Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Republican Recriminations and Soul-Searching

Fred Barnes is on the mark, I think:

THIS ONE IS PRETTY EASY TO EXPLAIN. Republicans lost the House and probably the Senate because of Iraq, corruption, and a record of taking up big issues and then doing nothing on them. Of these, the war was by far the biggest factor. Unpopular wars trump good economies and everything else. President Truman learned this in 1952, as did President Johnson in 1968. Now, it was President Bush's turn, and since his name wasn't on the ballot, his party took the hit.

The defeat for Republicans was short of devastating--but only a little short. The House seats the party lost in New York and Connecticut and Pennsylvania will be hard to win back. Just as Republicans have locked in their gains in the South over the past two decades, Democrats should be able to solidify their hold on seats in the Northeast, as the nation continues to split sharply along North-South lines.

Read the whole thing.

Some random thoughts:

1. I disagree with those who say this is not a disaster. I just heard that Conrad Burns lost in Montana, so now it all hangs on George Allen's seat in Virginia. That one leans Democratic already. A loss of the House is a terrible setback; a loss of both the House and the Senate is a disaster. There is no other way to describe it. Those who worry about who will succeed John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court get this.

2. Laura Ingraham thinks all the GOP has to do is be true to conservative principles. I agree that the Congressional leadership lost its focus, but is the solution as simple as Laura thinks it is? I really wonder.

3. Dean Barnett is a lot more compelling than Laura:
[W]e didn’t lose because our countrymen suddenly misplaced the virtues that make America great. It is a distinctly liberal trait to blame “the people” when they don’t vote as one would dictate. I’ll brook none of that from our side. The fact is, we thought our country would be better off with a Republican congress. We made a case to the American people. They didn’t buy it because they thought it was a weak case.

And you know what? They were right. In the closing weeks of the campaign season, I felt like I was a lawyer who had a bad client while writing this blog. That client was the Republican Party which had broken its Contract with America from 1994 and had become unmoored from its conservative principles. As its advocate, I couldn’t make a more compelling case for Republicans staying in power than the fact that the Democrats would be worse. I believed in that case, but when that’s all the party gave its advocates to work with, you can honestly conclude that Republicans got this drubbing the old fashioned way – we earned it.
4. I also wonder about President Bush's stubbornness. Yes, I know he's steadfast, and I love that about him. But sometimes he simply seems willful. The Harriet Meirs nomination was an example of that, even though I supported the president's right to have a vote on his nominee. I've been reading Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, about Lincoln's political genius. It's clear that Lincoln, although famously steadfast in his commitment to saving the Union, was not stubborn. He adapted to reality. When a general was failing, he fired that general and kept doing that until he found Grant. I wonder if Lincoln would he be seen today as a pragmatist, uncommitted to conservative principles? I also wonder if Bush's approach to Iraq has truly been Lincolnesque, or just stubborn?

5. One of the "big issues" in Barnes' calculus is illegal immigration:
Already the wails of the immigration restrictionists are rising, insisting Republicans lost because they weren't tough on keeping illegal border-crossers out. Not true. The test was in Arizona, where two of the noisiest border hawks, Representatives J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, lost House seats. Graf lost in a seat along the Mexican border, where illegal immigrants flock.

What Americans want is a full-blown solution to the immigration crisis. And that will come only when Republicans come together on a "comprehensive" measure that not only secures the border but also provides a way for illegals in the United States to work their way to citizenship and establishes a temporary worker program. If Republicans don't grab this issue, Democrats will.
The GOP base has a big blind spot on this issue: They insist on an enforcement-only approach. I was shocked to see J.D. Hayworth lose. I hope the base was too, and that they can be made to see that Barnes is right on immigration. In that regard, this post by Mary Katharine Ham is not encouraging.

6. The Chicago Tribune offers this detached view:
If the nation is fortunate, leaders of both parties may realize that Americans are more interested in solutions than in continued fragmentation and one-upmanship. If Tuesday's results point us as a people toward less partisanship and the courage to cooperate, great.

If, on the other hand, the new Congress sinks bitterly into gridlock, not to fear. Nov. 4, 2008, isn't far away. What doesn't work, the nation can fix.
The Democrats now have to govern, not just attack. The GOP now has to put forward an agenda. That will be interesting to watch.


Anonymous BlueBuffoon said...

I'm not buying the line that now the "Democrats have to govern." As they don't control the White House, what is there that will hold the Democrats' feet to the fire on "governing"? I fear that what we will see is a lot of expensive "cotton candy" legislation pandering to their base (increased minimum wage, tax hikes "on the rich," stem-cell research, oil industry regulation, pharmaceuticals bashing, etc.), plus a lot more "anti-administration" grandstanding--all for the purpose of running into 2008 on exactly the same policy-deficient campaign with which they triumphed in 2006. Will the press--even the ones (like the NY Daily News) saying they have to govern--actually ask them the tough questions rather than continue slamming a Bush administration, that may well be debilitated by multiple investigations (Katrina, Iraq or even impeachment)? Don't count on it! How will this group of Republicans with tails between their legs stand up to such antics? I expect about as well as they did in this election campaign.

I wish I could be more optimistic. Maybe tomorrow.

Posted by BlueBuffoon

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 1:25:00 PM  
Blogger Miss Carnivorous said...

This is a beautiful blog. Very professional. I am not a spambot, I swear. I am not selling pool pockets! 

Posted by Miss Carnivorous

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 7:35:00 PM  
Blogger Bonjo said...

Excellent post, my friend.

"The Democrats now have to govern, not just attack. The GOP now has to put forward an agenda. "

I agree entirely. The GOP did not have a consistent message. I believe the statement "the Republicans lost" is more accurate than saying "the Democrats won".

Already, I've heard some Democratic acquaintences claiming their party cannot fix in 2 years all the problems the Republicans created in 6. Yet, these same people claimed Bush had 8 months to stop Osama. 

Posted by Bonjo

Thursday, November 09, 2006 9:52:00 AM  

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