By Kevin Wilson
Special to The Globe
NEOSHO, Mo. —
After months and months of campaigning, billions of dollars spent on advertising and a whole host of negativity, where are we after one of the most divisive elections in the history of our country?
Right where we were the day before the election — a polarizing president, a split Congress and a nation divided almost even.
The president talks of compromise and says that he has a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy. And House Speaker John Boehner says that he is willing to raise revenues (taxes) as long as the tax codes can be revised. Do you think that compromise is going to happen?
If it doesn’t, then heaven help this nation. In case you have forgotten, we are facing a fiscal cliff that we are going to drive off of in early 2013 — the sequestration that was the result of past Washington gridlock.
Does the president really have a mandate? From an electoral viewpoint the answer would be yes, but I don’t think anyone can really call a margin of 3 million votes out of 100 million votes cast a true mandate.
The electoral landslide just means that the president was able to win more “big” states, but a true mandate would have been a much larger popular vote margin and a Democratic takeover of the House, which obviously didn’t happen.
Does anyone think that a comprehensive overhaul of the tax codes is really going to happen? If you do, then I have some beachfront property I would like to show you at the next low tide. The current tax codes are tens of thousands of pages long and have grown so complex and complicated that true reform is a mythical quest of Don Quixote politicians chasing legislative windmills.
All that being said, if we don’t find a way to build consensus, then I am extremely afraid of what faces our nation. And when I say “find a way,” I don’t mean through executive orders or edicts that stretch the boundaries of constitutional guidelines. I mean that we need to come together as a nation and chart a path to future prosperity. For me, that would involve reducing government expenditures. Given the current political climate, I don’t think that alone will work.
Tax increases may be a political reality, but don’t think that if the government gets more of your money that it won’t spend every bit of it and want more. Such is the nature of the beast, and it will not change anytime in our future. Regardless, real compromise is not only needed but is critical at this juncture in our history and I only hope and pray that the president is serious this time when he pledges bipartisan cooperation.
Turning to the state for just a moment, the election did prove my last column correct. Missouri has definitely lost its bellwether status by voting against President Obama in the past two elections and for the other reasons I set forth. Missourians also showed that we are pretty split in that we overwhelmingly elected Democrats to statewide offices but kept the General Assembly firmly in the hands of the Republicans.
The Republicans now have a veto-proof majority in both the House and the Senate. Does that mean they will be able to push through their legislative agenda with little worry of a Democratic governor’s veto? Regardless of the margins, it doesn’t mean that at all.
Despite what some may think, all Republicans do not think alike and large numbers do not translate into a large consensus. There are plenty of competing ideals within the House caucus, and except for truly polarizing issues I don’t see 110 votes on most legislative initiatives. As for the Missouri Senate, what can you say? Senate rules and traditions make it very easy for just one senator to hold the entire body hostage to his or her particular ideology, and I don’t see that changing dramatically.
So what does this all really mean? More of the status quo — the Republicans controlling the legislative agenda but with a governor with a lot of power to influence the final result. But, unlike their federal counterparts, most folks in Jefferson City understand the art of compromise.
While we hold our breath and pray for a breakthrough in Washington gridlock, I think that we will continue to see a fair amount of cooperation and civility in the state Capitol. Say, how what about a new country of Missouri — just like some in Texas are proposing for their state? Think that would work? OK, so a fellow can dream —just like Don Quixote.
Kevin Wilson is a former Missouri state representative. He lives in Neosho.