I had really hoped to get some thoughts out regarding priorities in this election this past week, but between the disaster caused by hurricane Sandy (including impacts to family and friends in the region) and finishing up fall chores, it just would not happen. After the election and before the convening of the next Congress in January we will speak to the legislative priorities that must be addressed in Washington (beyond the typical lame-duck activities that will go on at the end of this Congress). -Ed.
Today some brief thoughts about how the victors of the 2012 election will spin our confidence in them into mandates. We often hear how such-and-such an office-holder has a “mandate” from their constituents, typically based on real issues discussed during the campaign OR past behavior of the office-holder (especially incumbents) as if to say “since they reelected me, they must like what I’ve been doing.”
The day after the election, here’s what I think you can expect:
Keeping in mind that Congress is potentially the most powerful branch of the three branches of government. If a supermajority of both houses want to do something, the President cannot stop them. The courts will move very slowly (unless an election needs their guidance) and frankly, Congress can impeach judges and the President. They are the branch that can, again potentially, hold the other two branches by the, er, gonads. However, since Congress has been missing their own pair the past several years, they have been ineffective and unpopular (the current Congress holding the lowest popularity rating of all time).
Republicans Elected For The First Time
These folks clearly have a mandate for change, especially in the Senate, and especially if Republicans gain a Super Majority in the Senate. Republican Senators will be beside themselves with glee, and will start right off with repealing Obamacare, reinstating the Bush Tax Cuts, and making deep cuts in spending. Of course, they will get stuck on the spending part and likely simply wait for the (hopefully) Republican controlled House to get the Ryan budget passed (okay, probably a much watered down version). New Republican members of the House will be quickly writing and co-sponsoring bills to repeal Obamacare, abolishing tax-payer funded abortion, and starting the process to amend the Constitution to define marriage as one-man, one-woman. Although it might be perceived that they have a mandate to define life as beginning at conception, I doubt many members of Congress would actually go down that path (since, frankly, most Congresspeople don’t believe that in the first place). The best things that can reasonably happen if Republicans can take both houses of Congress are 1) we will actually get a budget and 2) we might see Obamacare repealed. The downside would be that 1) the budget won’t do enough to reverse the fiscal bleeding, and 2) Congress won’t be able to pass the kind of healthcare plan that the country really needs. But at least Republicans can say they got a budget passes after years of Democrat failures.
Incumbent Republicans will have one perceived mandate: keep dishing it out to the Democrats. The subtext is that they are free to continue whatever careless, self-centered behavior they may have been conducting because, obviously, no one cares (especially their constituents). These members will typically be dancing for the Tea-Party types who demand “no compromise” and “family values”, but will find ways to shield themselves with distractions one way or another. Those that have not written any bills in the past will continue not to do so. The very few exceptions to this will be the people who are deeply embedded in their faith, and from these you may expect a continued effort to end abortion on demand, to promote the Fair Tax, and push for a balanced budget.
Democrats Elected For The First Time
These folks will be walking around in stunned disbelief for at least a day or more. They have been fighting a difficult battle in the face of the President’s failed economic stimulus plans and will have absolutely no idea why they won. Because of this, they won’t even begin to be able to parse their constituents’ confidence in them, or identify a clear mandate. So, they will look to the Presidential election for guidance. If Obama is reelected, the assumption will be that the general tide toward deeper socialism, government spending, government regulation, government security (read anti-privacy), stripping of personal gun rights, and demonizing of the rich and those successful in business at any level, are the norm and fully accepted by the populace. And as such, they will fall in line with party leadership to continue on the path away from liberty. If Romney is elected, the newly minted Democratic members of Congress will have only a moderate mandate to continue bringing money to their state, and to try to keep Obamacare and other entitlements intact. However, a super majority for Democrats with a Romney administration will likely fire up a battle that stymies progress similarly to the past 4 years (yes, I know the President had a majority in both houses first two years, but all he really had to show for that were bad stimulus ideas that rolled over from the Bush administration, and Obamacare).
Incumbent Democrats will have one perceived mandate: keep dishing it out to the Republicans. The subtext is that they are free to continue whatever careless, self-centered behavior they may have been conducting because, obviously, no one cares (especially their constituents). These members will typically be dancing for the Occupy Movement types who demand that the 1 Percenters bow to the 99 Per centers, and social programs become the mission of government. Those that have not written any bills in the past will continue not to do so. The very few exceptions to this will be the people who crave more power, and from these you may expect a continued effort to advance abortion on demand, to raise taxes on the wealthy, and provide more and more government benefits for as many people as possible.
The most watched, and least important part of this election is the election of members of the Electoral College who will select the next President. Of all elected office-holders, the President ends up believing that being elected provides a mandate from God himself (if they believe in God). Realistically, the most important mandates for the President are: 1) Don’t blow us all to Kingdom Come, and 2) don’t take away my piece of the Government Pie.
If the President is reelected, he will have a mandate to continue down the path of more socialism, more spending, more debt, more invasion of our privacy and rights, and more power of the Federal Government over the State Governments. By the end of the next four years, we will doubtless see significant changes to the Affordable Care Act, especially if the President gets a Democratic Congress. These changes will mostly involve incorporating ideas that were politically unpalatable in 2010, but with a Democratic mandate have become critical to complete. We will certainly begin to start seeing executive compensation caps as a means to ensure that corporations aren’t ripping off Americans. Democrats will propose lower corporate tax rates tied to profit caps with rate penalties for those that break the cap rules (they better be big penalties if they want this to work). As these changes work their way into the economy, look for higher prices all around, higher unemployments, and negative GDP growth. And golf once a week, different course every week.
Mitt Romney’s mandate will be pretty simple: 1) Repeal Obamacare, 2) reinstate the Bush Tax Cuts, 3) press Congress to pass the Ryan Budget, which will by that time have morphed into the Romney Budget ( can you say “No Vouchers”?) and 4) Rattle the sabers at Iran, Pakistan, Russian and China.
You thought Romney had 5 points, right? Can you even name them? Didn’t think so.
It’s likely that we will begin to see some improvement in the job market within 6 months of a Romney election only because consumer and business confidence will begin to grow because we got “change” (too bad that didn’t work 4 years ago). However, few have truly recognized the fact that retail business models are changing both quickly and dramatically. Many retailers have chopped their in-store inventories and have moved to something more like the Sears catalog stores of the 19th Century. Consumer purchasing has become significantly more intentional (less compulsive) as online shopping has brought with it the opportunity to do online research before shopping. It may take several years for us to get a grip on the new retail model and fully understand how it works, and as such we may be in store for more years of stagnant growth. The one thing that may help would be to find ways to open our products more fully to the international markets. I think Romney would see this and work to push Congress and our trading partners to promote this.
We would expect that a Romney Mandate would include advocacy of individual and state’s rights, reform of immigration law and tax policy, and improved border protection. Although we will press for these, I’m not holding my breath. And, oh year, golf once a week, different course every week.
After this election, we will review the real mandates that are being interpreted in Washington, under whatever combination of successes each party experiences. We’ll also look at the picture at the state level, in terms of legislative and gubernatorial races at a macro level. It should be pretty safe to say that regardless of the results of this election, the impact in any way will be dramatic and far-reaching. The impact will be felt by heads of state and economies across the globe, but most intently here at home, where at least half of the population will have their lives turned upside-down over the next fews years in one way or another regardless of who wins what.
Please vote.Image © Christos Georghiou – Fotolia.com