Will Legislative Gridlock Really Help the GOP?

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Do the results of the midterms even matter? Most Americans don’t think so, according to a new ABC News/Yahoo! Poll, 40 percent don’t think the election results will affect the direction of the country, while 34 percent think the outcome will help the country and 21 percent think the outcome will negatively impact the nation. What’s more, 56 percent of those surveyed think that “government gridlock” is a bad thing.

It’s tempting to interpret the survey as a sign that the Republican Party should take heed and not overreach with its newly empowered House majority. “The survey reinforces the notion that Republicans, who rode a wave of public support into the House majority, still have much to prove after being voted out of power in Congress in 2006 and out of the White House in 2008,” The Hill concludes.

But it’s important to remember there has effectively been “government gridlock” ever since the passage of health care  and Wall Street reform. Exceedingly little has happened since then: there’s been an extension of unemployment benefits and a ramped up border enforcement bill that didn’t draw much attention. The Republicans didn’t need to take the House back to jam up the works: they had already pushed the Dems to the brink in the 111th Congress, and skittish Democrats up for re-election refused to take any more heat after the big votes on financial reform and health care.

While Americans may not like the sound of “government gridlock,” it’s already begun. The GOP-driven obstructionism in the next Congress will just be a continuation of the status quo, and if Americans don’t expect much to change in Washington, they’re right. After all, it’s already becoming clear that the GOP’s most radical reforms—like repealing the federal health care law—don’t have a real chance of happening. The GOP-controlled House does promise for more dramatic political showdowns but doesn’t meant they’ll be able to push significant legislation past the Democratic Senate, not to mention the president’s desk.

Activists on both ends of the political spectrum may disappointed that their respective parties won’t have accomplished more by 2012. But if little but the bare-minimum gets done, it’s unclear exactly who middle-of-the-road voters will take to task for federal inaction.

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