Dear Reader (and the folks who skip right over this gag because it’s reached the point of diminishing returns like a third nipple),
No doubt you’ve been pacing the floor like an expectant father with the clap for my take on the elections. Well, here ya go.
I basically agree with Jim Geraghty. “In short,” he wrote on Twitter, “this is the most frustrating overwhelming landslide victory of all time.”
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t buy much of the hand-wringing over the Senate stuff. I always thought that winning the Senate would be something of a poisoned chalice. It would allow Obama to go all Harry Truman on the GOP’s “do nothing” Congress while still allowing him to veto all the significant legislation. Meanwhile, GOP gains in the Senate were far from meager (I think, as a percentage increase, the Senate gains would be even bigger, but I have to check that with my math intern, and he’s busy dancing to an organ grinder for nickels). But given how high expectations were, particularly in my own mind, it feels like a slight letdown. In particular, the fact that Harry Reid wasn’t dragged out of the Senate like Randolph and Mortimer Duke in Trading Places is a great letdown.
But the simple fact is that if you went into a coma a few months ago and woke up the day after the elections, you would be shocked to discover that the world had been all but destroyed by a zombie outbreak. Of course, that’s only true if you woke up inside the storyline of AMC’s Walking Dead. If you stayed in this universe, however, and woke up today, you would say, “Holy schnikes, the Democrats got beaten like an overly aggressive mime in a biker bar.”
I remain a big fan of the Tea Parties and I still believe quite strongly that they have been an incontrovertible net benefit for the GOP and the country. But I don’t think we can honestly say that they didn’t have a downside. A slightly more mainstream but still quite conservative candidate would probably have beaten Reid. Mike Castle almost surely would have beaten Coons and, more importantly, a better but still quite conservative primary challenger would have been preferable to Castle and Angle. I’ll leave it to Geraghty and the psephologists to tell us whether any House races were harmed because of the Tea Parties, but my hunch is that for every one that was plausibly hurt by them, many, many more were helped.
The WFB Formula Is Restored
In short, despite all of the flack and the arguments from a couple months ago, I am forced to conclude that the Buckley rule still seems the most sound: vote for the most conservative candidate electable.
Now, I will concede that’s hardly an easily applied rule of thumb like, say, “Never try to tickle a wolverine when it’s eating.” But I think reasonable people understand that electability is a perfectly valid factor to consider and not impossible to apply, either. (Heads up: Bill McGurn and I briefly argue about this in the next Ricochet podcast.)
A Welcome Blow to Triumphalism
I think Ramesh made a very good point in the Corner yesterday: “Republican victories last night were amazing judged by any standard other than that of the inflated expectations some conservatives had in the days leading up to the election. But the upside of the high-profile disappointments Republicans have just experienced is that they will nip any triumphalism in the bud. If Republicans had swept all before them, they would have entered the 2012 cycle overconfident. Now they’re more likely to remember that picking strong candidates matters, merely standing for conservative principles is not enough to guarantee success, and no cycle is good enough to justify making unforced errors.”
Bipartisanship, Here We Come
One irony of Tuesday’s results: The Senate will become more bipartisan. Manchin has to work closely with Republicans or he will violate every campaign promise he made — and he’s up for reelection not in six years but in two. Lieberman and Nelson will work with Republicans, too, and I don’t think the list ends there. There were already a bunch of Democrats in the Senate who were for extending the Bush tax rates (stop calling them Bush tax cuts!).
And now, via John Miller in the Corner, look at all the Senate Dems up for reelection in 2012:
Welcome to the 2012 election cycle. The three most vulnerable Democratic senators in 2012 are probably Bill Nelson of Florida, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Jon Tester of Montana. Republicans also may target Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Jim Webb of Virginia, Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin. Retirement watch: Dianne Feinstein of California (age in 2012: 79), Daniel Akaka of Hawaii (88), Nelson of Nebraska (71), and Kohl (77).
Nebraska, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Montana, Michigan: Those are all anti-Obama/Republican states right now. Something tells me some of those senators might be more willing to triangulate to the center than the president of the United States seems to be.
The Death of Conservatism’s Death
One last point, just because the Tea Party came out a bit more tarnished than I would have liked, at the Senate level: The 2010 election is pretty much a resounding repudiation of many of the macro arguments made by folks like Sam Tanenhaus, David Frum, and others. Health-care reform was not a “Waterloo“ for Republicans, nor were Republicans “too optimistic” about November. Florida was not a “spectacular bloodbath” for the GOP.
Meanwhile, Tanenhaus’s eulogy for conservatism is the intellectual equivalent of “Dewey Beats Truman” at this point.
And Tuesday wasn’t so much the proof as the final confirmation. Contrary to all sorts of predictions, electing a social conservative governor in Virginia wasn’t a disaster for the GOP. Indeed, even the Washington Post concedes that Virginians dig their new Republican government. McDonnell was a both/and candidate, not an either/or one. Rich Lowry was making this point a year ago.
Various & Sundry
One of the staple observations of conservatism is that one of the staple tactics of liberalism is incremental tyranny. Yes, conservatives can sometimes overdo this diagnosis, just as liberals can sometimes underestimate the dangers of their own do-goodery. That points to one of the great disadvantages for conservatives in public debates: We end up making a big deal out of little things because of our rational fear they will turn into big things.
For instance: No one will ever say, “From my cold dead hands, you can take my Happy Meals!” But the pursuit of “food justice” has the potential of being profoundly tyrannical. The problem is that by the time we get there (and “if” we get there) we’ll have conceded all of the principled objections to it.
My USA Today column: here.
My syndicated column: here.
Fun anti-Olbermann gloating: here.
And me at the Enterprise Blog on Obama’s press conference: here.
Media Update 1: In-Depth
Just one last reminder: I’ll be on C-Span/BookTV’s In Depth this Sunday for three hours. I don’t expect folks to miss football on all the post-election Sunday shows. But if you could just clog up the phone lines so all of the Julian Assange-loving freaks who plan on calling in to give me hard time can’t get on, that would be great. Oh, and let’s create a password if G-File readers get on. No Howard Stern-style “Baba Booey” stuff. How about just a polite “Carthage must be destroyed” or “Excelsior”? Oh, and you can suggest questions here.
Media Update 2
I am scheduled to be on the All-Star Panel tonight on Special Report.
(Social) Media Update 3
I am still trying to maintain a Twitter presence. I am also trying to beat Jim Geraghty to 10,000 followers. Why? Excellent question! I’m @JonahNRO
Nice Job Mom
Speaking of social media, Momma Goldberg (and my brother Josh) have just launched a very impressive new social media feature to Lucianne.com. Congrats to them, and “Check it out” to you.
And, Last, Your Dreams Come True
Debby’s Odd Links from last Friday:
Pictures of water balloons without the balloons.
Winners of a microscopic photo contest.