What do the years 2006, 2008 and 2010 have in common? More than just dates. They stand for three elections where the voting public demanded change and took the steps to bring it about.
While Tuesday's winners are busy congratulating themselves, they should take time out to figure out what the voters are really thinking and not assume they were elected or re-elected because they sounded the angriest, or had the best commercials or the best looking family photos on their campaign literature.
The 2006 campaign ended with the Democratic Party winning commanding majorities in both the House and the Senate. The party's success was due to a number of factors. The country had lost faith in President George W. Bush and that unhappiness trickled down to many of the races for the House and Senate. Democrats picked up 31 House seats and five Senate seats.
To add to the Bush decline in popularity there was universal dissatisfaction with the handling of Hurricane Katrina, the war in Iraq and the depressed economy. On top of those negatives came the scandals involving House members and lobbyist Jack Abramoff. And lastly, the threat to reform Social Security and turn it into private investment accounts aroused the anger of millions of senior citizens.
The 2008 election brought about its own tsunami. The nation was tired of having Republicans in the White House and turned to U.S. Senator Barack Obama, whose mantra was "change you can believe in." Obama not only won by a big margin but helped the Democrats to take a commanding margin of control in the Senate and the House.
Two years go by very quickly in politics, and once again the voters have decided it is time for change. Change has come in the form of electing a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Democratic Senate with a small margin of power. Had President Obama been up for re-election, he too might have felt the voters' unhappiness and been voted out of office.
Newly elected and re-elected Republican members of Congress would be wise to pay close attention to the factors that impacted on the two previous elections; if they ignore them they do so at their own peril. Change means creating more jobs, stimulating the growth of new businesses and keeping America a world-class nation.
This year's voters were tired of bitter partisanship and new government programs and are reluctant to pay any more taxes. They think the Obama health plan may harm their existing coverage and will be looking to cut the deficit. They don't want to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan any more, but don't want an early withdrawal of troops.
Marching to their own drummer, many of the Tea Party-backed candidates ran on a platform of eliminating the Department of Education, repealing the Obama health program and pledged to shut down the U.S. government if they can't get their way. Some of the newly elected members of Congress are big on using guns to get their way if all else fails.
The new 2011 Congress and their newly minted Speaker John Boehner should take time out from the Washington happy hours and recognize that there is a wide gap between the issues that gave them the majority and what a restless public will stand for.
For three consecutive elections the voters have asked for change. But change doesn't mean more gridlock, dismantling education programs, reducing health benefits and tinkering with Social Security.
Once upon a time getting elected to any position in Washington was a lifetime job. But these days there is no job security for any House or Senate member. Change is in the eye of the beholder and the real beholder is the voter and not the office holder.
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