The Day After: Where Do We Go From Here?
Thursday, November 6, 2014on
November 4th is behind us, and as the night wore on, we witnessed nothing less than another seismic shift in American politics. The biggest reason why I tell business leaders to get involved in politics was on full display Tuesday night. The GOP had a fairly solid hold on the U.S. Government after the disputed election in 2000. In 2006, the Democrats took control of the House. In 2008, the Democrats took control of everything. In 2010, the pendulum swung back to the GOP. In 2012, it looked like Democrats were ascending again. Tuesday, voters pushed the pendulum back to the right. American voters are deeply dissatisfied with government at the moment – and that might be the biggest understatement I could make. Throughout American history, when the voters are this upset, the populist streak that runs very deep in the hearts of Americans comes to the forefront. Sometimes, this can be a good thing. Right now, looking at the populist movements on both the left and the right, it isn’t necessarily a good thing for business. What does Tuesday night mean for us? In Greenville, our infrastructure and economic development took a major hit with the rejection of the penny sales tax. But overall, it was a good night for business. (A note: The Upstate Chamber Coalition does not have any official position on the legislation we’re about to mention.) The 52-46 GOP majority in the Senate is important for a number of national issues facing business right here in the Upstate. (There are still two races to close to call at the time of writing.) We will assume that without Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tightly controlling the legislative gates to the White House, you will see a number of pieces of legislation begin to move to President Obama’s desk: the Keystone XL Pipeline, expanded energy exports, repealing the medical devices tax, and reform to the Dodd-Frank law. All of this legislation has bi-partisan support in excess of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The one major place where a GOP-controlled Senate would be helpful for business would be reforming the National Labor Relations Board. Presumed incoming majority leader Mitch McConnell told The Hill in September that he would work to “take the politics out” of the NLRB, which would be welcome news for several major South Carolina employers. The NLRB Reform Act, introduced by Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander would increase the number of seats from five to six, so no party can have control, impose time limits for the NLRB to take action, and checking the NLRB General Counsel’s authority by giving parties right to review the General Counsel’s documents in federal district court. The President’s NLRB appointments have been extremely activist and pro-union, so any reform to make it more of an impartial referee in labor disputes would be welcomed. This is something we will probably take a position on in the future, after we can see more details of the reform plan. Back home here in South Carolina, the election exposed the Democratic Party as a shadow of its former self. It was only a little more than a decade ago when the Democrats had the governor’s mansion, four other statewide offices, a majority in the State Senate, and were within striking distance of control of the state House. Wednesday morning, it looked like a barely functioning entity. In full disclosure, I came to the Chamber Coalition from the House Republican Caucus this summer, so you may think this is gloating. It’s not. For a democracy to function, you need a forceful opposition. Democrats charge that you only need an “R” by your name on the ballot to get elected in South Carolina and gerrymandering has locked in Republican dominance. Both certainly play a part, but the Democrats’ are struggling mightily to get their message out to the non-partisan voters. There were seven contested state House races this week, and the GOP took six of the seven. The seventh was former Speaker Bobby Harrell’s seat in Charleston, where there was no Republican on the ballot. Expect the results of that race to go to court in the next few days. So, despite having two sitting members in legal trouble, and the Speaker of the House pleading guilty to campaign finance charges and resigning 10 days before the election, the split of control in the S.C. House will remain the same – or even increase if the GOP is successful in a lawsuit in District 114. I’ll write more about what the next General Assembly looks like for business next month. In the meantime, this is a perfect time for business leaders to look at the election results, from the U.S. Senate seats down to your school board, and see if there are relationships you need to develop. They’ll pay dividends later. As always, if you’re a member of the Greenville Chamber of any of our Upstate Chamber Coalition members, feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about public policy and elections.