Sunday, March 27, 2011

Buyers’ Remorse

Only three months into the new revolution and already the subjects are revolting. Seems the Democrats weren’t the only ones who misread a mandate. The new and improved Republican class of 2010 has overreached and overstepped their authority to such lengths that some of them are now facing the prospect of recall elections. Drawing particular interest – and ire – are the newly elected governors who seem hell bent to leave their mark, regardless of what it might do to their respective states and political allies.

Leading the contingent of most egregious and, according to Jon Stewart, “dickish” offenders are Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Scott of Florida, and Paul LaPage of Maine. All ran on the usual GOP talking points. You know, fiscal responsibility, job creation, tax breaks for business, yada, yada.

Walker, after securing considerable economic concessions from Wisconsin’s unions, including an agreement to pay for part of their healthcare benefits, decided to up the ante by stripping them of their right to bargain collectively. Kasich, not to be outdone, wants to do away with public sector binding arbitration and make it illegal for any and all public employees to strike. Period. Scott not only wants to drug test every public employee, he wants to end Florida’s retirement system for all public employees. And rounding out the group, LaPage simply wants to raise healthcare premiums for poor senior citizens, make it tougher for low-income families to receive Medicaid benefits and, I swear I’m not making this up, remove a mural from a Department of Labor gallery for being pro union. To quote Jon Stewart, “Now I’ve seen everything.”

Adding insult to injury, both Walker and Scott (Frick and Frack) have refused billions set aside by the federal government for the development of high-speed railways in their respective states.  The funding would've created thousands of jobs over the next few years.  Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Angry and disillusioned at the slow pace of recovery in the economy, American voters went to the polling booths last November, and took out their frustrations on any incumbent with a D next to his or her name, and the result was a tsunami of candidates who normally wouldn’t have survived even a primary challenge being swept into office. Now voters in those states are waking up to find that the men and women they voted for weren’t who they said they were.

Gee, ya think?

This is what happens when people let their emotions run riot. You end up with buyers’ remorse. Sort of like going out drinking with your buddies to let off a little steam over the way your boss treated you. The next morning you wake up wondering what happened and having to deal with the consequences of your actions. Political hangovers, like physical ones, have ramifications. And boy oh boy are Americans sure having one hell of a hangover.

But, unlike the real one, which, unfortunately for millions of drunks, takes time to get over, this is one hangover where the people can affect a cure on a more, shall we say, immediate basis. It’s referred to as recall election, and as of right now, it is on the table in Wisconsin and Florida. No doubt quite soon it will be rearing its mean-assed face in Ohio, as voters are getting downright ugly about what they’ve seen so far.

I mentioned in an earlier blog about mandates and how victorious parties often misread them. The Democratic landslides of ’06 and ’08 served as painful reminders of how not to interpret election results. Well it seems Republicans didn’t get the memo. The problem with banking on voters who voted for you in anger is that when the anger subsides, so does much of your impetus. And now, freed from the despair of last November and feeling somewhat optimistic about the future, no doubt a result of a steadily improving economy, these same voters are taking a good look at who they elected into office last year and starting to get the feeling like maybe they were slipped a mickey. Bad gin can make a fella or gal do strange things, like pull the lever for unqualified ideologues.

But, just like pencils have erasures, election results can be rescinded through the recall process. Admittedly it takes a lot more than just putting a couple of Alka Seltzers in a glass of water and taking a big gulp. It takes a boatload of signatures. In Wisconsin, for instance, you need no less than 25% of all those who voted for governor in each Senate district to sign the recall petition. Not an easy feat.

But the momentum is gaining and the emotions are running high, as more and more voters appear determined to undo the nightmarish decision they made last November. In Ohio, Florida and other states with Republican governors who appear to be running amuck, voters are waking up and smelling the caffeine. Florida is particularly interesting in that Rick Scott won a very close election over Alex Sink – just over 1%. It wouldn’t take much to get him recalled.

And the backlash does not seem to be reserved merely for Republican governors. In local politics, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano – who was actually voted into office in ’09 – has spent more than $400 thousand of taxpayer money fighting a takeover of the county’s finances by the NIFA (Nassau County Finance Authority) for failing to balance its 2010 budget. As is standard operating procedure among Republicans, Mangano thought he could decrease taxes and balance the budget. Right about now his popularity is about as high as the last Republican to hold that office: a guy by the name of Tom Gulotta. While no recall petitions have been swirling around his damaged carcass, I wouldn’t bet any meaningful money on his reelection prospects come 2013.

Of course, whatever happens over the next few weeks, the lesson of the 2010 midterms – and all elections for that matter – is never overreach when you win. Poll after poll taken both before and after the last election showed a majority of Americans dissatisfied with the way things were being run in Washington, but desirous of both sides getting together and achieving results. More and more, political ideology appears to be going the way of the dinosaur as voters in general have become increasingly disenchanted with divisiveness and far more results oriented. The current crop of GOP executives who were the benefactors of voter angst had better shape up or they will be shipped out.

And as far as the voters are concerned, the next time they take to the polls, maybe they should examine more closely the drink in front of them before downing it down. One of the oldest and wisest sayings is that famous one about getting fooled. I think it comes from Tennessee or Texas. “Fool me once, shame on you. But fool me, you can’t get fooled again.”

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist.

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