Not to put too fine a point on it, but last week’s elections were a bit of a butt kicking.
It hurts to say this, but it was well deserved.
Neanderthal that I am as regards my political views, I still understand that hubris and hypocrisy need to be stopped. And, last week, they were stopped.
Against the background of an increasingly tough and divisive war, I’ve watched the politicians I helped send to Washington behave precisely like (and, at times, worse than) the individuals they replaced. Grasping power for power’s sake. Lining their pockets. Growing a government that’s already bloated beyond belief. Spending like there was no tomorrow. Refusing to deal with a rising tide of illegal immigration.
It was, to coin a phrase, getting ugly.
No matter your political leanings, this country should never get to the point where we’re trying to decide whether one set of hypocrites is not quite as bad as the other. That’s a sure recipe for disaster.
Last week’s elections should also serve as a reminder (See also: "slap upside the head") to politicians of all stripes that we elect them to do just one thing.
That one thing has nothing to do with getting lobbying jobs for their family members. Nor does it involve messing with staff or pages or gerrymandering districts to ensure permanent incumbency. And, for darned sure, it’s not to waste public money on dubious - if not downright idiotic - projects.
We elect them to make this a better country.
Admittedly, in a country of 300-million people, there’s going to be a raft of opinions on just how to do that. And some of those opinions - mainly from the far reaches of each political spectrum - will truly stink.
But the majority of us don’t hug the narrow foul lines of either "left" or "right" field. We tend to range over the entire playing area and have repeatedly proven that, with honest (and, often, heated) debate, we can come up with ideas that, if not universally cheered, are at least palatable and, in fact, workable.
Which is what we need to see coming from Congress.
The real bright spot in last week’s election was the reverberating reminder that woe-betide politicians who anger those who make this country work.
Many Americans don’t have the time for day-to-day involvement in politics because they’re too busy trying to stretch paychecks to cover the costs of raising families. They’re too busy keeping track of their kids’ grades and whom they’re hanging out with. They’re too busy running businesses while being buried under an ever-growing pile of government requirements, taxes, forms, and other bureaucratic foolishness that would smother an elephant.
They’re too busy keeping their cars running, their houses in good shape, their families safe, and their lives somewhat on track in a world that’s gone plumb nuts – could someone please explain just what it is that makes Paris Hilton a "celebrity?"
But politicians can still get their attention. And, when they do, they’d better pray it’s over something good.
The Democrats learned this in 1994 when they got far too big for their legislative britches. Twelve years ago, they were handed a similar defeat and told to go sit in the corner until they learned to behave.
On a promise of a return to something resembling adult behavior, the Republicans took control.
Last week, they learned that they, too, had captured the attention of the American voter – and not in a positive way.
Another corner occupied.
Lately, depending on which study you read, it seems that the faith that Americans have in Congress now hovers somewhere between "little" and "none" – with a steady trend toward the latter.
From last week’s victors, we’re now hearing promises of bipartisanship and cooperation - all very nice sounding phrases.
It’d be great if that actually came to pass and we found our politicians actually seeking common ground to solve the problems facing us. That’s all that most Americans really want, but you can bet they aren’t holding their breaths while waiting for it.
History’s a persistent teacher, but too many of our elected brethren are notoriously inattentive students. Which likely means that - in a few years - the latest "winners" will be tossed out on their ears and "everything old will be new again."
And, if you’re still looking for an explanation of last week’s drubbing, the best I can do is to paraphrase the old John Houseman commercial:
"The Republicans got beat the old-fashioned way. They earned it."