We’re finally into 2015, and in political terms we’re entering a new era.

Republicans control Congress for the first time since President Barack Obama was elected (indeed, the party holds more House seats than it has since 1928).

But Obama has decided he isn’t going to let a little detail like a decisive electoral repudiation stand in his way, and since Republicans don’t have 60 votes in the Senate, there doesn’t seem to be much that can stop him.

That we have no way to keep a president from acting like a banana republic’s caudillo is a serious flaw in our constitutional system, only revealed now because previous presidents lived within historic boundaries that Obama freely ignores.

Meanwhile, another post-election lesson worth pondering is why the United States is the only major democracy to allow defeated officeholders to continue to pass laws.

Such “lame-duck” sessions give lawmakers who have been rejected by their constituents the power to continue to legislate.

Whatever that is, it’s not democracy. If you lose, go pack your bags and clean out your office. Leave the lawmaking to the people voters actually want.

It’s also interesting that, with all the rhetoric about race being thrown around in recent months, the first black senator to be elected from south of the Mason-Dixon Line since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, is a Republican.

He is also the only African-American to have been elected to both the U.S. House and Senate.

The GOP also includes the nation’s only Indian-American governors, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina.

And Rep. Mia Love of Utah is the first Republican African-American woman elected to Congress. Could the time someday end when the Congressional Black Caucus is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party?

Indeed, with Sen. Mary Landrieu’s loss in Louisiana, the GOP holds a solid rank of senators across the south, excepting only Virginia and Florida.

Those claiming the GOP gains came because of racial issues overlook not only the people named above, but how the formerly “Solid South” has been substantially overrun by Northerners in recent decades.

People have moved in droves from the Northeast and Midwest rustbelts to follow the lures of better jobs, lower taxes, less crime and warmer weather. Voting patterns shifted after that, not before.

GOP gains in the states also are worth noting. According to the Real Clear Politics website (www.realclearpolitics.com) Republicans hold 68 of 98 partisan-led legislative chambers (the 99th chamber, Nebraska’s unicameral legislature, also has a GOP majority).

The GOP has 23 “trifectas,” states where a party controls both chambers and the governor’s office; Democrats have seven.

Since states are the laboratories where new policies are tried out and failures are exposed (such as the recent demise of single-payer health care in Vermont), a large number of GOP ideas are going to become laws.

In addition, state legislatures are the “farm teams” for national races. With Republicans holding more than 4,100 of the nation’s 7,383 state legislative seats, a lot of talent is available.

But there is another side to “wave elections.” As political scientists at the University of Virginia pointed out on Nov. 11, November’s vote was typical in one key statistic: More than 96 percent of incumbents running for re-election won their races (that’s even above the historic average, which is 92 percent).

We can certainly say that if people like their current officeholders, they are entitled to keep them, and that maintaining a critical mass of experienced pols prevents disruption in the government’s business.

However, those who don’t like the domination of incumbents say that when Congress solidifies into a mass of privilege and insider-driven arrogance, disruption is precisely what’s needed.

We can fight incumbency via term limits. Though there remains some whining about it, it’s hard to say Maine has been ill-served by opening up legislative seats for new blood on a regular basis (remember, the governor’s job is term-limited, too).

And John Martin’s still in Augusta, isn’t he?

But the Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution blocks states (and Congress, too) from imposing term limits on federal officeholders.

So, it would take a constitutional amendment. We did it once: the 22nd Amendment limits a president to two terms. Perhaps we can someday return Congress, too, to the founders’ vision of a legislature of the people instead of professional politicians.

(Yes, there are moves toward calling an “Article V” convention of state legislatures to propose amendments. Its possibilities — and its significant pitfalls — are worth discussing down the road.)

So, here comes 2015, when the Republic careens down a rocky and unknown path, facing desperate challenges at home and abroad.

Or, to put it another way, here comes the new year, same as the old year. I suspect we’ll survive it.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. Email at: [email protected].

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: