Back in the heady days right after the 2008 election, there was a lot of gloating going on in various Democratic circles, particularly on the progressive blogs, about the Republicans whining about what “could happen.” One of the sayings thrown back at them was the title of this post, “Elections have consequences.” It can be put more rudely as “We won, you lost. It sucks to be you.” There was a lot of chatter about a “permanent Democratic majority,” and on the state scene here, discussions on how Democrats could take the last two Republican held seats in Congress. Looking back over the past 4 years, that was hubris, the “pride that goeth before a fall.” You see, despite saying that elections have consequences, they didn’t believe it.
Right now, we have a Republican Congress. Democrats haven’t controlled the House since the end of 2010, and no longer control the Senate. The last election saw them win total control of 24 states. States that have been “reliably Blue” like Massachusetts and Illinois now have Republican governors. Why? Because 2014 had the lowest voter turnout since 1943. Historically low, but the Republican base turned out as they always do.
They haven’t wasted any time, either. They’re starting with Social Security disability, and that’s just the beginning of their plans. Expect Medicare to be the next “socialist program” under their agenda. They’re already planning on a bill to force the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, they’re aiming revoking or gutting at the Affordable Care Act, and at the same time cutting many of the programs that people rely on. On the state front, expect to see lots of “right to work” laws being passed, mostly aimed at breaking unions. More “voter ID” laws to combat non-existent fraud, and disenfranchise minority voters. Decreased environmental protections, less worker protections and wages, restrictions on reproductive rights, and privatization initiatives of what were public functions. Scaremongering on my part? No, Republicans have been pretty upfront about their agenda.
They’re going to do their level best to enact those items, and in almost half the states, they’ll succeed. I expect to see a lot of yelling and screaming on various liberal outlets about it, but you see, elections have consequences. For the next two years (at least), those are going to be the consequences of the 2014 election. I said after the 2010 election that progressives could kiss any progressive agenda goodbye for the next two years. Apparently that didn’t sink in, despite two years of examples, since Democrats couldn’t take back the House in 2012. Now they’ve lost both houses of Congress and a number of states, so it apparently still hasn’t.
I’ve heard the litany of complaints for the past six years. “There’s no difference between the parties.” “All politicians are the same.” “The President has been a failure.” “The Democratic Party is controlled by corporatists.” “I’m sending a message by not voting.” “I don’t like any of the candidates, so I’m staying home.” “I’m not excited by it, so why bother?” “It doesn’t matter who wins.” It’s been a drumbeat from the left media for years. You can’t pull up any of them without seeing a “reason” for voters to stay home. That it just played into the hands of the Republicans “wasn’t important.”
Maybe this time the lesson will be learned. There is a very real difference between the parties, and the next two years will be stark reminder of that. A lot of progressive achievements are going to be rolled back, and a lot of time will be spent trying to defend others, or minimize the damage. Whatever the excuse various voters had for not showing up, or the left had for encouraging them not to do so, all that matters is that they weren’t in the voting booth on Election Day. There is some irony in this, though. The people who voted for Republicans, the “Republican base?” You know, elderly people and blue collar white people? They’re also going to get hammered by most of the agenda items. They actually voted for the people who are going to put them into place, because they don’t think it’ll impact them. They’re about to find out that they are the biggest losers from it.
On either side, it comes down to this: They didn’t think there were consequences. Elections do have consequences, every election does. If you don’t like the consequences, then instead of a catch phrase, it should be something to remember before election day. Because afterwards, you’re going to have to live with them, even if you didn’t vote.