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The 2016 general election has been a big win for the Republican Party. Not only did Donald Trump beat out Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House, but the Republicans managed to hold on to both houses, as well. Even though there was a lot of concern in the Republican Party that they might lose control of the Senate and possibly even the House of Representatives, they have managed to maintain that control, with a very strong majority in the latter chamber.
This is the first time in quite a few years that we’ve seen Republicans gain control over two of the branches of government. With the need for Trump to nominate a Supreme Court replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, this could actually give the Republicans control over all three branches of government. That’s even more than Obama had in his first two years of office.
Trump’s win can be largely attributed to the conservative vote. Throughout his campaign, he shifted more and more conservative on the substantive issues. This brought out many conservatives to vote who wouldn’t have bothered leaving their homes for someone like Jeb Bush or Chris Christie.
But the question that faces the country now is: What does that mean?
When Obama took office with a Democratic-controlled Congress, he made good use of it, crafting and pushing through the massive Obamacare law. This law passed along purely partisan lines, with all Democrats voting for it and all Republicans voting against. Quite literally, it was shoved down the country’s throats, and has become a large part of Obama’s legacy.
Many people were upset about Obamacare, especially middle-class conservatives. Republican lawmakers responded to this by going to the voting public, complaining that their hands were tied – that they couldn’t do anything because the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. So, the voters gave the Republicans control of the House in 2010.
Yet nothing happened. Republican lawmakers still complained, because the Democrats controlled the Senate. So, once again voters made their voices heard, giving control of the Senate to Republicans in 2014. So, for the last two years, the Republican Party has had control of both houses of Congress. What do we have to show for that? Nothing.
Basically, Washington has been in gridlock for the last six years. People on both sides of the political spectrum have said that Congress wasn’t earning their keep, although the loudest voices have come from those on the left. Their idea of Congress doing its jobs is for Congress to do whatever President Obama told them to do. But that’s not Congress’ job.
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Even so, time after time, we’ve seen the Republican-controlled Congress cave to Obama’s wishes, often after clearly stating that it wouldn’t. His threats to shut down the government, as he did in 2013, were enough to make them cave every time. Republican lawmakers were more interested in avoiding bad press than they were in doing what their constituents wanted.
But now, things are different. Now there will be a Republican in the White House. Republicans have control of both houses of Congress and don’t have to worry about President Obama’s veto pen. They should be able to go forward, passing legislation and giving the American public the change they are demanding.
The big question is, will they do so?
The Republicans have been feeding us a steady diet of excuses for years now. Well, those excuses have been eliminated. So now it’s up to them to do what they’ve said and fulfill the promises they made on the campaign trail. If they don’t, they’ll prove themselves to be nothing more than a bunch of charlatans who are living off the government dime.
There is one big problem facing the Republican Congress: They are divided. Not all Republicans are conservatives, and many of them are moderates. So while they tout themselves as being the party of the conservatives, they really aren’t. All too often, enough Republicans vote with the left to give that side control.
So now is a time of consolidation. Trump and the congressional leadership need to be working on getting their ducks in a row. While I don’t advocate the entire party marching in lockstep, it’s time for them to stand together. If any real change is going to be made in the federal government, it’s going to have to happen in the next two years, before the next election.
This is where you and I come in. We’ve done half our job, putting them in office. Now it’s time for us to do the other half of our job — keeping them accountable. We need to be like hawks, looking over the shoulders of our elected representatives and making sure they do their jobs. More than that, we need to tell them what their job is.
What I mean by that is that we need to be contacting their offices on a regular basis, letting them know where we stand on the issues. (Find the contact information for your representative here, and for your senator here.) Every lawmaker’s office tracks those calls and e-mails, so that they know what their constituency believes. Every lawmaker is briefed on those figures, especially when it’s time to vote. They know that their continued employment rides on the votes of those constituents, and even though that may conflict with their financial supporters at times, they can’t ignore it.
Trump was voted in as president because people wanted change. We, the American people, the silent majority, are tired of the direction the country has been going in the last few years. So we made our voice heard. That doesn’t mean we can crawl back into the woodwork and hide. If we want the government to do our will, we’re going to have to continue making our voices heard.
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