Not really a regime change in D.C.

In the wake of the recent midterm voting, we’ve been seeing demonstrated, yet again, how deep-seated is the media’s penchant for going hog wild with the negative stuff…negative for some, that is. In reporting post-election happenings, there’s been a more or less steady drumbeat of referencing the “drubbing” or “shellacking” (as the president himself termed it) or similar labeling of how Democrats fared on Nov. 2.

One wouldn’t think that a power switch in the House had been just about a foregone conclusion…that from all quarters there had been dire predictions of awful tidings for House Democrats after the plebes went to the polls. Based on pre-election surveys, no one expected that House Democrats would survive the tidal wave of voter disenchantment fixing to engulf these 2010 elections, and so it played out. Still, how a Republican majority in the House translates to the party’s lording it over all in Washington in the next Congress is difficult to figure, but that’s precisely the impression the unsuspecting would glean from all the election aftermath razzle-dazzle in the media. Unfathomably, it becomes necessary to underscore that GOP control of the House of Representatives doesn’t mean that all of Washington will be forced to dance to the party’s tune.

The box score in the Senate, when it was all over, was quite a bit different. Although Democrats wound up with less of a majority than they currently hold, the final, not-too-shabby tally of 53-47 is a far cry from some of the projections that weren’t shy about laying out a scenario in which Democrats would hang on only by a slender thread, or lose, or be in a 50-50 deadlock. There was, for instance, some election night speculation about New York’s Chuck Schumer possibly ascending to the leadership position in the event of a Harry Reid loss in Nevada. Someone evidently forgot to let Reid in on this plot design, as he was handily defeating his opponent by six percentage points.

Reid’s win over a decidedly moonstruck Sharron Angle was one of the significantly positive outcomes for Democrats that seems lost in all the nonstop chatter about so-called regime change in D.C. Barbara Boxer out in California was supposed to be in trouble to retain her seat, too, we were being told. She also failed to get any message, apparently, about a toss-up contest, vanquishing the GOP’s standard bearer by almost 10 percent. Closer to home, we were sitting ducks for at least part of the advertising onslaught ordered by the former wrestling promotion bigwig who was reportedly spending $50 million to win a Senate seat for the GOP in Connecticut. In spite of this blizzard of hype, Linda McMahon got beaten by the state’s long serving attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, by 12 points.

And three weeks before the election, one polling organization’s survey of the situation in West Virginia reported that Governor Joe Manchin, looking to succeed the iconic Sen. Robert Byrd, was “in deep trouble.” Again, no one appears to have passed on to Manchin that he was facing some long odds, as he whipped his Republican rival by a 10-point margin.

The money-tree factor also played large in the 2010 vote, helped along, of course, by that new dispensation, courtesy the nation’s high court, that identifying big campaign bankrollers was no longer required. That aside, we also had some candidates with wallets fat enough to give their campaigns all they needed by way of rocket fuel dollars. That there were some “showcase” examples among these efforts which came up empty had to give heart to those of us still clinging to a fragile hope that there may indeed be exceptions to “democracy for sale” that seems generally accepted as new-age reality. Linda McMahon’s spending binge in Connecticut, disgusting as it was, couldn’t hold a candle to what was rolled out by former businesswoman Meg Ryan out in California, running for governor, who allegedly spent $140 million and still wound up with a 12 percent loss to Democrat Jerry Brown.

One had to be encouraged, as well, by the rejection of some candidates who for a while seemed to be caught up in a Tea Party fanaticism that, they thought, came with the trappings of invincibility. Although one such, Rand Paul, won in Kentucky, Christine O’Donnell was brought back to earth rather quickly after she won the GOP nomination in Delaware. And notwithstanding buzz about Sharron Angle giving Harry Reid a run for his money in Nevada, voters evidently decided this Angle wasn’t a right one for the state.

What we have, going into the next Congress, is an opportunity. A wise reporter once described Congress as the place where members gather to get through the business of compromise. The greatest need when the new Congress convenes in January — with a Democratic president, Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House – is for all the Washington players to have “the business of compromise” govern their every thought and action from day one. No time could be deemed okay for showboating, but the country’s shape right now should absolutely forbid even the tiniest step in that direction.

Washington, are you listening? Hard-line tactics, ideological obstinacy, gamesmanship…are enemies of compromise and can’t be tolerated. So say the people. Somehow, the fear lingers that this just might be too tall an order.

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