Election post-mortems

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The Wall Street Journal editorializes:

In the sixth year of a two-term Presidency, Americans rebuked Republicans on Capitol Hill who had forgotten their principles and a President who hasn't won the Iraq war he started. While a thumping defeat for the GOP, the vote was about competence, not ideological change.

This is not to minimize the Democrats' victory, which they deserve to savor after several frustrating election nights. Credit in particular goes to Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer, who led the House and Senate efforts to pick candidates who could win in GOP-leaning states. Their leaders, notably Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi, also kept in check their ideological ambitions to make Tuesday a referendum on Republican governance. It was a shrewd strategy.

All the more so because the GOP gave them so much ammunition. By our count, at least eight GOP House seats fell largely due to scandal; campaign-finance ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff probably cost Conrad Burns his Senate seat in Montana. These columns have spent several years warning Republicans that their overspending, corrupt "earmarks" and policy drift would undermine their claim as the party of reform. On Tuesday they did.

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, architect of the 1994 revolution, points to the Republican caucus' shift from principle to powermongering:

For most Republican candidates, fiscal responsibility is our political bread and butter. No matter how voters view other, more divisive issues from abortion to stem-cell research, Republicans have traditionally enjoyed a clear advantage with a majority of Americans on basic pocketbook issues. "We will spend your money carefully and we will keep your taxes low." That was our commitment. This year, no incumbent Republican (even those who fought for restraint) could credibly make that claim. The national vision--less government and lower taxes--was replaced with what Jack Abramoff infamously called his "favor factory." One Republican leader actually defended a questionable appropriation of taxpayer dollars, saying it was a reasonable price to pay for holding a Republican seat. What was most remarkable was not even the admission itself, but that it was acknowledged so openly. Wasn't that the attitude we were fighting against in 1994?

Armey chides Republicans in Washington for a loss of nerve in pursuing important reforms, such as allowing individuals to own their retirement accounts. He points to welfare reform as a model:

They missed the opportunity of a lifetime by failing to embrace retirement security based on personal ownership. Instead, from both parties we heard about "saving Social Security"--to the extent we heard anything at all. Republicans should be for reforms that free individuals and their families from failed government programs. We should not be for "saving" failed government programs. When we took on welfare reform in 1995, we knew we were taking on a Goliath. Once we threw the first rock, we knew we had to finish the job. Otherwise, the worst claims of our opponents would have stuck with us in future elections. With legislative success, the horrible accusations of our opponents were replaced with reduced welfare roles, and the individual dignity and self-sufficiency that naturally followed....

We need to remember Ronald Reagan's legacy and again stand for positive, big ideas that get power and money out of politics and government bureaucracy and back into the hands of individuals. We also need again to demonstrate an ability to be good stewards of the taxpayers' hard-earned money. If Republicans do these things, they will also restore the public's faith in our standards of personal conduct. Personal responsibility in public life follows naturally if your goal is good public policy.

Marvin Olasky wonders about the long-term success of the Democrat outreach to evangelicals:

Will Democratic leaders take seriously evangelical concerns, or will they be like those who last year held a seminar at the University of California, Berkeley entitled, "I Don't Believe in God, But I Know America Needs a Spiritual Left"?

It will be fascinating to watch Democrats trying to make their tent bigger without alienating their Christophobic base. I hope they succeed, because America could use two parties that respect Biblical belief, so that evangelicals aren't captive to one.

Ace of Spades reacts to Sen. Tom Coburn's statement:

Half of this election was lost due to Republicans not being more proactive in preventing and rooting out corruption. The other half was lost due Republicans spending like drunken Democrats in a misguided attempt to buy the public's support.

Don't get into a spending contest with Democrats; you'll always lose.

A commenter at JunkYardBlog compares the Republican Party with the Contemporary Christian Music industry: And See Dubya responds to accusations that the Republicans lost because Evangelicals stayed home.

Club for Growth's Andrew Roth links to a clip from Sunday's 60 Minutes about Rep. Jeff Flake's battle against earmarks.

Roth also reports that Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, a budget hawk, will seek the leadership of the House Republican Caucus. In his announcement, Pence wrote:

Our opponents will say that the American people rejected our Republican vision. I say the American people didn't quit on the Contract with America, we did. And in so doing, we severed the bonds of trust between our party and millions of our most ardent supporters.

NYC radio host Kevin McCullough has a six-part series on the election aftermath, including a review of damage done by initiatives passed around the country. He argues that we should be happy that the pivotal figure in the U. S. Senate is no longer Jim Jeffords but Joe Lieberman. And he says it was a mistake for the RNC to run this as a national campaign -- seats could have been saved if local issues had been made the focus. I think he has a point, and it reveals how power has corrupted the congressional Republican message. In the '80s, Democrats delayed the impact of the Reagan Revolution on the Congress by means of gerrymandering and by playing local politics better than the GOP. The nationalization of a congressional election worked in '94 because Republicans in Congress had a coherent vision and the Democrats in Congress didn't. This time neither congressional party had a coherent vision to sell.

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4 Comments

Tyson Wynn said:

Great post, Michael, but I think you mean Mike Pence. Feel free to delete this comment...

Thanks, Tyson. I crossed his name with Tim Penny, another budget hawk who used to represent Minnesota in Congress.

TulipGirl said:

I was skimming your blog tonight and then had to do a double-take. . . I saw my name! *grin*

Twatch said:

For the first time, I feel the threads of the Republican Party seam popping. The following quote of a local Blogger named "Anonymous" sums up my point.
"...I think that your position, Chris, is one of the reasons that you are now an ex politician, or ex public servant....whatever. I don't even consider you a Tulsan. And you may think you are a populist, but, to most Mid Towners, you are just a bottom feeding blowhard...."

Paul Tay said:

I remember Bates' New Rules for governing: Rule #1: Once in office, run it like it's the LAST office you'll ever run in your stinkin' crummy LIFE. Rule #2: See Rule #1.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 9, 2006 5:01 PM.

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