The House of Representatives was designed by the founding fathers as the body most immediately responsive to the will of the people, with every seat up for election every election cycle. In contrast, the president is elected every four years and only one-third of the Senate is elected in any election cycle. It should be noted however that even in the Senate elections, Republicans won approximately two-thirds of the seats up for election (24 of 37 seats).
This underscores and emphasizes the remarkable turnover in the House. It is easier to impact House elections with grassroots movements than it is to impact statewide U.S. Senate races. What occurred on November 2, 2010 was more a popular uprising than a mere grassroots movement. How else do you explain the turnover of 18 state legislatures and nearly a dozen governorships to the Republicans? Republicans now hold more state legislative seats than in any time since 1928. The closer the office is to the locality, the more immediate the impact is of a popular uprising of unhappy voters.
Since these legislators and governors will be responsible for redistricting their states in light of the 2010 census, these election results will impact congressional elections for at least a decade. (Political scientists hypothesize that controlling the redistricting process in this number of states, including large states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Texas and Florida, could make a difference of as much as 20 seats nationally in every House election cycle through 2020 and the next census.)
What happened? The American people told President Barack Obama and his Democratic congressional leadership enablers in the most dramatic way possible not only, “Enough!” but “Way too much!” At least half of those who voted said they want ObamaCare repealed outright. The people have been increasingly appalled at the Obama administration’s runaway spending and the Democratic majority’s defiant passage of ObamaCare in spite of the clearly mounting disapproval by a majority of the people.
Exit polls showed that only 25 percent of voters approved of the performance of Congress, while 75 percent disapproved. With those numbers the results are not surprising. As pollster Patrick Caddell (born in 1950) explained in post election analysis, “For the first time in my lifetime, the Democrats have less than 200 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
American voters punished the Democrats, but did not embrace the Republicans. Instead, they have decided to give the Republicans one more chance to rein in spending, repeal ObamaCare and lessen the role of government intrusion in their lives. The Republicans had best remember they are on probation.
I remember going to hear former presidential nominee George McGovern when he came to Nashville last year to promote his biography of Abraham Lincoln. During the question and answer time, McGovern was asked the inevitable question of what were his biggest mistakes in his disastrous campaign for president in 1972. He explained that, first, he allowed his critics to question his patriotism by not publicizing his exemplary war record as a War World II bomber pilot in Europe. Second, he got too far ahead of the people in his opposition to the Vietnam War. He then commented that President Lincoln never made that mistake. Lincoln was fervently anti-slavery from his youth onward. However, he never pressed the point farther than he could carry the people with him, stressing that keeping the Union unified was paramount until the people caught up with him on the slavery issue.
President Obama and the Democratic Congress ran way ahead of the American people, who have been, are and will remain politically center-right. It is in our political genetic code from 1776 onward to be distrustful of expanding government power. The President and the Democratic Congress lurched left and the country said, “No you don’t!”
Dr. Richard Land is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.