Who won the U.S. mid-term elections?

By Perry Diaz

Boehner and McConnell

Boehner and McConnell

On the surface, many would say the Republicans won the mid-term elections. But did they, really? It might sound loco – or crazy – to question who won the elections last November 4, 2014. Of course, the Republicans did, one might say. Didn’t the GOP wrest control of the Senate from the Democrats? Yes. Didn’t the GOP win the biggest majority of the House of Representatives in the last 100 years? Yes. Yet, when I asked a Republican friend who won in the mid-term elections, his reply was: “The GOP didn’t lose, but it didn’t win either.” Hmm…

Okay, I concede that “the GOP didn’t lose” because it actually captured six seats it needed to take control of the Senate. It now has 52 seats. With the runoff in Louisiana in December expected to go Republican, it would give the GOP 53 seats in the upcoming 114th Congress in January 2015. But that’s not enough.

The way the Senate works, a simple majority of 51 votes is not enough for a legislative bill to muster passage.  However, if the minority party mounted a filibuster, 60 votes are required to end the filibuster, a tactic that the Republicans used to thwart Obama’s legislative agenda in the past four years.


Filibuster by Senate Session - The Republicans take the filibuster to new heights. Blue = Democrats in minority; Red = Republicans in minority. (Credit: Todd Lindeman)

Filibuster by Senate Session – The Republicans take the filibuster to new heights. Blue = Democrats in minority; Red = Republicans in minority. (Credit: Todd Lindeman)

Now, it’s payback time for the Democrats in the Senate who would give the Republicans a dose of their own medicine. And with the power of filibuster, the Republicans would be at the mercy of the Democrats just like it was when the Democrats were in the majority with the Republicans filibustering every chance they had.

Yes, it would be gridlock all over again… until either party captures 60 Senate seats just like when the Democrats did in the 2008 when Obama rode to victory in the aftermath of the financial meltdown during George W. Bush’s presidency. But the Democrats’ supermajority lasted for only two years when the Tea Party revolt took control of the Republican Party in 2010, capturing the House and winning enough seats in the Senate that allowed them to mount a filibuster on any bill they chose to block.

Barack-Obama-lame-duckWith the anticipated legislative gridlock come January, the Republicans know that their agenda for the remaining “lame duck” years of the Obama presidency is not going anywhere. They’d try to wheel and deal with the conservative “blue dog” Democrats and get their bills passed in both chambers and send them to Obama for his signature. But Obama’s veto power could derail the Republicans, which begs the question: Could the Republicans muster the votes needed to override a presidential veto? With a two-thirds vote needed in both the House and the Senate to override a presidential veto, the Republicans won’t make it to first base… unless they could attract enough Democrats to go along in overriding Obama’s veto.

But for the sake of argument, let’s take a look at what’s on top of the Republicans’ agenda, which are: (1) Repeal ObamaCare, (2) Lower taxes, and (3) Deregulation.

Man hides from rain under his sign at Tea Party Patriots rally calling for repeal of the 2010 healthcare law on Capitol Hill in WashingtonObamacare-proOne needs to remember that if ObamaCare were repealed, close to 40 million Americans would lose the health insurance that ObamaCare had provided them. This is a huge constituency that the Democrats would not abandon, particularly in presidential elections.

When it comes to lowering taxes, the Democrats believe that just like the Bush tax cuts in 2003, which benefitted the wealthy Americans, any attempt to lower taxes in 2015 is perceived as favoring the rich.

Regulation vs. Deregulation

Financial-meltdown-2008And last, but arguably the most important, is deregulation. “Deregulation” is the process of removing or reducing federal or state regulations in private industries. It is the opposite of regulation, which is the process of regulating certain activities to conform or comply with government policies, such as banking regulations. It would give banks the authority to establish their own guidelines – without government interference – in their lending practices. One doesn’t need to go very far back in time to see the pitfalls of deregulation. If there was one culprit that caused the financial meltdown of 2008, it was deregulation.

As a result of the Bush deregulation of the financial industry, housing mortgage guidelines were liberalized to a point where virtually all mortgage loan applications were approved without regard to credit worthiness or income qualification of the borrowers. In 2003, exotic loan programs such as zero down, interest only, negative amortization, stated income, and “no docs” sprouted profusely. Even jobless borrowers could get a loan. On top of that, some borrowers got “cash back” from inflated loans they arranged with home sellers with the connivance of mortgage brokers. In effect, deregulation became a corporate scam that involved many of the giants in the financial industry.

When Republican Sen. John McCain ran for president against Obama in 2008, his platform included deregulation, which he hammered during the campaign. And by associating himself with unpopular – and controversial – Bush policies, McCain lost the election.

Populism vs. demagoguery

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

The question is: Would the Republicans use in 2016 the two issues – lowering taxes that would benefit the rich and deregulation that would benefit big business – that contributed to their loss in 2008? If so, then they’re setting their presidential nominee for a tough fight in 2016. And who would that be? Right now, no Republican could match up to the Democrats’ favored candidate, Hillary Clinton, whose populist appeal would blunt the Republicans’ demagogic assault.

But things could change if the Republicans use their numerical advantage in Congress to project an inclusive GOP as the party of Lincoln and not as an uncompromising take-no-prisoner rightwing party.

And looking at the current crop of Republican presidential wannabes, there are two of them who could pursue a moderate course. But the problem is that a “moderate” Republican candidate would have difficulty winning in the Republican primaries. Not since the Barry Goldwater debacle of 1964 – who said, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice” — had another ultra-conservative won the party’s nomination.

Moderate Republicans

Jeb Bush and wife Columba (File copy)

Jeb Bush and wife Columba (File copy)

Which makes one wonder: Are there any Republicans with presidential ambitions who are capable of taking a moderate path in 2016? Two nationally known Republicans come to mind – New Jersey governor Chris Christy and former Florida governor Jeb Bush. But the problem is: they both have excess baggage to carry around. Christy is beset by scandals in his state while George Bush’s failed leadership has stigmatized his brother Jeb Bush. If Jeb could clear that stigma while pursuing an immigration reform that’s attractive to Latinos – Jeb is married to a Latina — and palatable to conservatives, he just might make it. But a third Bush presidency in quarter of century would be perceived as dynastic that wouldn’t bode too well with Americans.

With all things considered, the mid-term elections could be a harbinger of a Republican victory in 2016. However, it could also be their Waterloo if they waste their numerical superiority in the next two years. One can then say that the party who wins the presidency in 2016 had won the midterm elections in 2014. My Republican friend was then right when he said: “The GOP didn’t lose, but it didn’t win either.” Yes, indeed.


5 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Mariano Patalinjug says:

    Yonkers, New York
    11 November 2014

    Dear Perry Diaz:

    Thank you for weighing in on the November 4 midterm elections in the United States which gave Republicans control of the Senate and increased their numbers in the House as well as the governorships.

    As a neutral but clear-eyed and politically astute observer, the views you express in this Article must carry a lot of weight. My sense is that your Analysis is “right on the button,” and that your prognostications have a very good chance of being confirmed.

    Yes, indeed, the Democrats in the Senate, now in the Minority, could do as the Republicans did when they were in the Minority, which is to oppose, block, thwart, frustrate, demonize and even sabotage virtually all of President Obama’s major political, economic and social initiatives designed to make America a better place–which is to resort to that deadly political weapon: FILIBUSTER!

    For the last six years or so, Republicans in Washington have made a career of engaging in the vicious and destructive Politics of Stalemate, Gridlock and ‘Gotcha’ in a vicious determined effort to make President Obama and the Democrats FAIL.

    Now that the Democrats are in the Minority in both the Senate and the House, this could very well be payback time for them. If this is what they do, the American people will surely be the losers.

    The question is: Will President Barack Obama and his Democratic colleagues in the Congress take advantage of their opportunity to wreck vengeance on those Republicans?

    I have very serious doubts that they will. There is a very good chance that instead they will try their best to cooperate and collaborate with their Republican colleagues, acting on the wise and statesmanlike counsel of President Obama, to place the interests of the American people first and foremost, and acting on the Principle of “the greatest good of the greatest number.”

    Let’s not forget that there will be presidential elections in 2016, with HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON as the probable Democratic candidate. Given that perspective, Democrats will be careful not do anything which could hurt Hillary’s chances of winning.

    America can only benefit from a constructive Democratic Agenda from here on.

    Mariano Patalinjug

  2. Jaime says:

    Sorry Rick but it was Clinton with the support of Alan Greenspan who deregulated the financial Industry in 1997 by repealing the Glass Steagal Act. This Act prevented the Commercial Banks from using depositors money to invest in risky securities keeping our economy safe for 70 years. The Republicans tried to put back the restriction during the Bush years but were stopped by Barney Franks and Chris Dodd. You can watch an analysis of the 2008 financial crisis on several videos put together by PBS.gov.

  3. Phil Mangahas says:

    The citizenry lost. People lost.

  4. Guy Guerrero says:

    Great article. Equally articulate commentaries.
    Insightful and analytic on both sides of the issues. Makes me proud to be a FilAm.

    Why can’t our people in the old country vote based on issues and not on personalities.

  5. Manny Mendoza says:

    The analysis actually failed to address the one major issue that caused the decline of Obama and the Dems over the last 2 years.

    The Rise of ISIS and the fear that the President is absent as a leader: imagine partying on $30,000/plate dinners with Hollywood elites while ISIS beheads innocent civilians.

    The other issue is the Chaos in the US Border: It seems to many that the President in his desire to create a Progressive Leftwing Socialist state forgot the fact that this is why there are elections: the people is or are the boss. Not Obama and those who voted for him.

Leave a Reply to Manny Mendoza Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *