BY BRETT TALLEY
With another election over, and lawsuits looming on the horizon in Virginia, the Democrats have something to celebrate and the Republicans face a difficult next two years. The outcome of this election, however, is not as clearly an endorsement of the left as Democrats might wish. After the perfect political storm gathered around the Republican Party-Hurricane Katrina, an unpopular war, a president with an approval rating in the 30s, the Abramoff scandal, the Foley debacle-what was the result? Not a political earthquake, not a dramatic realignment, not a sweeping Democratic tsunami. Instead, the Republicans lost a handful of House seats, only slightly more than is typical in the sixth year of a presidency, and now face an evenly divided Senate.
No doubt, voters on Tuesday rejected the incompetence of certain Republican leaders. The Republican Party should learn one lesson well: the American people will not tolerate a party that seeks to keep power rather than use it, that allows corruption to brew in the halls of Congress, and that seems unwilling to hold its leaders to account for their actions. This is the message that was sent to Republicans on Tuesday night.
The voters may have seen fit to punish Republican failures, but they still embrace the principles that lie at the core of the party. The American people still believe in small government, in the power of the individual, in low taxes, in American exceptionalism, in God, and in morality. The Democrats recognize this, and to their credit organized a campaign that would make the most ardent supporter of the Contract with America proud. Where was the talk of nationalized health care? Of the regulatory state? Of increased social spending? Of abortion, gay marriage, and feminism? It was not to be heard, replaced with pledges to eliminate the marriage penalty, slash the Alternative Minimum Tax, and balance the budget.
And what of Iraq? The Democrats offered no plan, no alternative. There was vague talk of redeployment, but the details were always less than forthcoming. In the end, the party slogan seemed to be, “We are not them, but we will cut taxes too.” Despite the grass roots efforts and the leftwing blogs, the party never allowed its liberal wing to take the stage in this election. One of the few democrats who ran as a liberal, Ned Lamont, found himself thoroughly defeated by a partyless Joe Lieberman in one of the most left leaning states in the Union. It was not the Left’s proudest moment.
The lesson of Tuesday night seems clear. Democrats can still win elections, but only in the most dire of circumstances for Republicans, and only by not standing on any of their own principles. Republicans, on the other hand, must begin to show that they have the competence and leadership ability to turn their ideals into political reality.
In celebrating the return from their long wanderings in the political wilderness, the Democrats may well choose to ignore the ominous future that this election portends. But be that as it may, as more and more Americans embrace conservative ideals, and Democrats remain shackled by the single-minded intensity of the various interest groups that undergird them, the future looks bleak for the Party of the Left. The real message, then, to take away from this election? Liberalism is dead. Long live the Right.
Brett Talley is President of the HLS Republicans.