Some are calling this a “status quo” election, since the White House, Senate and House staying in the same hands. Does that mean we’re looking at more of the same?
Not necessarily. Keep in mind there were two sessions of Congress in Obama’s first term. In the first, he was able to pull legislation kicking and screaming through a Congress despite the Republicans’ best efforts to stop him. In the second, Republicans had enough votes to stop him. That’s where Congress stands after the election, too. But the Republicans have to ask the question: How’s that working out for you?
Mitch McConnell didn’t get his wish for a one-term presidency. His party lost seats in the Senate. Boehner didn’t enlarge his majority, and with the Senate in Democratic hands, there’s no path for a Tea Party agenda. Boehner’s caucus is still split, and he’s still got to watch out for a Cantor insurgency.
We know what to expect from the Democrats. Obama will make deals when he can (remember, in the last lame-duck session he agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts), but he’ll act unilaterally when he can’t find a partner, even, as with the Dream Act waivers, extra-constitutionally.
The only interesting question is whether it will be status quo on the Republican side. Forget Romney’s loss and Warren’s win; Republicans lost Senate races in North Dakota, Montana, Missouri, Virginia and Indiana. If Mitch McConnell is doing a victory dance, the GOP better find a new minority leader.
Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote, 74 percent of the Asian vote and 95 percent of the black vote and 90 percent of the gay vote. Young voters (18-29) came out in greater numbers than 2008, and 60 percent of them voted for Obama. Then there’s the Republicans’ problems with women. Given that all these groups made up a larger part of the electorate than in 2008, and will comprise an even larger share two, four, six and eight years from now, the status quo can’t feel too good to anyone in the GOP with a brain. Republican strategist Mike Murphy says it’s time for the “arithmetic wing” of the GOP to take the keys away from the Tea Party wing.
The civil war in the GOP will be interesting to watch. There are Republicans who are going to want to compromise, starting with immigration reform. The libertarians vs. social conservatives divide should surface again. The Ron Paul faction — the only Republican candidate who managed to spark enthusiasm from young people — can be expected to get louder. Because of the conservative media echo chamber, the fact that most Americans don’t agree with the Tea Party came as a surprise to a lot of Republicans Tuesday night. We’ll see how they choose to adjust to the new status quo.