by author Nicholas Sheppard
In the last twenty years, there have been three occasions when the Republicans have won national elections, but received less votes than the Democrats.

The direction of the nation would be vastly different, and the progressive legacy so much more profound, if, in each instance, power had simply been granted to the side that won the most votes.

In the 1996 Congressional elections, the House Democrats received 60,000 more votes than the Republicans, but the Republicans remained in the majority, and in control of the legislative agenda.

The Congressional term produced the Balanced budget act and tax relief act of 1997, but beyond that, it was a period of extreme volatility and confrontational politics, personified by Speaker Gingrich, whose management style was so disorganized and unpredictable that within three years, his own lieutenants tried to depose him in a chaotic coup. By the time he was forced out in 1998, many former members say they were terrified to open up the newspaper in the morning, fearful he had said or done that could cause them political heartburn.

If the Democrats had taken back the House – because they got the most votes – the nation would have been spared the dysfunction, and there would have been far less of a sense of the country remaining fundamentally conservative. Although the Republicans would still have retained the Senate, the Democratic House, under Dick Gephardt, would have controlled the legislative agenda, which would have been decidedly more progressive.

In 2000, George W. Bush was eventually inaugerated as President, despite receiving half a million votes less than Al Gore.

If Al Gore had won – because he got the most votes – tax levels would most likely have remained at the moderately progressive levels under Bill Clinton. 9/11 would likely still have happened, although greater heed may have been given to the infamous August memo.

Gore certainly would not have invaded Iraq. (he described the invasion as one of the worst strategic blunders in American history). A trillion dollars and thousands of lives would have been spared, and greater focus, and resources, would have been given to Afghanistan.

Gore would likely have used executive action in response to climate change, and been more liberal on stem cell research, perhaps even fast tracking gene modification to mitigate against conditions such as Alzheimer’s. There would likely have been no gutting of FEMA and no appointment of an ineffective official to head it, increasing the liklihood of a better response to Katrina.

In a broader sense, there would have been the acknowledgement of a full and equal ideological retort to the twelve years of the ‘Reagan Revolution’, and a legitimate claim that the country was moderating away from its oft-claimed conservative leaning. Instead, the illusion of right-wing parity, or preeminence, continued – the Republican party propped up by the quirks of the system rather than by actual numerical superiority at the ballot box.

In the 2012 Congressional elections, The Republicans again retained control of the House, despite receiving less ballots less than the Democrats. This time, they trailed by an astonishing 1.4 million votes. There is no precedent for this – no House ‘majority’ in the history of the Republic has ever governed with less of a public mandate.

If the Democrats had won – because they got the most votes – the Tea Party would be an impotent, fringe group on the periphery of the public discourse. There would have been no 2013 debt ceiling crisis, roiling markets and shaking consumer confidence. There would have been no government shutdown lasting sixteen days, costing the economy a staggering 23 billion dollars and shaving half a point off G.D.P growth. There would not be yet another investigation into Benghazi, after seven prior investigations that concluded no evidence of wrong-doing. There would be no frivolous lawsuit against the president, nor chatter of Impeachment.

With the Senate having passed a bi-partisan Immigration bill with more than two-thirds of the chamber voting yea, the house would, by now, have followed suit, with a final bill coming out of conference, bound for the president’s desk. Substantial Immigration reform would be the law of the land.

And yet, the idea persists that the nation is divided down the middle, and the Republicans have a legitimate mandate to stymie the President’s agenda. If the Democrats were back in control of the House – because they got the most votes – the Tea Party movement would be largely viewed as a momentary reactionary surge, and the Republicans would only have been in control of the chamber for two of the last eight years – having won only one congressional election out of four, reflecting the broader, and more dire context of the Republicans having only won the Presidential popular vote once out of the last six elections.

To put this into perspective, there have been three instances in the last twenty years, when the party that considers society to be a meritocracy, has assumed power without meriting it.

The party that abhors the mindset of getting a medal just for participating, has three times come first, not by winning, but just by participating.

And the party that says you shouldn’t just expect the system to take care of you has three times been taken care of by the system.

The Republicans: Freeloading off the more deserving for twenty years.



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