Now that Republicans control some 56 percent of U.S. House seats and Democrats control 53 percent of Senate seats, get ready for two years of media hand-wringing over the problem of gridlock.
Gridlock sounds like a safe prediction. Most of the Democrats who were sent packing by mid-term voters were moderate Democrats from conservative districts. Many moderate Republicans lost to conservative, Tea Party-backed candidates in their party primaries. President Obama continues to insist that the election was not a repudiation of his big-government policies, but a result of his failure to effectively explain his vision to voters. With a congress filled with ideological liberals and conservatives and a president in denial, bipartisanship appears unlikely, and gridlock is in order.
But gridlock is a "problem" only to those who view the government as our primary problemsolver. If a person looks to government for goodies and guidance, I suppose gridlock does make that person feel like a child who has lost his nanny.
But for those of us who believe the tinkering of Washington busybodies usually does more harm than good, gridlock is something to be celebrated. The more time politicians spend fighting with each other, the less time they'll have to impose any more of their bright ideas on us.
During the past decade, each major political party has had its opportunity to remind us why gridlock is good.
When Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the Presidency, they forgot all about the limited-government philosophy that is supposedly one of their defining qualities. Instead, they increased entitlement spending and joined Democrats in pressuring banks to make home loans to people who couldn't afford the homes they were buying. That piece of bipartisanship went well.
Democrats have been at the wheel for less than two years, but that has been enough time for them to spend even more money than their Republican predecessors and to shove Obamacare down our throats. Americans indicated, in town hall after town hall and in poll after poll, that they didn't want it, but Obama, Reid, and Pelosi responded with the shut-up-we-know-what's-best-for-you arrogance that often accompanies unchecked power.
Republicans claim they've learned their lesson and won't forget their principles this time. For now, I'm inclined to believe them, not only because they know vigilant voters are watching them, but because of what I'll call the Megamind effect.
In the animated movie Megamind (spoiler alert), two superbeings are lifelong rivals. When one appears to have killed the other, it seems the surviving superbeing has it made. Instead, he suffers an identity crisis because being his rival's rival has become his core identity. He copes by creating a new rival to fight.
Republicans forgot their principles when they lacked a Democratic president or congress to oppose. If Democrats didn't exist, Republicans would have to invent them to remind themselves why a limited government that minds its own business is essential. With Obama & Co. as their foil, Republicans should be able to rediscover their discarded principles and spines.
The newly-elected Republicans should view the next two years as a probation period. The voters have handed them the car keys, and if they prove they can stick to their principles, voters just might consider giving them the car as well. Until then, we'll have to rely on gridlock to keep them and Democrats out of our business.
In a speech he delivered at the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference, George Will brilliantly summarized the value of gridlock:
"Now we are plied and belabored with the idea that American gridlock is a terrible problem. Ladies and gentlemen, American gridlock is an American achievement. When the founding fathers went to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, they did not go to create an efficient government. The idea would have horrified them. They wanted a safe government."
This Thanksgiving, don't forget to give thanks for family, for friends, for freedom and for gridlock.