I'm writing today for three reasons:
1) I don't own a gun permit.
2) I ran out of sleeping pills.
3) You can't get an honest razor anymore - just those disposable things that will only scratch you up a bit.
What a night last Tuesday was! Fortunately, I've been there before. While I was still a teenager I was a volunteer coordinator for Congressman Bob McClory - in the election of 1974, the Watergate election. It got better from there - until last Tuesday.
I am deeply saddened that some great candidates got swept away in the tide that washed across the country, but not entirely surprised by the outcome. Throughout this cycle the book, Animal Farm, by George Orwell, kept running through my mind. A lot of our guys had become indistinguishable from the guys we replaced 12 years ago. The commercials by both national parties were an abomination. They were not just negative, not just melodramatic, but downright macabre - like a trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacres. It made me ashamed.
In 1996 Bob Dole, who had once been dubbed the 'tax collector for the welfare state' campaigned haplessly as a born-again tax cutter. It lacked credibility coming from him. This cycle many Republicans ran gamely on behalf of a fiscal restraint we have not exercised in about six years. When your actions don't match your rhetoric, it's hard to win.
I have always been suspect of the vaunted Republican turnout machine. Ideas and performance drive elections. Everything else is a side dish. That 'machine' was a myth created by Democrats to explain why their ideas lost previously. Republican operatives ate it up because it made them seem more important than the actual candidates and ideas. Well, we didn't have a turnout machine in '94, but we had ideas and principles that we gave more than lip service to.
I am equally contemptuous of the glib assumptions of some Republicans that we will take it all back in two years and of some Democrats that they will now rule for a generation. A good rule to live by is when you have just gotten clubbed like a baby seal, you're not as bad as you think you are - and when you've just scored a huge victory, you're not as good as you think. Events will intervene - and ideas and performance will carry the day in the long run. I'm also contemptuous of the critics among Republicans who want to shoot the wounded. Most such critics have not done anything positive of any great weight. They're usually part of the problem; not part of the answer.
It seems to me that three things carried this election. First, the culture of corruption attack found its mark. We Republicans sure don't look like the bold idealists we were a decade ago. On more mundane matters, our performance did not match our rhetoric - the profligate spending had more of an effect than just profligate spending: it called into question our entire credibility. Do we mean what we say or are we just another group that will say anything to win? And finally it was, indeed, a referendum on the war on terror.
On the former two items, we Republicans are very much in need of serious reform. We deserved the rebuke we got. The latter is a matter of principle, which I would not change a bit. If Nancy Pelosi turns out to be right that terrorism is not a war to be won, but a situation to be managed, the Democrats will govern for a long time. If terrorists are an implacable foe bent on world domination (as I believe) the Democrats tenure will be very short. But if Republicans expect to fill the vacuum that would ensue, we will have to be a lot more honorable, a lot more principled, a lot more visionary than we have been in recent years.
A part of me wished that, just this once, the phrase 'none of the above' would have been on the ballot. If it had, I suspect both Republicans and Democrats would have good cause to gnash their teeth.
Monday, November 13, 2006
I'm writing today for three reasons: