With a week's perspective I feel reasonably comfortable in drawing some worthwhile conclusions from the recent elections. Ever the optimist, I generally tend to predict that conservatives will perform better than they actually do, simply because the basic philosophies underpinning the two competing American political parties seem so cut and dried to me, and I have trouble understanding why some voters would choose a course of action harmful to themselves and our nation. Even so, I never would have foreseen such a fall as I have seen in President Obama's standing in the space of two short years. I hope Democrats really do believe the problem is one of communication and "messaging." If so, then 2010 will serve only as a prelude to an even more cataclysmic result for Democrats in 2012.
The spontaneous rise of the tea party movement over the past eighteen months is probably the most consequential domestic political development in my lifetime. The miraculous milieu which led to liberty's rebirth in American politics was kindled by the disillusionment of voters with the extreme leftist policies pursued by the Obama administration, which contrasted so clearly with the unifying post-partisan theme of his presidential campaign. The Internet Age served to midwife and nurture the birth and early development of the movement. Without the diffusion of news sources from the mainstream media, without the internet, without Facebook and other social media, without the interconnectedness now enjoyed by regular Americans, the tea parties would never have translated silent frustration into coordinated political action. Finally, without the wisdom of leaders in the GOP and the tea party movement, the voters' anger could easily have been channeled into unproductive third party candidate efforts. Instead, tea party activists largely worked within the Republican party framework and were able to essentially revolutionize and reinvigorate the GOP. Whether the tea party movement develops into a permanent organized voting bloc, or instead fades as it is subsumed into the larger conservative movement, it has already accomplished much and found a generally receptive home within the Republican party.
Nationally the GOP's 60+ gain in the House of Representatives marks a second chance for the party of Mark Foley and Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney. The final two years of President Obama's term will not see further leftward lurches that encroach on American liberty, and I'm optimistic that Republican House committee chairmen will be able to effectively use their subpoena power and control of the congressional agenda to hold the Obama bureaucrats accountable, to limit the reach of their regulatory tentacles, and to frame clearly for voters the issues that we face. Unfortunately the most egregious work of Obama's presidency, the Orwellianly-named Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, remains the law of the land. It will take bold leadership and a persistent focus to limit the implementation of this travesty over the next two years, and I'm not bowled over with excitement given the actions of the last Republican majority. Surely, however, Republicans have learned lessons from the 1995 government shutdown that was blamed on them, and with the refreshing enthusiasm of the new tea party-backed members I do have some hope. True health care reform that empowers patients and expands their choices will have to wait for a different President, I'm afraid.
In my wildest dreams I never imagined that Tennessee's congressional delegation could flip from a 5 to 4 Democratic majority to 7 to 2 in favor of Republicans. In addition, Stephen Fincher's victory in my own Eighth Congressional District marks the first time ever that Republicans have held this Northwest Tennessee seat, and I'm so proud to have a man of his caliber representing me. I would have been delighted with victory by any reasonably conservative candidate, but with Stephen we are blessed with someone who is ideologically centered and who also has a background that fits well in the district and who is a man of unquestionable integrity. I suspect that God has plans for Stephen that go beyond representing Tennessee's eighth district in Congress, but I'm thankful to have him there for now.
As for the Republican gains in Tennessee's General Assembly, no one predicted a gain of 14 House seats, nor the picking off of Democrat state senator Doug Jackson of Dickson. What a clear and emphatic expression of Tennessee voters' revulsion with the policies of the national Democratic party! These gains ought to cement GOP control of the General Assembly for the foreseeable future, in part because of the Republicans' ability to undo decades of Democratic gerrymandering in the next legislative session. I believe the major benefit of Republican control of the General Assembly won't be seen in headline-making initiatives, but in thousands upon thousands of smaller victories that will ultimately serve to make Tennesseeans more free, more prosperous, and more secure. It will be up to an informed electorate, including tea party voters, to make sure that Republican state legislators maintain their focus and don't get too comfortable with the power we've entrusted to them.
All in all, it's been a very satisfying week, and one that I did not foresee two years ago. I'm reminded of the truth that a year is an eternity in politics, and of the even more profound truth that God is in control. I should learn to trust Him more.