Why the Republicans Lost
November 9, 2006 5:08 am
A friend asked me today, “Why do you think the Republicans lost?” It’s a good question; one I’m sure will be asked in many strategy sessions across the country. I have my theories - and they are as follows:
The Republicans abandoned the principles for which they had been elected. Campaigning on a platform of smaller government, a balanced budget, and more accountability, Republicans swept into power in 1994. Each of the 10 planks of their Contract for America were brought up for a vote, and many passed. Through the years, though, the '94 freshmen have lost their zeal; and, in many cases, have gone the other way.
Although there is a segment of the population known as “values voters,” values are important to most voters - people vote for folks who they feel share their values. The class of '94 were elected based on these values - and, as they have drifted towards the center, they have alienated the base who elected them. The middle of the road is where they’ve moved - and often, this is where you find roadkill. If folks wanted people to govern by polls, they would vote for Democrats. When folks vote for Republicans, they expect people who will stand by their principles. This is a good segue to the next point…
Republicans have participated in the very corruption they decry in the Democrats. Jack Abramoff. Mark Foley. These are names that, until recently, we hadn’t heard. And, in both cases, they were people involved in activities that no one has any business involved in. Jack Abramoff was connected to people of both parties - but this association only seemed to hurt Republicans. This goes back to the principle thing - when you elect people who you know have no principles, then expectations are low. However, when you elect someone who claims to share your principles, and is found to be corrupt, there is a valid charge of hypocrisy. The problems in the Republican party are, I believe, nowhere close to the “culture of corruption” that the Democrats have been trying to spin. However, even one corrupt Congress-critter is one too many.
I hope that this will open the eyes of some Republicans who may be considering doing things that would cause shame to the party if they were revealed. It is noble to be someone who cleans up corruption - we need more of those sorts of people. But years of good can be erased by one hypocritical action, which causes observers to question the previous successes, and make assumptions about the group as a whole.
Republicans acted like they were afraid of success. President Bush won in 2000 - every recount has borne that out. The Senate was split 50-50, which meant that Vice-President Cheney held the tie-breaking vote, which meant that the Senate was in Republican control. Rather than assert that power, they agreed to a ludicrous “power-sharing” agreement with the Democrats - joint chairmanships, etc. Later in 2001, “Jumpin’” Jim Jeffords changed from a Republican to an Independent, which actually changed the control of the Senate.
In 2002, this trend reversed, and the Senate was once again in Republican control. But, numerous judicial nominees were held up in committee, or filibustered on the floor. Republicans had the majority, but they would not flex that muscle to get things accomplished. We’re still several judges short in the Federal system; and through these filibusters, the reputations of some of the smartest jurists of our time have been sullied.
When President Bush won re-election in 2004, along with keeping a Republican House and Senate, we heard about all this “political capital” that he now had, and how all these policy initiatives were going to get through. What we got was a half-way done Medicare prescription drug benefit, and no meaningful Social Security reform at all. We also got a limp noodle response to border security, port security, and endless rhetoric about the war in Iraq.
I hope that the Republicans will watch how the Democrats run the House and (likely, as of the time I’m writing this) the Senate over the next two years. They need some lessons on how to govern when you have the majority.
Republicans allowed the Democrats and the mainstream media to frame the debate. In a debate, there are underlying assumptions. Many times, the one who controls these will make them more favorable to their position. It’s not an underhanded thing; everyone does it, and it’s often the most contested part of a debate. If you can’t agree on the problem, how can you agree on a solution? In this election cycle, nearly every issue was framed from the Democrat point of view.
The biggest way to combat this is with education. This was illustrated in vivid detail by the Amendment 2 debate in Missouri. Michael J. Fox recorded ads supporting the Democratic candidate (now Senator-elect), and the state Constitutional amendment. To hear him spin it, if you vote yes for amendment 2, people with Parkinson’s disease will be healed! In actuality, the amendment was actually a right to human cloning.
And, even the issue of stem cell research isn’t debated honestly. It is not illegal to perform embryonic stem cell research today. The issue is over who pays for that research - these researchers want the taxpayers to pick up the tab for their work. And, while embryonic stem cells have yet to show any promise, adult stem cells and cord blood stem cells have - and these can be obtained without the destruction of their donor human life. It’ education like this that would make these issues lose their resonance with voters. The key is to educate the electorate on each of these issues - not “I’m for it, he’s against it”, but real, substantive education on why the view held by the more educated one is the one to hold.
In summary - I’m mad. While this 6th-year election is not as bad as others over the past 50 years, it’s still bad. And, the most frustrating thing is that these losses were preventable! Had the Republicans stuck to their beliefs, governed with the mandate they had been given, educated the voters, and kept their noses clean, we would probably be talking about 30-seat gains for the party. Instead, what chance they had to do what the people had elected them to do is gone.
One of the sentiments that was heard was that Republicans needed to be taught a lesson. When Republican control is restored in 2008, I hope that they will have taken good notes over the past 2 years, and will be ready to do what we the people want them to do.