Washington gridlock: A message from the American people

Colby College Prof. Dan Shea on a new voting pattern in U.S. elections


In the wake of the Republican wave that swept the country last week, people have been asking me two questions. How did it happen, and what does it mean for the future?

Having been involved in these campaigns, and having seen a lot of the coverage, I think many of the commentators have gotten the answer to those questions wrong. This election was not just a repudiation of incumbents; it was a rejection of the gridlock of the Democratic Senate and the lack of leadership coming from the White House. The results themselves bear this out.

No sitting Republican senators lost, and a bunch of races that were supposed to be close were blow outs. [pullquote]

And in the House, the incumbent party not only held on to seats, but Republicans added to their ranks and will have a historic majority in the next Congress.

Why the difference? 

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The answer is simple. Republicans in the House could point to hundreds of common sense bills passed under their watch. The Democratic Senate, on the other hand, was a place that good ideas, even bipartisan ones, went to die. Instead of legislation encouraging energy exploration or export expansion or regulatory reform, Democrats pushed show-votes designed to further their divisive political strategy. 

President Obama’s failed agenda was already weighing them down, and when Democratic candidates faced Republican challengers with new ideas on issues that matter to the American people, they had little to offer except more division, more empty “war on women” rhetoric, more class warfare. Combined with record Republican fundraising driven by supporters who were enthusiastic about the high-quality candidates we recruited and the message we were delivering, Republicans had the edge.

The lessons both parties should learn from the results are clear. The American people expect leadership, and they expect to see Congress pass legislation to help them and their families. And that’s what we must deliver.

I hope the new Republican Congress will finally approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, a job-creating step towards American energy independence that should have been taken years ago.

We will end the job-killing medical device tax and begin the process of repealing and replacing ObamaCare. 

We will reform our regulatory agencies, cutting through the tangle of red tape that strangles businesses and keeps them from growing. 

We will begin work on comprehensive tax reform that will make America the best place to do business again, increasing wages and benefits for workers in the process. 

We will pass budgets, we will take tough votes, and we will work with all people of goodwill, Republican or Democrat, to reform what’s broken in our government and move forward on issues that matter to the American people.

When we move ahead with a positive legislative agenda, the ball will be squarely in the President’s court. He says that he heard the message that voters sent to him on Tuesday night, that he understands they are ready for him to come to the table and work with the Republican Congress. We will do our part. The president must do his.

I hope President Obama seizes this opportunity to get some things done for the American people. But whether he does or not, the Republican Congress will lead. That’s our job. It’s what we were elected to do. 

And we won’t forget it.

Republican Rob Portman represent Ohio in the United States Senate.