Let the Hillary campaign begin in earnest! These midterm elections have given us a great preview. The last six months have been, if nothing else, an immense Democratic drag show. They have run football quarterbacks, medal-festooned veterans, pro-life moderates. Every liberal facial tick has been suppressed. Every left-of-center blemish cosmetically disguised. Surely this responsible, reasonable visage of Democratic sanity was a dress rehearsal for the look and style of Senator Clinton’s 2008 masquerade. Our challenge for the next two years will be to pull the mask off this charade and bring the Democrats’ worst habits and inclinations back to the forefront of American politics. We need to stir the pot, resurrect their favorite boogeymen, and stoke the fires beneath Barbara Boxer and Bobby Byrd. How about raising the specter of a Cheney presidential run? Or a whisper campaign advocating presidential pardons for Jeff Skilling and Bernie Ebbers? What about election-reform legislation that offers a big, fat, no-bid contract to Diebold? George Soros call your office. Your party — and ours — needs you.
– Daniel Casse is senior director of the White House Writers Group.
The short answer to that question is that the American electorate just took the Republicans to the woodshed. While the loss doesn’t stack up against some of the midterm “waves” of the past, the loss of at least the House and potentially the Senate makes this cycle a historical event. I don’t recall the last time Congress changed hands in the middle of a war, and it’s plain from the election that voters had that in mind when they gave control to the Democrats.
Another thing that happened was that Americans finally got involved in a non-presidential election. Final numbers won’t be known for a day or two, but it appears that voter turnout was significantly higher than four years ago. We have hailed Karl Rove as a master at GOTV efforts, but apparently the Democrats learned from three successive losses to their bete noir. The Republicans turned out, but the Democrats appear to have bested them.
The Democrats do have a challenge in front of them. Now that they control at least the House, they have to actually govern, a responsibility they haven’t had in 12 years. They have two years to convince the electorate that they belong in power. If they get too radical, the lack of a Bush backlash will mean those same seats will return to the GOP in 2008.
— Edward Morrissey blogs at Captain’s Quarters .
My early thoughts include real regret that more Pennsylvania voters didn’t realize that their self-interest dictated a vote for an incumbent senator who had delivered for them. There are plenty of trimmers; Rick Santorum’s principles and passion will be missed. Unfortunately, a really tough year doesn’t discriminate between the talented and the tedious.
During the “Iraq War Midterms,” Republicans were going to lose seats this year but could have limited the damage. I predict that in the future they will police their ranks and lean on the crooks and cheats in their midst to step aside. If it is true that “corruption” was a top concern for voters, Republicans could have insulated themselves some by delivering on ethics reform. Maybe they will learn that there are worse things than giving up their perks — like giving up their majority.
Democrats are the party of government — as we will now be reminded. Republicans lost the mantle of being reformers when they became so darn comfortable running things and seemed to be only concerned with keeping things that way.
Many conservatives appeared to be detached from the political troubles of President Bush that put his fellow Republicans in trouble. With conservatives also discouraged about the progress in Iraq, there wasn’t much rallying to the defense of “their guy.” That might have been different had he vetoed a few big spending bills or led the fight for border security. I hope his future explanations about his intent with respect to Iraq are more strategic than stubborn.
– Kate O’Beirne is NR’s Washington editor.
John J. Pitney Jr.
Scholars and journalists tend to assume that Republicans are more disciplined and unified than Democrats. That assumption has a shaky foundation. According to data from Congressional Quarterly, the two parties have comparable levels of unity on congressional roll calls. And if you’re looking for nasty internal conflicts, ponder the tong wars that led House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to quit their posts.
GOP disunity was on display during the 2006 campaign, and contributed to the party’s defeat. More and more Republicans tried to sidle away from President Bush’s Iraq policy. They never did get together on what to do about overspending or immigration. When the Foley scandal broke, they openly squabbled over who knew what and when.
Woodrow Wilson might have been describing them when he wrote: “They are like armies without officers, engaged upon a campaign which has no great cause at its back. Their names and their traditions, not their hopes and policy, keep them together.”
The myth of GOP unity will take a further pounding in the weeks ahead as Republicans bicker over their losses and fight over their devalued leadership posts.
– John J. Pitney Jr. is Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College.
The great moment of the evening was Joe Lieberman’s victory. By running and winning as an independent, he made history and becomes the leader of the vital center/ Scoop Jackson tradition in American politics.
The Republicans suffered a massive defeat because the voters rejected their politics of polarization and mismanagement of the war. Republican leadership in Washington became ossified and corrupt. And this time the old politics of wedge issues did not work for the GOP.
This election was a tale of two cities: New Orleans and Baghdad. Republicans failed in both places. Indeed, this election was more about competence than ideology.
This country remains reasonably conservative. And many of the House Democrats who were victorious are moderate conservatives. These centrists will ensure that the Democrats do not move too far to the left.
The result of this election should not be interpreted as a vindication of the anti-war forces. The great frustration of the electorate appears to be that this administration has no victory strategy.
There is a need for a politics of the New Patriotic Center to emerge to both bring this country together and win the war. Polarization is passé.
– Marshall Wittmann is the famous Beltway Moose.