Below John responds to Donald Lambro’s article finding silver linings in this season’s electoral blowout. For anyone needing to overcome the temptation of self-delusion on this subject, I highly recommend Jay Cost’s “Republicans are lucky they did not lose more seats.”
Why does Cost deem Republicans lucky? Because this past election represented a 1994-style tide in favor of the Democrats with the results muted by structural factors. Based on a close examination (and projection) of the outcome of the election, Cost concludes:
A proper historical comparison indicates that we just witnessed a very dramatic election – an exasperation/repudiation election. In 1946, the public swept the Republicans into office in reaction to the maintenance of wartime rationing and the increasing prevalence of union-induced work stoppages. In that election, the public rejected the current state of national affairs and the governance of the Truman Administration. So they have in this election rejected the state of affairs and the governance of the Bush Administration.
This does not mean that the public has necessarily endorsed Democratic solutions to our problems. The Republicans, of course, were promptly tossed out of power in 1948 for having moved too far to the right on domestic issues; the public was angry at union work stoppages, but this did not mean that they wanted Taft-Hartley. The nature of our democratic system does not allow for much sophistication in the message of the public. They voted for change, but what type of change? The results do not – cannot – tell us. Votes are really nothing more than sets of “1’s” and “0’s” registered by every voter. We must be careful not to draw too many inferences from them. Democrats, similarly, must be careful not to read their own policy preferences into the public mandate. The 33rd President once remarked that, “The luckiest thing that ever happened to me was the 80th Congress.” Democrats should take care that a version of this sentence does not find its way into the 43rd President’s memoirs, or else Harry Reid will go the way of Wallace White.
Nevertheless, it is clear that exasperation is what the public feels and that change is what it wants. Today, there are enough “0s” where there used to be “1’s” to indicate as much. Like 1946, this year’s vote was a vote of exasperation with and a rejection of the status quo as set by the President and his party.
The statement of Minnesota Republican Party chairman Ron Carey, quoted by John below, is particularly pathetic. In Minnesota we saw the tide observed by Cost up close and personal. The Minnesota House of Representatives, for example, went from a narrow Republican majority (67-66) to an overwhelming Democratic majority (85-49). Great conservative legislators such as Phil Krinkie, Greg David and Tim Wilkin were swept out with the tide. Mark Kennedy — running as a solid conservative in a statewide race for an open Senate seat — lost to a colorless Democratic opponent by a humiliating 20 points. It is way past time for Ron Carey and other Republicans blowing smoke to wake up and smell the coffee.