Monday, November 10, 2014

Democrats hit by Newton’s apple

    The political Einsteins are flexing their brows over Nov. 4: They cite President Obama's failure, Dems' fecklessness, Republicans' vision and efficacy, Mitch McConnell's savoir faire. Egads.

   Sports fans: Is there anything more grating than The Wave? Imagine one that is confined to those in the box seats.

   Celebrate they can. Yes, stretch those legs and those arms. The Superior Dance is in order.

   However, let's not overanalyze that which can be explained with two theorems – one in political science and one in physical science.

   The physics first: Newton's third law says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

    Action: The nation elected Obama twice, smiting those who demonized him from the moment he first strode on-stage.

     Reaction: To these bitter defeats, one should have expected fulsome off-year responses. We've now seen two. Why expect anything else, especially from a GOP base that never even accepted this president's legitimacy as an American? Reaction is what reactionaries do.

  Now for the political science theorem, which goes thusly: In a low-turnout election, the advantage goes to the antis, the angries, the negatory vote.

  Simply put, when few people vote, the ones who have a blood oath to do so will, and those who have no grievance won't.

   Low turnout? Not only was it low, it was historically low -- an estimated 37 percent of registered voters -- the most pitiful turnout since 1942. (And just what GOP chieftains wished for.)

   There seems to be some disagreement as to whether to call this a wave election. Some analysts say, no, it's just what one can expect, certainly not a tidal endorsement of a party on the "outs" nationally. The distinction is immaterial.

    Call it a wave.

    Hauling Isaac Newton back into the discussion, nothing else could have been expected. For when it comes to action fit to unleash a tidal reaction, Obama and the Democrats issued one of asteroidal size in 2010: the Affordable Care Act.

    Big? It's the biggest health-care initiative in our history. Medicare was for seniors. The ACA is for young and old. Medicaid is for the poor. The ACA is for those with enough money to live but not enough to afford health coverage.

   Controversial? Nothing this seismic could come without angst and anger, and quite a few screw-ups. Name your game-changing national adventure -- World War II, the space race, the civil rights movement – each had its debacles and disasters, and of course political trials.

   Indeed, the political ramifications are uncannily reminiscent of what emanated after Congress eviscerated Jim Crow with the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act.

   Lyndon Johnson acknowledged that he and his party lost a lot of political capital to the forces of social stasis and obstruction. After Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan exploited antipathy to such federal audacity, that anger became a political force unto itself. And so it remains.

   Speaking of political capital: As Johnson did with civil rights, what Obama has done with health care has benefited people with almost no political coin, while infuriating those with every advantage imaginable.

   So, too, Obama has done by standing up for gay rights. So, too, by deferring deportation of children of undocumented individuals. So, too, by challenging big oil and big coal in favor of alternatives that don't enrich those who've called the shots politically since the Rockefellers

    As with 2012, the 2014 election was a tip of the top hat to that grand old tradition, now embodied by the Koch brothers.

    A wave? Oh, yeah. A comeuppance for an activist president? Indeed.

    History will say that this is the price of a historic action. As for the next general election, when far more Americans are paying attention, we'll await history's verdict.

     Longtime newspaper editor John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

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