We should see some small measure of sanity emerge from the election of Republican Scott Brown to fill the vacant Senate seat left by the death of Senator Kennedy. I think it’s dangerous for any single party to control the White House and both houses of Congress. We only have to go back to the first of G.W. Bush’s terms to see the kind of excesses such power can lead to.
I’m also happy to see that Democrats have decided not to do something rash like try to jam the health care bill through before the new Senator can be seated. I doubt that they’d have the votes to do it, but just trying would almost certainly lead to a huge defeat for incumbent Democrats in this November’s election, giving Republicans total control of both houses: another bad thing. We’re much safer when neither party has an overwhelming majority in Congress. We’re safest, of course, when Congress is out of session, but if we must have them mucking things up it’s best if we make it difficult for them.
Congress very often makes what amount to irrevocable decisions. They’re not technically irrevocable, but they’re usually hard enough to change as to be permanent. Such things should be done judiciously, not primarily to fit the controlling party’s agenda or to garner votes or to show the public that Congress is “Doing Something”, but rather because in the considered opinion of our Senators and Representatives, it’s the right thing to do for the good of the country. I see very little of that rationality in Washington, and even less when one of the two major parties has a virtual stranglehold on the lawmaking process.
Unfortunately, I fear that both parties will misinterpret the results of yesterday’s election. Republicans will call it a “mandate for change” (how often have I heard that one?) or a repudiation of the President’s and the Democrats’ agenda. Democrats will call it reactionary, blame the tea party movement for hijacking the election, or think that the problem is that they haven’t done enough soon enough.
I think the message is quite a bit simpler: large numbers of people who normally don’t vote are fed up. They want want smaller and less intrusive government. This is their first step in making their voices heard. They’re neither Democrat nor Republican, but rather people who are tired of “business as usual.” I’d like to think that others will make their voices heard come November, but if incumbents have any brains (and I’ve never accused them of being stupid), they’ll lay low and not make any waves so that 10 months from now people will have forgotten and won’t have anything recent to complain about.