Despite the rout — and it is a rout — many conservative bloggers are finding reasons for cautious optimism. So, here’s my short round-up of why things aren’t so bad.
Patrick, with a gracious nod in my direction (thank you!), takes us to Arthur Brooks and Dean Barnett, both of whom see reason for celebration in the votes. Brooks’ point of view is that Democrats won by being dishonest with themselves — that is, they ran as pseudo-Republicans, providing a haven for voters who are mad at real Republicans. Presumably, they can continue to govern as pseudo-Republicans, which is fine as long as they get the conservative job done, or they can reveal their true colors, which will probably seem them ousted. Barnett sees cause for celebration in the fact that bloated, corrupt, weak Republicans will have to reemerge as real Conservatives to win — and that’s a good thing.
Laer points out that, with some significant exceptions, voters, even those who voted in a Democratic Congress, went conservative on state propositions. Michelle Malkin makes the same point — that the GOP, not conservatism, lost. Laer also celebrates the fact that Prop. 87 was Stephen Bing’s $50 million Waterloo. Really, if Bing is so supportive of alternative fuels, why doesn’t he just use his money to fund the research, instead of using his money to get me to spend my money?
Michael Medved is another one working to draw useful conclusions from the election. Like Dean Barnett, he points out that the Republicans were running as un-Democrats, just as the Democrats were running as un-Republicans. Neither party had ideas, and the party out of power therefore trounced the party in power. He also notes that the Democrats are really going to have to struggle with the fact that, while Americans want a change in Iraq, they want that change to look like more aggressive fighting, not withdrawal (another lesson the GOP should have figured out sooner).
John Hinderaker, writing at Power Line, is also avoiding any post-election tears, by looking at the difference between this sweep and the Republican sweep in 1994. After all, we all know that 1994 welcomed in a 14 year run of control. Why should this election be different? Here’s why:
There is another difference, though, between 1994 and 2006. In 1994, the Republicans ran on a platform, the Contract with America. Their victory therefore gave them a mandate, notwithstanding that many voters were vaguely aware (if at all) of the Contract. This year, the Democrats ran as non-Republicans. They made a deliberate decision not to take an issue on the biggest issue of the day, the Iraq war, and they downplayed (at least in competitive races) their intention to raise taxes and take other unpopular measures.
This ties in with the most basic difference between 1994 and 2006. After the Democrats were swept from power (and through the intervening years), many Democratic activists have said that their party lost power because they weren’t liberal enough. The party drifted to the left, not because this theory was right, but because so many of the surviving Congressmen and Senators were from safe liberal jurisdictons. This year, on the other hand, it is actually true that the Republicans have lost power in large part–although, to be sure, not entirely–because they have been untrue to their conservative principles.
We can see this partly from the various ballot initiatives that won yesterday, but even more so from the fact that the Democrats still aren’t showing their liberal side to the voters. Unlike the Republicans in 1994, they didn’t run on a program of tax hikes, softness in national security, gay marriage, etc.
In other words, just as Arthur Brooks said, the Democrats won by not being Democrats. Their choice is to continue not being Democrats (a good thing) or to revert to type (which probably will be, for them, a bad thing).
I’ve got to go back to work, but please feel free to chime in with any more positive spins on this election. I’m certainly pleased to note that none of us are making ridiculous threats to head off to Canada, but that we are, instead, all looking to the future and trying to learn from our losses.
UPDATE: Best of the Web also chimes in with reasons to view this as a glass half full election. Here’s my favorite:
Victory may prove cathartic for the Angry Left. America’s liberal left, and the Democratic Party more broadly, has been in an unhealthy emotional state ever since Bill Clinton’s impeachment eight years ago. The 2000 election controversy made things much worse for them, and led them to respond to their string of election losses since by lashing out and claiming the elections were stolen.
No one on the left will claim the 2006 election was stolen. They won fair and square, partly because of GOP complacency and partly because the Democrats got smart about candidate recruitment.
Of course, if the Angry Left calms down, it’ll be a mixed blessing for this column, which has gotten an enormous amount of mileage out of it. But at least we still have John Kerry to kick around, and now he almost certainly is running for office–either president or, more likely, re-election in 2008.