After a year and a half of primaries, debates, scandals, gaffes, conventions, more debates, and premature predictions, the election of 2012 is finally over. As time went by and Election Day drew nearer, the stakes grew higher: brewing conflict in Iran, Israel, and Syria, Obamacare, an aging Supreme Court, gridlock in Congress, the bleak future of programs like Medicare and Social Security, an array of social issues, and an ideologically divided population. Both the Republicans and the Democrats had much to lose and much to gain going into Tuesday night’s uncovering of the results.
Today, the election is over. President Obama was elected to a second term after a decisive Electoral College victory. President Obama’s victory means that there is almost no chance that Obamacare will not be implemented. Even John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, said that Obamacare would become “the law of the land” after Governor Mitt Romney’s loss in the race for the White House.
Equally—or perhaps more—important than the implementation of Obamacare is the number of Supreme Court Justices that President Obama will likely get to appoint during his second term. According to the New York Times, the average retirement age for Supreme Court Justices is 78.7. Why is this important? It is important because there are currently three Justices who are in their 70s and are rapidly approaching that average age. Two of these Justices are infamous for their ideological service and effectively cancel each other out in major decisions: Antonin Scalia (76) is a conservative justice while Ruth Ginsberg (74) is a liberal justice. Justice Anthony Kennedy (75) is generally the swing voter on the Court (meaning that when a decision is split with four justices on either side of the argument, Kennedy is in the position to create a majority). Depending on who retires and when, President Obama has a chance to build a Supreme Court with a liberal majority.
To complement the Democratic Party’s grasp of the White House are the series of House and Senate elections that also took place on Election Day. While people’s eyes were on key Senate races like the one in Massachusetts between incumbent Scott Brown (Republican) and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren (Democrat), the Democrats were winning elections across the board for both chambers of Congress. In the end,
the Republicans lost seats in the House (although they maintained their majority in the chamber) and the Democrats widened their majority in the Senate. As for the closely- watched race in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren won over the moderate Republican Scott Brown.
So what does it all mean? It’s unclear. When the newly-elected 113th Congress heads to the capitol, there will be the same recipe for gridlock that there was after the 2010 mid-term elections. For most bills to pass, they have to be approved in both the House and the Senate. But with the two chambers being held by two different political majorities and a notoriously fierce divide between them, it might be difficult for people to see how the 2012 election will mark the end of the legislative gridlock that resulted in the debt-ceiling crisis of last summer. It is possible that the two parties will begin to cooperate (but not likely). Nonetheless, there will have to be some cooperation to solve the problems of the upcoming tax hikes and spending cuts that will automatically take effect at the end of the year without legislative action.
Overall, much is still the same. We have the same president, the same Democratic majority in the Senate, and the same Republican majority in the House. But if there was an advantage to all this, the Democrats were able to snatch it. The president won by a (seemingly) wide margin (332 electoral votes for Obama and 206 for Romney as of November 10th) and the Republicans took a hit in Congress.
There has been discussion since Election Day from pundits and political commentators that the Republican Party has seen its best days because of the extreme positions that many of its candidates take on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. Does this mean that there will be an ideological shift in the Republican Party? Possibly, but it is not a change that will likely occur over night. The Republican Party has many factions (social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, moderates, libertarians, etc.), and while many will seek to work with the president and Senate during the next two years, many will not. But if there is another debacle like the debt ceiling crisis, it is likely that it will be pinned on the Republican Party as a whole which could cause them to lose more seats and the House majority in 2014. Republicans and conservatives must move forward strategically and overcome many obstacles if they want to avoid President Obama’s vision for America.