“This column was updated at 11:50 a.m. Nov. 14 to correct that Maine will have had two Republican governors in 40 years.”

 

There is a line from an e.e. cummings poem I have always found as intriguing as it is haunting.

It goes like this:

how do you like your blueeyed boy

Mister Death

The reference to dying notwithstanding, I’ve always been attracted to a more simple interpretation of the line. Often, when you get what you believe you want, it’s not what you expected. It’s a cliche, but it’s true: Be careful what you wish for …

In a general sense, Republicans throughout the nation have their blue-eyed boy. They won. They have regained at least part of the country they lost to Barack Obama in 2008.

They control both houses in Maine and, like some other states, now have a man of their party about to become governor.

Depending on where you live in this country, they have either waited a long time for this opportunity or they have suffered for two years after President Obama and those on his coattails swept into power in Washington and elsewhere.

Paul LePage will be the state’s second Republican governor in 40 years. This will be the first time Republicans have controlled both houses of the Legislature since the early 1970s.

So, the question is: How will they translate their rhetoric and indignation into action? Will they shrink government, bring some sense of rationality to spending, and make serious progress toward controlling the suffocating financial burdens that have hamstrung government at virtually every level?

If they cut taxes, or at least hold the line on taxation, will that be sufficient for businesses large and small to resume hiring and start growing?

Will the GOP get on with it, or become paralyzed by petty party politics and the Republican proclivity for whining about Obama and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid?

Recently, Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, advised Obama to stop blaming former President George W. Bush for all of the country’s ills.

He said the ball is now in Obama’s court.

Well, it’s now in the GOP’s court as well.

If they spend so much as one minute, locally and nationally, scapegoating Obama and the Democrats, then Republicans are wasting valuable time that would be better spent advancing their agenda.

Even more than Democrats, Republicans have become the party of whiners, blaming everyone under the sun for their shortcomings.

The excuses are now gone.

The Republicans have the bat, the ball and the glove. It’s time to play ball.

The early signs are not encouraging. Republican leaders such as Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. John Boehner of Ohio seem to be at least as interested in keeping Obama at bay and setting the stage to deny him a second term as they are in using their new majorities to enact meaningful legislation.

Let’s hope these leaders are merely tossing red meat to the anti-Obama throngs among the party faithful and the angry tea party activists who were so helpful to Republican candidates during the 2010 election cycle. Threatening to impose gridlock on the political process is standard operating procedure for the GOP; actually gridlocking government at a time when the electorate has clearly demanded action toward solving the country’s problems would be recklessly self-defeating.

The Republicans could start by modifying their “repeal and replace” strategy on health care. The health care reform bill rammed through Congress by Democrats at the urging of the president is clearly flawed and potentially disastrous in terms of its likely cost to taxpayers, business and the economy — but repeal is not in the cards.

As provisions of the bill that are beneficial to consumers begin to take effect, the law will quickly assume the stature of an entitlement program and will become as untouchable as predecessors such as Social Security and Medicare.

What Republicans should do is use their newly mined power to address the most flagrant flaws in the law and work with the president and Democratic minority to make realistic improvements.

Obama may not fully grasp the severity of the reprimand voters dealt him Nov. 2, but he is politically astute enough to have felt the sting of the electorate’s disapproval. He will veto any attempt to repeal health care reform, but he might go along with reasonable GOP proposals to dial it down.

Both sides need to understand that the message from voters was not “do less,” or “do more.” The message was “do what needs to be done” to improve the economy, put people back to work and address the many problems that defied solution in the final years of the Bush administration and the first 22 months of Obama’s presidency.

The electorate has given Republicans exactly what they asked for: the reins of power, the mantle of leadership. All they have to do now is lead. 

Richard L. Connor is CEO of MaineToday Media and owner of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. A newspaperman for 40 years, he has served on two Pulitzer Prize for Journalism nominating committees. He can be reached at:

[email protected]