Skip to comments.The Real Meaning of This Election (Vanity)
Posted on 11/17/2006 11:13:00 AM PST by Miss Marple
The disappointing results of the recent election have led to a lot of discussion about WHY this happened. In the search for the grand unifying theory of why we lost, there seems to be an inordinate amount of bitterness and recrimination.
The problem is that we all are looking at this through the perspective of our own beliefs. Conservatives look at the loss of Chaffee and Northrup and think "If only we had had a real conservative in those seats." Moderates point to the loss of Hayworth and Santorum and caution about moving too far to the right. Some blacks look at the losses of Ford, Blackwell, and Steele and think it's all about race. People like me opine that the Congress would have won if they had stuck with the President. Others think that we would have won if we had completely disassociated ourselves from President Bush.
The fact is, this election wasn't about ideology at all. We were outflanked by a very good strategy crafted by Rahm Emmanuel, who has proven to be a formidable foe.
First of all, the democrats made really amazing use of the scandals, many of which they orchestrated to be revealed at the most damaging time. Foley, Delay, Weldon...those stories were not coincidental. Judicious use of timing and legal tactics kept us from effectively defending those seats.
In addition, instead of waiting until this year, Emmanuel began recruiting people almost two years ago. He used a very interesting strategy...looking at what would appeal to voters in each individual district and state, rather than looking at a national message. The oft-seen "Rove, you magnificent bastard" graphics here on FR were more prescient than intended. In the movie "Patton", the phrase was "Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book."
That is exactly what happened. Emmanuel "read Rove's book" and took a page from it.
Candidates were chosen to fit certain constituencies. Webb, for example, IS a bona fide war hero and he went up against George Allen, who didn't serve in the military. That drew enough votes from those military people in Hampton Roads and other military enclaves to put Webb over the top. The macaca flap was just icing on the cake.
J.D. Hayworth is also very conservative, and had made strict immigration enforcement one of his issues. What did they do? They ran someone who was also strict on immigration, but supported the President's plan somewhat. So, the democrat got the Hispanic vote plus a bit of the anti-immigration vote.
In Indiana, Hostettler and Sodrel were attacked by the democrats over Daylight Savings Time and the sale of the Indiana Toll Road, two issues which are very hot buttons here but have NOTHING to do with the federal government.
This is how the democrats won. They looked at each area and chose the issues which would get them enough crossover voters to get them over the top. While their national office holders and the liberal pundits were saying that this election was a referendum on Iraq, their local candidates were running on almost anything BUT that, at least in the swing areas.
I have to conclude that we just lost because the democrats did a better job. When your desire is purely to seize power (which is, after all, what a great many of them are about) then you aren't hampered by ideology. That's why they could run Jim Webb and other veterans while speaking in Washington about defunding the military. They simply discovered what would sell, and used it to get people elected in the democrat column.
Now, we can all post for the next ten years about which way would have been the best philosophy (moderate or conservative) but the fact is that this election really had nothing to do with either. It had to do with who was willing to do the most to regain or keep power, and the democrats won.
IF we had had a cohesive national message, if we had not been divided on issues since Katrina,if we had not had some really embarassing scandals, we might have been able to overcome this. However, with pundits assailing the President, Congressional Republicans split over immigration and earmarks, and the President only hiring Tony Snow late in the game to put out an improved PR effort, we simply couldn't overcome it.
Rove is an excellent political strategist, but no matter how good someone is, there one day arrives someone better, and right now this person is Rahm Emmanuel.
If I had a say in what goes on I would suggest the following:
1. No dissension within the party should be aired on national media. Anyone who does this would be stripped of committee assignments and campaign cash. Disagreements belong on the floor of the Congress and in votes and in letters to constituents. We do not owe Chris Matthews air time to help divide the party.
2. President Bush is the president for two more years. The media has done a number on him and does NOT need our help in attacking the president. Anyone who calls him too liberal, too conservative, too wishy-washy, failed, traitor, etc. is doing nothing but further depressing his approval ratings. It won't be easy for the 2008 candidate, whoever he may be, to run following a "despised" president, and all you have to think about is Hubert Humphrey following Lyndon Johnson. Keep your opinions to yourself for the sake of whoever runs in 2008.
3. Congressmen and Senators should start paying attention to LOCAL issues that could be used against them. Staffers should be monitoring the local papers and media. After seeing how Sodrel and Hostettler were sandbagged by this stuff, I am not so sure we can win much in 2008, especially since Governor Daniels will be at the head of the state ticket.
4. Finally, realize that a huge number of voters don't vote based on philosophy of government. They vote on who will protect their jobs, who seems like a nice guy, who has done stuff they can identify with, who has good hair, etc. They don't give a flying hoot about "limited government" or "social justice." If you talk to them about inside baseball stuff like whether Pence or Boehner should be minority leader, their eyes glaze over and they start edging away from you, figuring you are a whack-job. However, their votes count just as much as Rush Limbaugh's, mine, or yours. We had better understand them rather than patronizing them or ignoring them.
We have to lose our complacency that our message is self-evident, and that the public trusts only Republicans with national security. It is obvious that the public is easily misled and confused.
At any rate, this is my take on what happened.
I will only be on the computer for another hour, and any posts to me after that will have to wait until I return around 6PM.
This is an effort to move the discussion to productive areas. All sides could use some improvement, including the President, whom I think counted too much on Karl and failed to see what was happening.
One more factor:
Minimum wage increases on many ballots. Hence, the high youth (and mostly heavily Democrat) turnout to vote themselves raises.
You threatened and you delivered!
Excellent post. Even though I don't agree with 100% of it, it is pretty much on target and good food for thought.
I guess that's why the Contract with America was such a dismal failure. /sarcasm
The GOP needs to return to having core values. Otherwise, it's just that much easier for the charges to stick when it is clear to voters that too many pubbies don't walk the walk.
I couldn't believe it when I heard attacks on Sodrel because of the clock-switching flap! And yet I know it cost him a few votes.
And why was the base angry? Some were angry that we weren't fighting the war hard enoug, some were made about immigration (both pro and con) some were mad about earmarks...you name it.
But did an angry base think the democrats would do better? No.
This is truly an effort to understand HOW the democrats did it, so that next time we aren't caught flat-footed.
Minimum wage was one of those LOCAL issues (state by state) which we weren't paying enough attention to. That minimum wage thing also cost us votes, and I am glad you brought it up.
Gingrich stuck that Contract out so that when we won he could claim a mandate on those issues.
I, for one, never saw the darn thing. I don't subscribe to TV Guide and never have, and the first time I heard about it was a day or two before the election when I happened to tune into Rush.
Fair enough analysis. I would have rephrased it a bit, but I think you're on the right track.
In my view, the strength that the Democrats is that they are the more populist of the two parties. Or said another way, they're willing to represent their constituencies in order to win. The traditional advantage of the GOP has been in organization and funding.
In my view, conservatives need to start learning to play practical politics. The GOP is a political party. It should be viewed as a means to achieving an end, not a wellspring of religious truth. Conservatives are free to do whatever they want, but in my view, I think too many conservatives expect far too much from the GOP.
We're fortunate in that there are some models for winning in the political sphere even when the odds are stacked against us. The most shining contemporary example in my view is the gun rights people.
And then there is also the issue of communicating a positive conservative message. It's something that conservatives really need to work on. There are so many conservative success stories out there, it's just a crying shame that we don't communicate them better. Negative messages may win an election or two, but they don't inspire people in the long run.
You're right, it will be very hard for our candidate in 2008 if he/she follows a despised President. The problem is that if Bush continues with his amnesty plans and fails to secure the border, as he has so stubbornly resisted doind to date he will be despised and worse. If we want to see his approval rating improve we should encourage HIM to do more of the things that we approve of...not discourage folks for criticizing him when he drifts off into liberal land, as he is prone to do from time to time.
The GOP needs to start walking the walk. If the GOP campaigns on notions of personal responsibility, and then our Congresscritters and Senators fall over themselves inserting earmarks into budget-busting bills, how can that possibly mesh with the stated core philosophy of the party?
I disagree, because Clinton promptly triangulated to a lot of the basic values in the Contract, and he is as poll-driven as anyone.
Perhaps. I do think that whatever value it had worked because people were so aggravated at Clinton. Remember, until the OKC bombin he was being dismissed as irrelevant.
Might I suggest that the best way to get your point across while not hampering our 2008 candidate is to write to the President, call the White House, and contact those potential presidential nominees who could be convinced to side with you on your issue?
I need to leave for a while. Back about 6PM and will answer any further replies this evening.
No dissension within the party should be aired on national media.
Has to be rule No. 1! I can't even remember many details or instances, but my overall impression of the Republicans in the months leading up to the election is that of utter disarray, petty intraparty sniping, every-man-for-himself-ism, and the unedifying spectacle of spoiled prima donnas primping for the cameras.
The mad rush to dissociate themselves from Bush looked like they were crashing into each other and knocking each other down as they ran for the exists. I will (charitably --/withering sarcasm) assume that they were only speaking from their principles. But the most principled disagreement doesn't have to belittle the other person. Would it have killed them to phrase it more like, "I don't totally agree with the President on (fill in the blank). I know he's a good and serious man, and his points are valid. But I would emphasize certain other aspects. I'm not sure how we can resolve this, but I am certain that resolution is possible, with reason and good will." OK, not great -- but I'm not a professional politician!
At last a sensible explication of the election.
I would add that the left internet was a great benefit to the Dems, especially the "scandals". There were stories on the Allen/Webb election in "moderate" papers that sourced MYDD, Salon, and Kos!
Last election the right internet made the difference (Swiftvets, Rather...)
But they "read our book" and the media teamed up with them to great effect this time.