As a new Congress is seated, one that has a tidy GOP majority in the House and a slimmer Democratic majority in the Senate, one of the big questions will be -- what do the people want? John Boehner and Eric Cantor have made much of the fact that the GOP won "big" -- that is won the House in the most recent election. This, they believe, gives them a mandate to undo all the bad things the Democrats did in the last Congress, which in their opinion the American people didn't want. Well, if I remember correctly, in the previous (2008) election, the American people gave the Democrats, at least for a time, a fillibuster proof majority in the Senate, and an overwhelming advantage in the House -- plus they gave the White House to the Democrats. So, you would have thought that 2008 gave the Democrats a mandate. But, if you thought that -- according to Republicans -- you would be wrong.
The way the Republicans seem to look at the 2008 elections is very different. Consider that they keep on insisting, quoting Sean Hannity almost verbatim, that the Democrats "shoved down the throats of the American People" a health bill they didn't want. Truth be told -- the poll numbers are much more complicated than many have been led to believe. A sizable number don't like the Bill because it doesn't go far enough -- that is, they didn't like the compromise. But if you take those who want a better, more far reaching bill, plus those who like the fact that a Bill got passed, and put them together you have a majority of Americans who favor government involvement in health care -- because they don't like the former system (now being fazed out). Oh, and if they didn't want health care reform why did the American voters overwhelmingly support President Obama's bid for office. I seem to remember him saying quite clearly that one of his top agenda points was health care reform! Maybe I misheard him, but I think he made that clear in a debate with John McCain.
Then there's the tax issue. The Tea Party folks, which in my mind still seems to be a small but very loud minority, wants you to believe that all taxes are bad and that we should make the government really small -- sort of like it was at the beginning, back when Thomas Jefferson was advocating pretty much unfettered freedom. What people seem to forget was that Jefferson came out of an Agrarian context much different from today. When the Republic was founded the Industrial Age had yet to even hit America. Folks -- things have changed a lot since 1800!
People want services. They want safe food, they want safe roads and streets, they want quality health care at an affordable price, they want good schools, but they're not thrilled about paying for them. Read just the other day that a majority of Americans want taxes raised on the wealthiest Americans before budget cuts are made.
So, Republicans, watch out -- you may be claiming the mantle of the people, but the people may have already moved on!