Viewpoint: Political landscape to undergo change
Some pundits have said that the nation spent more than a year on a very expensive and exhausting campaign, only to find the country back in gridlock, with Democrats in control of the White House and the Senate, and Republicans in control of the House.
Don’t believe it. Elections have consequences.
The Republican defeat, in what should have been a favorable economic climate, marks a rejection of Republican arguments on issue after issue. Republicans know that they must change course on many issues if they are going to successfully compete for votes in those parts of the electorate where they did poorly: young voters, Hispanics and women.
Obamacare (and Romneycare) is here to stay. By 2016, it will be an accepted part of the political landscape. Repeal of Obamacare will garner as much attention in 2016 as repeal of gay marriage did here in New Hampshire this year.
Medicaid will be expanded in New Hampshire. Tens of thousands of the working poor will gain health insurance, and our hospitals will regain most of the revenue they lost in last year’s state budget.
Both sides of the aisle agree that we need to do something about the federal deficit. During the campaign, the president proposed a balanced approach, with revenue increases and spending cuts. Republicans argued for spending cuts alone. (They also said we could cut the deficit by increasing defense spending and cutting taxes, which led to Bill Clinton’s comments about Republicans having trouble with arithmetic.) Republicans don’t want to spend the next two years identified as the party of the wealthy. A deal will be cut soon with new revenue coming from upper-income households, and the deficit will be significantly reduced over the next four years.
The Republican position of no amnesty for illegal immigrants already in the country will give way to a more pragmatic approach. It is simply not practical or humane for the U.S. government to deport 12 million people. The Obama administration has shown both Republicans and potential immigrants that it can be tough on illegal immigration (many more were deported during the past four years than during any comparable period of the second Bush administration.) A formula will be found to allow illegal immigrants who have spent a significant amount of time in the U.S. to earn their way to green-card status and then citizenship.
Hurricane Sandy has put climate change back on the political map. In the past, Republicans have argued persuasively that shifting federal taxation from income to consumption would increase income, savings and investment. A carbon tax is a type of consumption tax that would achieve a Republican tax goal, help the environment by reducing consumption of fossil fuels, and improve national security by reducing our reliance on foreign oil. Is a grand bargain on climate change too much to hope for?
Here in New Hampshire, the outcome of the election is more clear-cut.
The Legislature will not spend days debating bills to weaken labor unions (so-called “right to work” legislation), nor will we debate lowering the dropout age or making kindergarten a local option. The cigarette tax will go back up to where it was two years ago. The university system will have its funding restored. We will debate whether, after 22 years, it is time to raise the gas tax so that we have enough revenue to paint the stripes on the sides of the road, plow the snow, turn on some street lamps at intersections and pave our roads more often than once every 12 years.
Gay marriage is here to stay. New restrictions on abortion rights will go nowhere. Contraception will remain a required part of every health insurance plan, which is how it has been for more than a decade. Neither the public nor legislators will be allowed to carry weapons into the House and Senate chambers.
Governing in New Hampshire will return to what was normal up until two years ago. The Legislature will focus on crafting a budget from limited resources that meets the needs of the people, while enacting incremental changes to make state government more efficient and responsive. This used to be the job of the Republican Party, but given their recent takeover by the Tea Partiers and Libertarians who seem to be at war with all government, I suspect the Democratic Party will have this role for years to come.
Mark Fernald is a resident of Peterborough.