Elections have consequences

guest commentary by Clint Reed

Editor's note: Clint Reed is a partner at Impact Management Group and manages the daily operation of our public opinion and political consulting practice areas. He has more than 10 years experience in public opinion, political consulting, and government relations. He is a former regional political director (Southeast) for the Republican National Committee and former executive director of the Republican Party of Arkansas.

As a kid, one of my favorite things every Saturday morning was watching Mid-South Wrestling. It was always filled with theatrics, high drama, and a lot of bad acting. Every week, I could barely contain my excitement when the announcers came on the air yelling and screaming about the week’s match-ups. I was always fond of the Junk Yard Dog. Boy, those were the days.

Sadly, the events of our federal government shutdown remind me of an old Mid-South Wrestling event. Those typically watching along always knew the script: The acting was terrible, and there was always a wrestler getting blindsided with a steel chair by an unknown wrestler coming in from the locker room. In the government shutdown, we all know the script: The acting is terrible, and the American people and the global economy could be blindsided with a steel chair.

Why has America reached such gridlock in Washington? There are no easy answers. And, no, I do not believe any one group is to blame. Typically, when there are no easy answers, the Framers of our Constitution provide a good guide.

Like most of my conservative friends, I believe strongly in a limited government. However, I do not subscribe to the theory of doing away with government.

James Madison was very clear in The Federalist Papers that he believed government was a necessity. He stated, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”

The Framers, I believe, established a system with proper checks and balances to endure the ages and the current political discourse. As fellow Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, or Liberals, we should trust in that and reflect on the exceptionalism of America as a nation.

In 2008, Barack Obama defeated John McCain to establish many firsts in the American electoral process. He began governing by introducing what will be his presidency’s crowning achievement – Obamacare. Obamacare was passed by the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. Barack Obama signed this legislation into law. Along the way, he appointed two new justices to the Supreme Court of the United States. For those who were surprised, confused, or angered by passage of this law, it is important to note that elections have consequences.

In 2012, Mitt Romney made repealing Obamacare the cornerstone of his efforts to defeat the incumbent president. As we all know, Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney.  Lawsuits ensued and the Supreme Court of the United States finally, in large measure, upheld Obamacare. Again, elections have consequences.

Whether you agree or disagree with the legislation on its merits, never forget that the Framers’ developed a process that has served the American system very well. Just because a particular side of an argument does not win a debate, does not mean that our system is flawed or the process has been compromised. We must trust that democracy is working – even if we don’t like it.

There is always another election, but that doesn’t mean we should not work within our democratic system to reform or adjust laws when we can. For example, here in Arkansas, many conservative legislators took what they viewed as bad federal legislation – Obamacare – and tried to make it best for Arkansas. This legislation was known as the Private Option. This legislation passed with supermajorities in both chambers of the Arkansas legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Mike Beebe. Bear in mind, Republicans have majorities in both legislative chambers and Gov. Beebe is a Democrat.

Speaking firsthand, many times it is easy to put “politics” ahead of “policy.” But, we shouldn’t. Here’s why.

I know personally of one middle class family (husband and wife) who are both over 60 years of age but do not yet qualify for Medicare. As they say, “we have spent a lifetime paying our part into the system.”

They are both recently unemployed, have pre-existing conditions, and are tobacco users. Before the private option, they could not get insurance companies to even provide a quote for coverage based on their pre-existing conditions, their age, and tobacco usage. All it would take is for a major healthcare issue to occur to either member of this family, and chances are they would be forced to file bankruptcy.

Now, under the Private Option, this same family will have the opportunity for health insurance at an affordable premium. I believe this is an example of political parties working within the democratic system to achieve something beneficial for all people – not just Democrats or Republicans. There are also countless other local stories of positive outcomes.

The current government shutdown unfortunately is a rerun on the Obamacare debate that occurred for nearly four years between 2008 through 2012. Now, this old debate has spilled into another debate about raising the debt limit. In my comparison to the wrestling match, a government default on our debts would be a blindside with a steel chair to the American people. Again, Congress shouldn’t ever underestimate that the average voter knows the script, is tired of the theatrics, and cannot afford being blindsided economically. Voters are watching, and they are unimpressed.

The Junk Yard Dog and Kamala the Ugandan Giant battled it out one particular Saturday morning for the MidSouth Wrestling Championship Belt. In this particular match, as I recall, Kamala outlasted the Junkyard Dog in a nail-biter. I wasn’t happy with those results. However, the very next Saturday, I honored the outcome of the previous week’s match and was sitting in front of my television set ready to cheer on The Junk Yard Dog. I, again, watched the show.

Our democracy is unique. It’s not perfect, but it works well. We must honor the system even when we lose. Elections have consequences, and they occur every two years.

Voters must continue to honor and participate in the process – even when we don’t like the outcome. No doubt, America is exceptional.