As I sat in the stands of Notre Dame Stadium on September 16, my heart slowly sank into my stomach over the course of the afternoon. My Fighting Irish were on the field, but they were not fighting very hard.
For the first three quarters, I was confident that Brady Quinn would find his game and start taking Michigan’s defense apart. Our explosive but inconsistent offense would finally find its groove, and we would come back from a 20-plus-point deficit to win in the last few minutes.
But with each mishap, each fumble, each three-and-out series, it became clearer and clearer that time was going to run out on us. Old Notre Dame would not win after all.
That’s sort of how I feel now, watching this year’s midterm election, although the analogy only goes so far. I can’t say I love the Republican Party the way I love Notre Dame.
How They Got Here
If you’re looking for someone to tell you that Republicans are going to come back from nowhere to save the House of Representatives, you might as well stop reading this right now. With a week left in the campaign, things are looking pretty bad. The Senate will likely remain in Republican hands, but even that is not a guarantee.
The important thing to remember as you’re reaching for your handle of Jameson’s next Tuesday night is that this election probably should have come out much worse for Republicans than it will.
I know what I wrote a few months ago, but the Foley scandal really threw a wrench into the Republicans’ comeback game. At this point, I’m expecting a Democratic gain of 18 seats, but some bad economic luck or a competent opposition party could have cost the GOP 30 seats or more.
And more importantly, this defeat will not represent the end of the road for conservatives.
Although it will unquestionably advance the cause of socialism, the Democratic victory is not an ideological victory for socialism. With rare exceptions, Democrats are not campaigning on higher taxes (which they will try to pass) or gay marriage, because they know that Americans have not bought into any of that. In fact, they have had to run moderates — or at least moderate-sounding candidates — in several races in Indiana, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.
Besides their usual class-warfare boilerplate, the only real ideological issue that Democrats have going for them is that of embryonic stem-cell research — and pending the outcome of a ballot initiative in Missouri, even that may not prove to be the electoral juggernaut some had expected.
On the other side, Republicans are not about to lose power because they cut taxes or (ha, ha!) limited the size of government. Nor will they lose because of the confirmations of Justices Roberts and Alito, nor because they passed laws making it more difficult to circumvent parental notification laws on abortion, nor because they tried to pass a constitutional amendment protecting the government’s traditional respect for marriage.
Rather, this election has ignored almost all ideology and become a narrative about issues of scandal and incompetence. Most of all, it is about an Iraq invasion that almost everyone voted for (from both parties), but no one in the Administration bothered to think through in advance. Now Iraq is devolving into chaos. It is also about Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, in which the relevant government agencies did their usual worst to clean up New Orleans and take care of the victims. It matters little that local officials failed — people look to the top for answers, and the complaints about the federal response to that crisis come not only from Louisiana’s Democrats, but its Republicans as well.
The GOP lived by President Bush in 2002, when he was insanely popular after the 9/11 attacks, and again in 2004, when a mass media campaign managed, amazingly, to portray him as a conservative hero and the second coming of Ronald Reagan. Now the GOP will die by President Bush, the incompetent moderate who failed in Iraq and can’t seem to get anything right now as he leads the nation.
This election is also about an Internet sex predator who happened to be a Republican Congressman from Florida, and the failure of Republican leaders to take care of the situation — to show leadership — when they had the opportunity. It is about how involved Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) was with crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and how much damage moderate Gov. Robert Taft (R) managed to do to the state GOP in Ohio with his own illegal activities and those of a crooked coin dealer connected to him. It is also about Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) in Indiana, who aroused the xenophobia of some who don’t like his decision to lease the Indiana Toll Road to a foreign company.
Better Conservative Chances
I wrote earlier in Brainwash that the Republican House caucus is going to become more conservative and less moderate after this election, even if it is smaller. Conservative candidates are seizing a number of open Republicans seats this year. This is good, but even better, the entire House GOP leadership will be sacked or defeated for re-election. The most attractive candidates to replace them will be strong conservatives such as Reps. John Shaddegg (R-Ariz.), Mike Pence (R-Ind.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). This will set the tone for a more conservative congressional opposition that can offer effective resistance to the agenda of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Only a strong and ideologically galvanized Republican Party will be capable of returning to power in 2008 or the near future. We needed a conservative takeover, and the present situation provides a terrific opportunity.
Next Tuesday, as you let the bad news sink in, look at it as a chance to return to the fundamentals of conservatism so sadly neglected by our President and the leadership of the GOP. With a new team in place, perhaps those of us who believe in limited government and respect for our laws and traditions will have a stronger voice in Washington, even from the minority.
David Freddoso is a political reporter for Evans and Novak Inside Report
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Kathlyn Ehl
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Jacob Hayutin