Over-Reading the Election Returns
I’ve written several posts over the last two days rebutting bizarre things Republicans are saying and writing in the aftermath of the election losses. There’s some of that coming from the other side, two, and not just the Usual Suspects. Consider an email I received a few minutes ago:
From: John D. Podesta, President and CEO, Center for American Progress Action Fund
Date: November 9, 2006
Re: The End of the Grand Conservative Experiment
There is a longer-term significance to the 2006 election that transcends the shift in Congressional control and the collapse of the Bush presidency and its capacity to govern.
The 1994 elections, which were a much more sweeping change than we saw Tuesday, spelled neither the collapse of the Clinton presidency nor its capacity to govern. It will and should spark sober reflection on tactics if not strategy and will require that Bush be, to coin a phrase, a uniter, not a divider. He still has two more years in the most powerful office in the world.
The post-Goldwater/post-Reagan conservatism has been discredited as a governing philosophy, and simultaneously, a new progressive movement has seized the moment to assert itself to restore credibility to a government that serves the common good, and to provide practical leadership for a nation seeking a better future and a more secure world.
The results were unambiguous. Voters rejected the Iraq war and the failure of neo-conservative foreign policy. Voters rejected the redistribution of wealth to the top and demanded a return to policies to help the middle class and the least fortunate among us to get ahead. And voters rejected the accumulation of political power for its own sake and self-aggrandizement. The existing regime was deemed to be too corrupt, too inattentive to human needs, and too removed from the practical consequences of its inept foreign policy theories. For the first time in recent memory, these electoral results were cast not in gray, but in black and white.
Did any of this actually happen? Surely not.
Except at the margins, this election was not about ideology. While there was a lot of variation from race to race, at a national level Democrats ran by tying Republicans to George W. Bush. Aside from the war, there really was no issue in the campaign except The Republicans are Corrupt and Incompetent. That’s a pretty effective message for an opposition party, to be sure, but it’s not exactly the second coming of The Contract With America. It’s sheer fantasy to read the returns as a mandate for Progressive Values, whatever they might be.
Podesta argues “the 2006 elections have revealed that the four pillars of conservatism—a strong defense, lower taxes, less government, and family values—no longer sustain a voting majority and no longer command support as a governing philosophy.” I have two responses.
First, I’d love to see the Democrats run against those four pillars in 2008. Then, you’ll really see a mandate.
Second, the Republicans lost principally because they abandoned all of these principles except lower taxes. Sure, defense spending is at world record highs, but the lack of an articulated, plausible strategy for winning in Iraq and against the jihadists takes away the party’s natural advantage. Less government? Not so much. And, aside from the Sopranos, bribes, hookers, child molestation, and crystal meth are hardly “family values.”