Here are the brief remarks I prepared this morning for my election post-mortem address to the SC Telecommunications Association‘s Fall Conference at the Radisson.
I had planned to just jot down some notes in my notepad over breakfast, but chickened out and, before leaving the house, typed out the following to read.
Of course, most of the time was taken up with questions and answers, which is the way I prefer it. I feel SO much more comfortable reacting to questions than I do delivering a prepared speech. I relax and that point, because I know we’re actually talking about something that interests the audience, or at least a portion of it. But the conventions dictate that your say SOMETHING before the blessed relief of questions, so this is what I prepared, and more or less read:
What happened Tuesday?
Well, not a whole lot.
On the national level, we saw the usual thing happen: The party that did NOT hold the White House gained seats in Congress two years after the president’s election. This phenomenon was intensified somewhat by the fact that the Democrats had gained big for two cycles, and the Republicans were overdue to win some of those seats back.
There was extra emotional intensity this time because of the Tea Party movement, which arose in connection with general voter dissatisfaction in a time of prolonged economic anxiety. There was a lot of anti-incumbent anger out there, and the party in power took a big hit as a result.
What will happen next? Well, what usually happens. Congress will not suddenly become a more highly functional institution. In fact, given the platforms on which many of the newcomers were elected, expect to see a lot more yelling and posturing without anything new actually happening. On election night, I recall hearing one Republican say that the GOP would repeal the new health care legislation every day and send it to the president for his veto. This is not a recipe for getting the public to think more highly of the folks in Washington. And even THAT is going to be pretty tough to accomplish since the GOP didn’t win control of the Senate.
And yes, I realize that threat was probably mere rhetorical hyperbole, but in terms of productivity, I don’t think the result it would produce is terribly different from what we’re likely to see actually happening.
So what will we see happen? Well, in two years, or perhaps four, the pendulum will swing back to the Democrats. And we’ll continue to see this kind of back-and-forth until Americans get totally fed up with the two parties, and some viable alternative emerges.
Here at home, we saw what we expected to see – a Republican sweep in a state where that is pretty much the norm now, especially in a year in which Republicans were winning everywhere.
The forces causing this to happen were so powerful that they caused voters to sweep aside a number of concerns that had been raised about the GOP gubernatorial candidate, from her failures to pay taxes on time to her somewhat sketchy employment record. As it happened, she won, but with a smaller margin than any other Republican running statewide. It will be interesting to see whether she does anything differently than planned as a result of having garnered less than a mandate in a year in which a GOP nominee should have had a landslide.
Going forward, we’re going to see a phenomenon we’ve already seen advance and become more pronounced: With the Republican Party being so dominant, we’ve been seeing for some time the emergence of factions within that party. It’s like the days when Democrats were so dominant: Since essentially everyone in power was a Democrat, factions emerged, and the characters of individual Democrats became more important. Since everyone was a Democrat, just being a Democrat wasn’t much of a recommendation.
Expect a power struggle between the faction of the party that strongly supported Nikki Haley – and her mentor Mark Sanford before her – and the current legislative leadership. The question remains whether the present leadership will be the future leadership. But whether they are or not, the main conflicts we see in the State House are going to be in the future, even more than we’ve seen in recent years, conflicts among Republicans.
Democrats won’t agree with me on this, but in a way I see this as a fundamentally healthy thing. Any trend that causes people to disregard party labels – which I regard as extremely destructive to the deliberative process upon which our system of representative democracy depends – and look at other, more meaningful factors, is essentially a promising thing.
Now, I’d like to go to your questions.
And fortunately, questions were forthcoming, and they were thoughtful. I got engaged in a conversation afterwards with a gentleman who wondered whether the current divide between the largely Democratic urban areas and the generally Republican rest of the country would continue to be worse. I had no idea, beyond agreeing with him that suburbs and exurbs tended to foster GOP sentiments, while more densely packed people tended the other way. And we were probably on the verge of something interesting as we discussed how population density had a profound effect on basic economics (something a man in the telephone industry would certainly understand), it led to different assumptions about what should be done in common via government and what should not. But at that point I had to run to ADCO. I really do have to buckle down and do some real work, now that the election is over.
Saturday morning I speak to a partisan crowd — the Lower Richland Dems. This will be a new experience for me. I have spoken to groups that turned out to be quite partisan, to my dismay, but were not billed that way. The message they get will be essentially the same, although maybe I’ll think of some stuff to add between now and then. It will be interesting to see how they react to it.