There was much to savor and consider in yesterday’s election results. So let us savor first, shall we? I’ll then try to grope for some lessons in the next post.
The incoming freshman Republican class in both houses contains some real stars. It reinforces the sense many of us have had that the next generation of Republicans compares exceedingly well with younger Democrats and stands to take the party in a very promising direction—beyond mere nostalgia and beyond stale and substantively empty fights between the establishment and the anti-establishment and toward a 21st century party that is confidently (very) conservative, policy minded in an anti-technocratic way, populist about ends and constitutionalist about means, and solidly, deeply, obviously pro-life. We have seen that with some of the Republicans who have been elected in recent cycles, and the trend certainly continued yesterday. The thought of Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse in the Senate should fill all conservatives with hope. The idea that Tom Harkin will be replaced by Joni Ernst is just delicious.
And I wonder if in the long run yesterday’s election might not be remembered above all as the moment when Elise Stefanik first rose to the national stage — winning a House seat handily in New York’s highly competitive 21st district and becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Stefanik (who, I should note, is a friend and former colleague) is exactly the kind of intelligent, level-headed, ambitious, and solidly conservative young politician that Republicans should want representing them in purple America. You’ll be hearing her name a lot in the years to come, I suspect.
I have to admit to also taking some pleasure in a few of last night’s losers, and not only drawing some hope from the winners. Colorado’s Mark Udall, who had struck me until this year as a reasonably decent if wrongheaded politician, utterly disgraced himself in his campaign for re-election, taking the Democrats’ “war on women” gibberish to its logical conclusion and rooting his case for himself in an embarrassingly asinine politics-as-gynecology campaign that treated women like excitable fools and treated innocent, unborn human beings like meaningless waste. It was a demonstration of how unchecked cynicism easily drifts into nastiness, and an indication of where the sinister logic of the Democrats’ dishonest efforts to scare women voters has always pointed. And Udall was rewarded not only with an early retirement but also (according to the exit polls) with a smaller share of the women’s vote than he got last time. A well-earned loss.
Some of the most surprising outcomes of the night were also among the most pleasing — including, amazingly, the governor’s race in my own state of Maryland. Just this past weekend, Nate Silver and his team gave Republican Larry Hogan a 7 percent chance of winning that race. He won, and my sense is that he did it by running against liberal excess. The Democratic party in Maryland has done the national Democrats the favor in recent years of running an experiment in just how far left you could push a blue state before it came to its senses. The answer appears to be that you shouldn’t go so far as to actually tax the rain. Good to know.