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The Self-Balancing Act of the U.S. Government

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

The election of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate shows the fickle nature of American voters

 

 

Hello.

The recent special election of Republican Scott Brown to be the junior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, is being interpreted many ways by many different people.

It is either a repudiation of President Obama's health care plan , which was supported by Ted Kennedy who held the seat for more than 40 years, or it's a statement of how bad a campaign the Democratic nominee ran.

It may actually be a little of both.

But what I find fascinating is the ever-restless nature of the American voter and further confirmation of what incredible geniuses we had, who created our system of government.

Just one year ago, Barack Obama swept into office, defeating many long-time politicians including Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He had long coat-tails, carrying into office enough U.S. Senators to get the required 60 Democratic votes, that would make it possible for the Democratically-controlled Senate to do pretty much anything it wanted in terms of legislation.

After eight years of George W. Bush, America was ready for a change, and that's exactly what Barack Obama promised.

If you believe the Massachusetts results indicate a dissatisfaction with Mr. Obama's work so far, it's amazing what a difference a year can make.

Almost every president in the past century - no matter how popular -- has lost seats in the House and the Senate during mid-term elections, which take place just two years into his Presidency. In just that amount of time, a President can go from being the most popular person in the country, to a scapegoat.

If we had congressional elections every four years instead of two, the population's unrest with a particular President could boil over into revolution and anarchy.

But because all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the U.S. Senate must stand for re-election every two years, it serves as a pressure relief valve for public sentiment. The President gets his four years to try to do what he wants to do, and U.S. Senators get six-years to try to calm the waters and keep things moving forward. I pity the members of the House who must be in an almost-continual state of running for re-election.

But the public gets a chance to weigh in on national issues once every two years, helping to keep Presidents in touch with the public sentiment and perhaps even allowing them to make mid-course corrections.

The amazing thing is how self-balancing and self-regulating our system of government is. Some might say it keeps the President and Congress in a constant state of gridlock, making immediate, radical changes almost impossible. I guess I would say that while I'd like to see immediate, radical change on many things in this country -- such as an end to wide-spread poverty and the hopelessness it engenders -- those things cannot be made to happen by legislation alone.

And having a government that must, by it very nature, move slowly, carefully and methodically, and not cast about from one extreme to the other, is a very good thing indeed.

That's this week's editorial.

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