Election 2006: What Went Wrong for the Republicans
The midterm elections are over and those who hoped for a Republican victory are still digesting the results. The usual pre-election mainstream media hype led many to the mistaken impression that the Democratic Party's much-vaunted success might not pan out. But in fact, the Democrats did much better than expected, taking the House and possibly the Senate as well.
So what does it all mean?
Clearly, the Republican Party has in some respects lost its way. The dissension within the ranks over the last few years over issues such as runaway federal spending, illegal immigration, the Dubai ports deal, and corruption of both a moral and monetary nature (which to be fair, is not confined to either party) has undermined conservative support for the Republican Party.
The constant pummeling of the Iraq War by the mainstream media seems to have had its intended effect. Dissatisfaction has taken hold and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been its first casualty.
The Bush administration shares the blame for the growing impatience with the war by not fully explaining the stakes to the American people. By focusing on Iraq and denying the civilizational and religious connection to the wider Muslim world, President Bush failed to fully rally the post-9/11 public for the coming conflict.
The Democratic Party seized on this failing, among others, to sell its "vote for change" platform. And they pursued what turned out to be a very clever, if disingenuous, policy. Putting forward moderate to conservative candidates across the nation while keeping the left-leaning party leadership in the form of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Harry Reid, DNC Chairman Howard Dean, et al, on the backburner turned out to be an effective strategy.
In this sense, the election results were not a victory for liberalism, but rather conservativism. Except that, ironically, it's the Democratic Party that how now assumed that mantle. In voting for conservative Democratic candidates and rejecting liberal Republicans, the American people demonstrated yet again their right-leaning tendencies. How the Democratic Party's leftist leadership will engage with the new batch of conservative representatives, senators and governors remains to be seen. But it's unlikely they will relinquish power anytime soon.
Now that Democrats are holding the reigns, they will have to start putting forward policies instead of simply criticizing Republicans. It's quite likely that a premature withdrawal from Iraq will be on the agenda. As will the possible impeachment proceedings, despite claims to the contrary, against President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. Elsewhere, we can probably expect tax increases, roll-backs of intelligence powers in the war on terrorism, and the ramping up of the culture wars. Whatever happens, it's going to be a rocky couple of years for the Bush administration.
But the Republican Party has no one to blame but itself. Let's just hope it learns something from the experience and comes back in 2008 a stronger party.
Update: A reader alerted me to a post at the leftwing blog Daily Kos indicating that the winning Democratic candidates may not have been so conservative after all. While I can't argue with the background information on these candidates, there's no denying that they ran on a moderate to conservative platform of lower taxes, national security, 2nd Amendment rights and in some cases, border enforcement. If it turns out that these candidates hoodwinked the public into voting for them by putting forward a conservative platform, then that hardly bodes well for the integrity of the Democratic Party.
Cross-posted at Kesher Talk.