Editor's note: Sen. John Thune, a Republican, represents South Dakota and serves as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.
(CNN) -- Two years ago, shortly after Barack Obama won his historic election and Democrats were in control of both chambers of Congress, I was asked what I thought the next two years would hold for the country.
My response then is the same one I give today -- elections have consequences.
This past Tuesday, the American people sent President Obama and congressional Democrats an unmistakable message -- stop what you are doing. In fact, Americans have been delivering this message for nearly two years, but Democrats in Washington chose to turn a deaf ear to the American people while voter anxiety and frustration grew.
When Democrats took charge of the federal government two years ago in the midst of a severe recession, their priority should have been to fix the economy so people can find jobs. But President Obama, following Rahm Emanuel's advice to never let a good crisis go to waste, proceeded to jam through one expensive policy after another. He succeeded only in strangling job-creation and piling up dangerous levels of national debt.
Rather than working with Republicans on policies to jump-start the economy, the president took up the wish list of liberal Democrats and special-interest groups: Policies like the cap-and-trade energy tax, a government takeover of health care, labor union giveaways, federal ownership of industry and a bloated stimulus bill that grew the size of government while the private sector continued to shed jobs.
Look at health care for example. Rather than produce a bipartisan bill that would lower costs for families and businesses, the Democrats jammed through a widely unpopular and partisan government health care law loaded with job-killing taxes on businesses, which directly impact their workers. The Congressional Budget Office concluded that the Democrats' law will probably cause employers to hire fewer low-wage workers.
Or look at the left's coveted cap and trade energy tax, which Democrats tried but failed to make into law. A study by the National Association of Manufacturers projected that the policy would result in up to 2.44 million fewer jobs in 2030, with as many as 740,000 fewer manufacturing jobs.
Terrible policies like those would be bad enough on their own, but Democrats were pushing those ideas at the same time they were pushing government spending through the roof.
Washington's discretionary spending shot up by almost 20 percent over the past two years, a time when inflation was a little over 1 percent. When American families were tightening their belts, their government went on a spending spree. Democrats borrowed this money, leaving record high deficits. This rate of reckless spending sets us on a dangerous course toward a national debt of more than $20 trillion just five years from now.
These priorities advanced by President Obama and congressional Democrats were not the priorities of the American people. The actions taken by Democrats were not what the American people had voted for.
Two years into the Obama experiment of more government, higher taxes, runaway spending and exploding debt, the American people have had enough.
Democrats in Washington have been suggesting that Tuesday's losses were simply a result of their inability to effectively communicate President Obama's accomplishments. That is just another way of saying that the voters were not listening closely enough.
Once again, the Democrats have it precisely backward. The problem lies not with the American people's failure to appreciate and understand President Obama's policies, but with the president's failure to listen to the American people.
Over the past two years, Republicans have listened. Republicans held town hall meetings while Democrats ran from them. Republicans heard the messages of anger and frustration. We understand that the American people want Washington to grow the economy rather than grow government.
Republicans know the importance of keeping taxes low and the absurdity of raising taxes on the same small businesses that we look to for job creation. Republicans are ready to hold the line on Washington spending and start to pay down the crippling debt, so our children and grandchildren have a chance at a better life.
But just as the actions of Democrats over the past two years had consequences on Tuesday, elections have consequences, too. It is clear that the American people want Washington to move this country in a different direction.
For our part, Republicans are ready to govern on behalf of the people who are struggling in this economy. It is my sincere hope that President Obama and the remaining Democrats in Congress will join Republicans and start to take action on behalf of the American people and their priorities.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sen. John Thune.