|Mitch McConnell celebrates his re-election and is poised to become Senate Majority Leader|
It was a night which couldn’t have gone much better for the Republicans. All the polls were predicting that the GOP would emerge from these elections in control of both houses of Congress for the first time in eight years, but not many were expecting the results to be so comprehensive. All in all, it was an evening of much celebration for a Republican Party not used to such electoral success, but a night of misery for Barack Obama and the Democrats.
For the Republicans, these elections will provide a much-needed confidence boost for a party which has been dogged by infighting, factionalism and an inability to win votes beyond their electoral base. By taking control of Congress the GOP have the chance to prove that they are ready to govern America, and it is therefore vital that Senate Republicans use their new-found power to provide strong and coherent leadership, not simply to obstruct and block the president at every opportunity.
The man who will determine how the Republican Senate will conduct itself is the new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who overcame a strong challenge from Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes to be re-elected as Senator for Kentucky. In his victory speech, McConnell declared that the elections marked a decisive vote against President Obama’s record, but he also indicated that he would be prepared to co-operate with Democrats in the Senate, stating that the two parties have ‘an obligation to work together’ in the interests of the nation.
Such rhetoric will not endear Senator McConnell to the right-wing Tea Party faction who already hold him in disdain for his relatively moderate views and his public persona as the archetypal Establishment Republican. However, under his leadership the Republican Party will be in safe hands; having represented Kentucky in the Senate since 1985, the 72 year-old McConnell has a meticulous knowledge of Washington and Senate rules and will almost certainly live up to his word as a Majority Leader open to compromise and co-operation.
It was not just in the Senate where the Republicans had a fruitful night; in the House of Representatives, the GOP not only retained control but are now on course to win their largest majority since World War II. Likewise, the keys to governor’s mansions across the nation were handed over to Republican candidates, most notably in the solidly Democratic states of Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois, whilst in the swing-state of Florida the Republican incumbent Rick Scott narrowly defeated his Democratic rival Charlie Crist. These results demonstrate the nature of last night’s results; the Republicans won, and they won big.
Regardless of all this, it would be wrong to see these elections as a solid endorsement of the Republicans. Polls suggest that public disillusionment is at an all-time high, and this extends to both parties. Indeed, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is even more unpopular than President Obama, and so these results should be interpreted as more of an anti-politics vote than a solid GOP mandate.
These facts make the need for co-operation and bipartisanship even more crucial, particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential elections. The Republicans cannot rest on their laurels over the next two years, but instead must take advantage of the opportunity they have been given to provide the USA with much-needed political leadership.