock, has taken many steps to expand the power of the executive, for better or worse, using executive orders like the EPA’s new carbon emission standard.
Both Harry Reid and President Obama have given the GOP all the ammunition they needed this election cycle. They campaigned using the slogan “Fire Harry Reid,” painting him and his party as the cause of Washington gridlock. Media have eagerly snapped up the narrative of this election on a “Referendum on Obama’s policies,” despite the fact that incumbents had a record of their own for voters to judge.
And now McConnell’s plan has finally come to fruition. Vox.com called McConnell “arguably the sharpest mind in contemporary politics,” and his successful plan validates that claim. Now, the Republicans have regained the Senate, the House and are setting their sights on the Presidency in 2016.
Perhaps when it comes to politics, the ends justify the means. For all those new Republicans in power, they won’t be complaining. But it seems to me, that choosing to break the system until you get your way is a far cry from the kind of governing America deserves.
Collegian Editorial Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter by @ZackBurley.