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.
I swear the most popular politicians I can think of all laugh easily, even at themselves -- not that they're necessarily not serious thinkers. I sometimes think the ability to laugh good-naturedly is the single most important qualification for success in politics. You can win without it, but it's an uphill struggle!
Unless you live in PA and saw the bias in the print and TV media aginst Santorum it would be difficult to understand. They have been against this guy since he first won 12 years ago and they were going to get "righty". I am so disappointed in the defeat of Rick by that bubble headed, empty suit Casey.
As for the Contract with America, I believe it was brilliant politics and something that should be done every election. The original Contract with America was printed in all things the TV Guide. Just how many yellow dog dems sitting on the couch watching Wheel of Fortune were exposed to the Contract and liked what they saw and voted for Newt and the gang? I think a lot. The Contract presented some easy to understand positions and policies that appealed to a broad segment of the voting public and is a campaign strategy that should be used every campaign. IMHO!
Thank you for your comments.
Very well done, and your thoughts about not helping destroy the President and the party even more are spot on. Thanks!
You know...I've written and emailed the WH on several occaisions regarding our southern border. The first time being when he referred to the Minute Men as vigilantes. I am not a one note singer on this topic and got into more than my share of tiffs with folks who I regarded as thread jumpers who came onto every thread about Bush and started criticizing about the border. I changed my tune after I heard Tony Snow saying that the WH considered it good news that they would have a new Congress to work with on immigration and then that was followed the next day by the President jumping with both feet on immigration and minimum wage. I don't trust them on immigration and the border anymore...and now that Rummy's been so uncerimoniously dumped I don't trust them on anything.
Very true. I personally believe our biased leftist media played a very big part in this election, and will continue to.
I don't agree with much of this, but I must compliment you on a very well written piece.
I would add that the GOP was seriously hurt by the fact that many voters sat out the election because they refused to turn out and support a congress that was, rightly or wrongly, viewed as an inept, corrupt, self serving crowd of blatant fools whose primary interest was protecting their own jobs, image and package of perks. Their main plank was 'vote for us. sure we are are a worthless lot but the dims are even worse and their election will mean the end of the country'. Why should they get our support?
"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?"
It can't. And I don't think that the current elected leadership in Congress, or what's left of it, is going to be willing to make the changes necessary to win for conservatives or even themselves in the future.
The election of Sen Lott and Rep. Boehner to the leadership positions are in my view an indication of a defensive strategy. They're going to try to defend the existing seats they have in 2008; they're not looking to go out on a limb and try to actually win one for conservatives.
"This year the media decided to get behind the dems and help them win."
As they always have.
Excellent summary .
Rahm Emmanuel did an effective job picking candidates locally.
Also the Libertarians are a force to discuss for the future. If we continue to often lose to the rats by 1 percent or so and the Libertarians can often get 3 percent...we will have a mess.
I thought there was no way in hell that Patrick Murphy, a 32 year old kid who moved into the district just to run for Congress, could win in my district against Mike Fitzpatrick, a well-known and well-loved man who had served with distinction for 10 years on the Bucks County Commission. But Murphy worked his ass off, made the national Democrats believe in him and send him money, and the local Repupblican organization did not take him seriously until it was too late. They they went totally negative and everyone forgot what they liked so much about Mike Fitzpatrick.
There are stories like this in every district we lost. Few of our candidates actually outworked the Democrats and then lost anyway; Jim Talent may be the only one.
Conservatives also have to admit that Democrats have outfoxed us on this stem cell research issue. Independent voters think it is worth spending their tax dollars on, and they think conservatives who oppose it are cruel and holding sick Americans hostage to their far-right "Christianism." This issue lost Jim Talent's Senate seat and it hurt Mike Fitzpatrick too. Jast as we did a good job forcing Democrats to say yes or no to partial birth abortion as the extreme pro-abortion position, Democrats forced Republicans to take sides on waht amounts to the "extreme pro-life" position. There are going to be times when "wedge issues" work against Republicans, and this was one of them.
My personal view, which I have arrived at after much agonized thinking, is that other than Ronald Reagan, Republicans really have not been good at governing this country. We have been very good at stopping the worst excesses of liberalism, and very good at cutting taxes. We've been pretty good at standing up to our enemies, when those enemies can be clearly identified. But when the public wants government to get something done and fix problems, we stink. Democrats are better at the nuts and bolts of running government. They bring in people who want to run government agencies and do good. Republicans bring in political hacks, token women and minorities, and cronies of the President, because smart Republicans are out there running companies and making money. Reagan was the exception, because he brought with him a group of philosophically committed people who wanted to fix the excesses of government and had a plan to do it. Trust me, Bush 41 and 43 didn't. Mike Brown was not an anomaly.
Two different Bush administrations have completely failed to manage natural disasters, and these failures led directly to tanking approval rating for the Presidents and Republican losses in the next election. Bush 43 completely failed to learn the lesson from the failure of Bush 41 after Andrew. The day after Katrina he was in California at a fundraiser. The Republicans in Congress refused to demand any heads rolling after Katrina, they let the "George Bush doesn't care about black people" comment stand without any answer (and made it even worse by pointing fingers at Mayor Nagin), and instead of spending some serious time talking and debating what should be the future of the Gulf Coast, they simply threw $80 billion out the window and left town.
After Katrina, it was not very hard for Democrats to craft a narrative that the Bush administration was incompetent - incompetent to manage the biggest natural disaster in U.S. history and incompetent to manage the war in Iraq. They cleverly demanded Rumsfeld's resignation, knowing the stubborn Bush would not fire him and scared Republicans in Congress would not demand it (the few that did, did it too late to matter). It worked.
Today I heard Newt Gingrich on the radio giving a speech. He added something else that I had not thought of. He said the GOP has become too entrenched with political consultants who think you can slice and dice the electorate and micro-target them, and that the key to winning elections is to tear down your opponent. People are sick of that. They want something and someone to vote FOR, which is what the GOP gave them in 1994 with the Contract with America. He said Republicans were overconfident after the 2004 election, because all they did was prove that they could get more votes against John Kerry than the Democrats could get against George Bush.
I think he is right. Republicans have been running on fumes since the end of the Cold War. Bush had one big idea to cut taxes, and it worked. His other big idea, Social Security reform, needed more airing during the campaign in 2004 so he could get a mandate for it. But Democrats as usual made Congressional Republicans afraid to campaign on it. So when Bush tried to get it done he couldn't.
So now, Newt says, Republicans have lost their edge on ideas, lost their edge on hinesty, and lost their edge on competence - even in national security. He thinks we are lucky to have lost only 30 seats, and I agree with him.
Without a doubt, they made no pretense of the orchestrated effort to stick it to President Bush. The Republicans must learn to fight back the media!!
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.
The future is really not about GWB. The future is about the electability of the GOP members. I support the Republican Representative/Senators breaking with this President's agenda when it conflicts with reestablishing conservative principles.
I would hope that the break is accomplished with respect---but the next two years cannot be about protecting GWB.
Putting my Congressman Tom Cole as head of NRCC will help us get back the House in 2008. Boehner without Hastert will be much better IMHO.
One way to not fight it is to say, "I campaigned as a conservative and I will govern as a conservtaive" -- then leave our national border unguarded -- push for and sign bloated give-aways like "No Child Left Behind" (Teddy's bill, loaded with pork), the Prescription Benefit (massive pork), the farm bill (billions more in pork) -- muzzle political freedom of speech by signing McCain-Feingold -- repeatedly refer to the murderous barbaric cult of islam as a "religion of peace" -- propose rewards for the criminal behavior of millions of Mexican illegals -- nominate Miers -- pass over Scalia in favor of unproven newcomer Roberts for Chief Justice -- and on and on it goes.
As dumb as many voters are, they know good and well that this is not "governing as a conservative."
Sadly I agree -- it is not conservative. His cozying up to Clinton makes me want to hurl something.
The Schizophrenic voter, has usually been exhibited mostly by California Voters. California voters have classically voted FOR issues which appear to be conservative; but vote into office people who will NOT support the will of the popular issues voted for.
Example: I'm FOR the WOT; but I'm not a warmonger. Which of the candidates is mostly closely aligned with not being a "warmonger".
The schizophrenic voter has closely held beliefs but doesn't care to be aligned with, or slapped around and abused by the party which does the abusing -- Democrats.
The schizophrenic voters votes his private beliefs, but doesn't wish to be abused for having those "beliefs", ergo elects candidates who are PC. (As tho that will somehow exempt them from abuse by Democrats.)
And now the "pro-borders" folks, who used every selectively creative cite imaginable to call the President a "sell-out", are busy working on their next phase. They'll demand Pelosi et al, build their fence. And "Pelosi" will hear them. :)
Look, MA!? "No Hands!"
Then there's GHWB. The only way he and bill clinton could get any chummier would be if they moved to Vermont and got hitched.
We lost four Senate seats by less than 10,000 votes combined. IMHO we didn't give people a reason to vote for us as we used scare tactics about what the Dems would do if elected and they fell flat.
California voters are pro-death penalty, but consistently vote in leaders who will do all they can to be sure the DP is not carrried out.
California voters support definition of marriage, but consistently elect leaders who propose, pass and sign "gay union" bills, promulgate homosexual agenda policies and wink at violations such as Mayor Newsome's illegal authorization of homosexual marriages in SF.
California voters support non-preferential admission, hiring and promotion in public institutions, but consistently elect leaders who look the other way when tax-supported institutions like UCB continue to implement race- and gender-based preferential practices.
California voters couldn't wait to recall a governor who had driven the state into ruinous debt -- and then replace him (twice!) with a governor who does the exact same thing in the form of bonds that will impose so much hardship on the next generation that re-locating their business to another state will be a no-brainer.
The examples of this "schizophrenia" are too numerous to list in one sitting.
There are a number of factors. These are a few which few have pointed out:
1.) A GOP collapse in the Northeast. Perhaps it was always coming, but moderate GOP incumbents were able to hang on due to crossover moderates and independents. But the bottom fell out in that region. It's somewhat similar to what happened in the South during the 1990's. The GOP can win back some of those lost seats, but running moderate candidates where conservatives couldn't win. A similar strategy worked for Democrats this year.
2.) Betrayals of conservativism. There are select issues where the betrayal cut deeper than others. Too many Republicans officials turned their backs on conservative causes by supporting open borders and free trade. They engaged in outrageous earmarks and increases in domestic spending. In fact, domestic spending has increased more under Bush than under Clinton. And the soaring deficit didn't help. The national debt is now $8 TRILLION. It's quite an accomplishment to make Democrats look fiscally responsible.
3.) Republican politicians with an overriding sense of entitlement. This was the biggest problem. Conrad Burns, Katherine Harris, and Don Sherwood were the most egregious examples. They should never have sought election to the offices they sought. But thought that they were entitled to the posts they wanted, and repeatedly scorned pleas to drop out of their respective races in favor of better candidates.
4.) Appearing to lack positive purpose. The GOP ran on the theme that Republican politicians are less dangerous to the nation than Democrats are. The only thing the GOP establishment in Washington, D.C. stood for was holding political power for its own sake. Power is supposed to be a means of achieving positive ends. That was replaced by conservative slogans as a means of holding political power.
That's my take, aside from the individual races.
And when that business is relocated to another state, the private investor will make more bang for his buck, rather than having that bang confiscated by the afl-cio unions and ad nasueum ilk (such as the onerous "clean air" commissions, forced minimum wage, forced "EEOC mandates", forced DISABILITY.
Here's what I think Arnold's thinking is right; and for the near term for any business wishing to survive what the Dems have planned, next.
It's basic econ. Most majo firms have already figured this out -- moving their HQ's out of the state of CA. Arnold is Governor; but the state legislative body is run by the Dem pickpockets and scolds.
One can still live in CA, and live well, as long as they are not under the burden of what the Dem Body of Legislators enforce upon their businesses. This is covered in basic Econ, Bonaparte.
Is it too early to start a Senate 2008 ping list?
I'll change my 2006 to a 2008 list on the next ping. It is going to be low volume for a while though.
I really think the office of President is totally insulated from the real world, so by the 6th year, they're really clueless. I hope that future republican candidates come to the battle technically savy. They should be armed with a laptop and be able to monitor blogs and websites like Free Republic so they can see what "real people" out there are thinking.
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