"If you hadn’t heard that there was an election Tuesday, then let us fill you in. The Republicans, riding a wave of populist support, gained about 70 seats in the House of Representatives, and a few seats in the Senate. The results are being interpreted as a rebuke of the Obama administration’s polices and the Democrat’s legislative record.
"That said, the returns will be spliced, diced and rehashed incalculable times in the coming days as the right tries to record its win in the political playbook and the left asks themselves what went wrong. Many people are bound to interpret the shakeup in different ways. To some, like the president, this will be remembered as a "shellacking." For others, this is a vindication of conservative values—a reclamation of America as a center-right nation.
"We at The Oswegonian want to look at the bigger picture. This was a win for the Constitution.
"What do we mean by that? Regardless of which party came out ahead or which officials are up and which are down, the election told us something more profound about our American system: that it works. In January, there will be a bloodless revolution in the leadership of the national legislature. There are many countries that cannot make such a boast, much less say it has been a regular part of their history for over 200 years.
"The Tea Party was a group expressing popular anger with the direction and behavior of government. Whatever else you think of the Tea Party, their anger was a valid expression of their political will. World history shows that a society cannot endure for too long with the unrepresented, unredressed anger of a significant and vocal portion of the citizenry. Though the French Revolution began after the Constitution was ratified, our founders learned its lessons. Hungry, angry, voiceless people do not stay low for long. Their energy can be channeled one of two ways—in democratic agitation or in revolt.
"The framers, taking a page from Edmund Burke, chose the democratic option because they knew from experience just how damaging revolution was to the social and political fabric. It is damn-near arson.
"More than 200 years later, they are still being proven right. The Republicans took control of the House, which is the lower chamber of Congress. The framers meant for it to be the common-person’s chamber. So it is appropriate that this popular anger first finds an establishment voice there. They designed the Senate to be much more traditional and to act as, by Washington’s own characterization, "the saucer into which we pour legislation to cool." The brilliance is that the Senate’s inertia checks the House’s fury.
"But where the House cannot act without the Senate, the Senate, likewise, needs the House as its second leg to stand on. The lower chamber alone can get the ball rolling on bills which appropriate money. And that was the Tea Party’s main gripe anyway, that the government was spending too much, too quickly. Now, from the established safety of the Capital they can compromise on how best to redress that complaint.
"Rather they should do it there than on the street-corners and in the public squares. The endorsing force of election has legitimized that popular anger. But it has something more than that; it has given it an establishment voice and absorbed it into the system. The genius of this systematic inclusion of popular sentiments that it stops the simmering of radical undercurrents from boiling over into full-fledged revolutions. The American democratic system instead invites the people to make the limited and appropriate changes they seek.
"So as pundits prattle away about this party’s defeat or that politician’s ascendancy, we choose to take the long view. In this election, our American system most definitely rose to the challenge of keeping a united citizenry.