Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sounded words of reconciliation shortly after the midterm elections ended. He said that the American people want their elected leaders to govern and this is what both Parties should do. He said that just because there is a divided government …”I don’t think it means [the American people] don’t want us to do anything.”
How ironic it is that the senator who, when he was Senate Minority Leader, said that his number one priority was to make President Obama a one-term president had an epiphany and now believes that Democrats and Republicans should work together and govern. Was this sudden awakening brought on by the realization that he will soon be the Senate Majority Leader? Was the ordinary but striking occurrence that took place the realization that he is the one who must now seek common ground between the Democratic and Republican senators and not just block or obstruct and engage in finger-pointing if he harbors any hope of a meaningful legacy as Senate Majority Leader?
It is also worth noting that these supposed words of conciliation did not come without a rider. There was a warning attached that said if you take steps to unilaterally do anything to move forward on trying to correct the immigration problem it will poison the well and be like waving a red flag in front of a bull. That meant that any potential cooperation from Republicans would be lost.
It appears that the well has been poison for the past six years because the Republicans certainly haven’t cooperated with President Obama on any initiatives that he put forward. On the contrary, they have balked at supporting him on things that they regularly supported in the past and even withdrawn their support for bills they themselves initiated once he decided to support them.
Senator McConnell said that he would fix the Senate so that it operates again. What a curious thing to say when he worked so hard to break it. He was not alone in those efforts but there is no getting around the fact that he was the minority leader when he said that his number one priority was to make President Obama a one-term president.
But some would say that what Senator McConnell said is behind us and the American people have spoken and given the Republicans a mandate, which was indicated by way of their resounding victory in the midterm elections. Wait a minute. Doesn’t it still matter what percentage of the American people actually voted in the midterm elections? Doesn’t it matter that there were new voter ID laws put into place in some states and some people who had been able to vote since the day that they became eligible voters were unable to vote in this midterm election? Doesn’t it matter that voting days were reduced in some states, voting hours were cut back and there were fewer polling places available?
There is no doubt that fewer people vote in midterm elections than in presidential elections. And there is no doubt that a cross-section of those who vote in the midterm elections is less representative of America as a whole than a cross-section of those who vote in the presidential elections. This is by no means an excuse for those who fail to exercise their right to vote during midterm elections; nor is it meant to in any way demean the voice of those who did vote; but to claim a mandate from the American people based on the results of the 2014 midterm elections without a caveat is quite a stretch.