Last November, the tea party fervor that swept the nation for more than a year and a half was finally voiced in the ballot box. Democrats lost their majority in the House of Representatives and saw much of their majority diminish in the Senate. This came about due to high budget deficits, high unemployment and controversial legislation, such as health care.
With the great power bestowed upon the Republicans by voters comes a great responsibility to those who enabled them to come into power.
The changes Republicans enact, or fail to enact, over the next two years will be in voters’ minds during the 2012 congressional and presidential races. This is why the GOP has to enact meaningful change and not be just “the party of no” and only reverse the accomplishments of the previous two years.
In the first few days that Republicans controlled the House, the actions they took were mostly symbolic. On Thursday, the GOP read the U.S. Constitution aloud in Congress, the first time that had ever been done.
Representatives from both parties took turns reading parts of the document over two hours. It was intended to point out the lack of adherence to the Constitution by Congress, particularly Democrats.
A vote to repeal the health care bill that was passed in March of last year is scheduled for Wednesday but will almost certainly fail in the Senate and will not be signed by the president. It is merely a way for the GOP to protest as it takes control of one house of Congress.
Whether the GOP can bring about real change or just be mostly unproductive, as were its starting actions, will be seen over the next two years.
By looking back at the actions of the minority Republicans over the past two years, it is difficult to be optimistic. While quick to criticize many of the Democrats’ proposals, they seldom offered their own alternatives. On what was by far the most profound issue of the last Congress, health care, Republicans offered only minor tweaks to America’s health care system as an alternative to the Democratic-led bill that ultimately passed.
During the lame-duck session, Democrats were forced to compromise and extend the Bush tax cuts for everyone, including the top 2 percent of the tax bracket, to avoid having them expire at the end of 2010.
Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men in the world, noted in an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” that “The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we’ll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”
Republicans often peddle this “trickle-down” approach as a way to boost the economy by giving tax cuts to the rich, but even the rich themselves know it isn’t the reality.
On other issues during the lame-duck session, such as ratifying the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and “don’t ask, don’t tell”, the GOP simply wasn’t willing to approve them even though they were both good for the country and appealed to independents. Specifically, on the case of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” it could further eliminate any inroads that gays have made into the GOP, continuing on a poor streak from a year ago when a group called GOProud caused controversy at CPAC, a major conservative conference, simply for showing up as a pro-gay rights conservative group.
Ultimately, the GOP will have a lot to prove over the next two years if it wants to maintain and possibly capitalize on its gains in 2010. With the GOP just trailing the Democrats in number of seats in the Senate, along with an upcoming presidential race that many believe could easily go either way, it’s time Republicans started producing real results if they want to be taken seriously again in 2012.
Jack Enright is a sophomore political science major from Tomball.