Finally some work might actually get done in Washington

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Right now there are millions of Democratic and Progressive voters who think that the world is coming to an end. The Republican sweep of government, which was much more substantial than most press reports are truly presenting, has left all too many people

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Right now there are millions of Democratic and Progressive voters who think that the world is coming to an end. The Republican sweep of government, which was much more substantial than most press reports are truly presenting, has left all too many people thinking that we’ve reached a nadir in American politics. Believe it or not the results of Tuesday’s elections are not entirely bad, unless you are a partisan Democrat. If you’re simply an American citizen this might be a sign that real progress is going to be made, at least on the national level. First let us first collectively realize just how deep and substantial the 2010 elections were. Everyone knows the big news, that Republicans won 55 seats in the House of Representatives, giving them a majority and putting Nancy Pelosi out of a job.

Republicans also took eight seats in the U.S. Senate, and they likely would have gained more if they hadn’t wasted their nominations on right wing Tea Party candidates like Christine O’Donnell in Delaware or Sharon Angle in Nevada. More importantly Republicans won several governor’s mansions, including solidly blue presidential states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine.

But likely the most serious change that occurred after Tuesday’s smackdown of the president was the 19 state houses that were overtaken by the Republicans. State Houses that will be responsible for re-drawing Congressional districts in the coming year based on the new census that could affect presidential campaign politics for another decade. 

Despite cries from the Democrats the response of the Republican leadership to last week’s elections has been rather muted. There was a conspicuous lack of crowing and bragging on the part of Republican leadership after the elections, with future Speaker of the House John Boehner and soon to be ex-Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele both being extremely humble about the results. When asked what these results meant for the president, Democrats and Steele said that they were a warning sign to both parties.

He went on to say that if the Republicans failed to go to Washington and fix the economy and do something about the national debt they’d be out of a job in 2012. Boehner, with an equal amount of unforced humility has come out and said that even with the election results that the president is still responsible for setting the legislative agenda. So what does this all mean? Are Republicans suddenly getting humble in the face of their incredible success or are they playing possum before going on a rampage of obstructionism for the next 18 months?

I would argue neither, in fact, the 2010 election results all but guarantee that there should be some real positive steps made in regards to the economy in the coming year.

Republicans were swept into office last week in large part due to the anger on the part of many American citizens about the economy and the seeming failure of Obama to appear singularly focused on the issue that mattered to most of the public. It was not, in any shape way or form an endorsement of the Republican party, or their policies as much as it was a rejection of dithering on the part of Democrats. The Republicans and Democrats know this, and after three massive changes in houses of Congress in 2006, 2008 and 2010 both parties realize that the public is impatient and has no party loyalty when jobs are scarce.

The Republicans have two options, the first is to continue to obstruct the president’s plans hoping this will leave him weakened enough to be defeated in 2012. The weakness in that plan is that this will leave a Republican presidential nominee with nothing to run on as well, and runs the risk of the GOP being kicked out of Congress again just as Steele suggested.

The other option is to put forth aggressive policies targeted at improving the economy in key Midwestern states, take full credit publicly and use those improvements as a launching pad for the myriad GOP candidates who will be coming out of the woodwork next year.  Both the president and Republicans have incentive to improve the economy now, and both run the risk of losing their jobs in two years if they don’t.

While they may not want to work together, neither the White House nor Republican goals can be met if they work separately.

And that is good news for the American people.

Jason Johnson is an associate professor of political science and communications at Hiram College in Ohio, where he teaches courses in campaigns and elections, pop culture and the politics of sports.

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