Election Results: Feeling Good and Bad at the Same Time

If you are a conservative in America, Tuesday proved to be a great day. An overwhelming majority of Americans voted to reject the Obama, Pelosi and Reid agenda. The promises of hope and change by America’s left wing proved to be illusionary. It was business as usual as the Democrats rewarded their friends and financial backers on Wall Street and the public employee unions. Nearly $1 Trillion has been frittered away with no beneficial impact on economic recovery or job creation. The rich got richer and the public employee unions got more powerful.

If you are a Republican in America, Tuesday proved to be a great but cautionary day. As beneficiaries of the anti-liberal sentiment, the Republicans made substantial gains at all levels. They won control of the House of Representatives with a fifty-five percent or greater margin. They won sixty percent of the senatorial seats and would have won control of the Senate if all seats had been at risk. They captured enough gubernatorial seats to give Republicans a sixty- percent majority. And finally, the Republicans won over 600 state legislative seats throughout the country.

But these results are cautionary. The voters of America rejected Barack Obama and his liberal policies. They did not so much embrace Republicans as they did give Republicans a second chance – a chance to stop the prolific spending and reduce the size and influence of government. Should the Republicans fail, the penalty will be more severe than that for the Democrats. After all, the Democrats merely lost the election; the Republicans will lose their party should they return to their old ways.

If your are a conservative or Republican in Oregon the results were disappointing. The Democrats continue to control every statewide office in the state, including both United States Senate seats. They control four out of the five congressional seats. The only bright lights appear to be that the Republicans gained sufficient seats in both the state House and state Senate to eliminate the Democrats super majority needed for tax increases. The Republicans may have gained sufficient seats in the House to impose a power sharing arrangement. But that is where the good news ends.

The bad news is that no matter how you cut it, the Democrats will control reapportionment. The Democrats control the Senate and if they control the House, the decision is theirs to make. A tie vote in the House means that reapportionment will default to Secretary of State Kate Brown. If you thought Bill Bradbury was a partisan wait until you get a look at Kate Brown. The districts will be recarved to give Democrats an electoral advantage and more important to give Portland Democrats control of a successful Democrat majority.

And then, the return of John Kitzhaber as governor is devastating to those hoping for fiscal sanity. Kitzhaber demonstrated his mastery of the Republicans in his previous two terms, even when the Republicans held substantial majorities in the House and Senate. His generous use of the veto coupled with Republican naivete over voter expectations proved to be their undoing.

In the aftermath of the recession following the Muslim terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, Oregon state government suffered a financial meltdown. Much like today, successive revenue estimates showed rapidly declining tax revenues. Kitzhaber and his Democrat legislative colleagues wanted tax increases to shore up the revenue shortfall. The Republicans – well most of the Republicans – wanted to trim state spending and force government to live within their means. Through a series of real and threatened vetoes of budget bills by Kitzhaber and the use of taxpayer funding for special projects for a couple of Republicans, the Democrats caused a stalemate.

The defectors in the Republican Party denied the Republicans sufficient votes to pass the necessary budget reductions and the Democrats did not have sufficient votes for the super majority needed to pass a tax increase.

As the stalemate continued the Republicans in both houses grew increasingly agitated about finding a solution. It was during one of the Republican caucus meetings that a state senator argued that the voters had given the Republicans a majority because “they wanted them to lead.” And by “lead” these Republicans thought the voters wanted a quick solution. That view was further aggravated by a concern that the press would start hammering the Republican leadership about the sessions dragging on and on without solution – each day costing additional thousands in legislator and support staff salaries. When the nods of agreement began passing around the room it was obvious that the fight was over and that the Democrats would win.

You see, the Democrats were in no hurry to end the sessions. They were more than willing to “wait out” the Republicans. Democrats, unlike conservatives and most Republicans, believe in the primacy of government – believe that government is the solution for everything and that each day is better if the government is in control. When the Republicans abandoned patience, they abandoned the voters.

A wise legislator I knew in Montana once said that when you get three hundred yards from the state capitol, no one cares about the machinations of government. The only thing the voters were concerned about was the outcome – not how the outcome was managed.

The Republicans caved and gave the Democrats enough votes to refer the tax increases to the voters who promptly rejected them by a 60-40 percent vote. The voters didn’t care whether Republican legislators were perceived to be leaders in finding a solution – they cared about the solution and in that case they didn’t like it.

Unless Republicans have learned from those past mistakes, you can assume that the next legislative session will follow a similar path. If you believe that government spending has become excessive, if you believe that state government has grown too large, the salaries and benefits too grand, the shear numbers of public employees too great, then you must stick to those principles regardless of how long it takes.

Neither Kitzhaber nor the Democrats in the legislature can enact a tax increase without Republican help. Will you stand for principle or cave for expedience?