The past several elections have shown an American people thirsting for change from decades of political establishments that wouldn’t lead our nation. We’re losing jobs, our economy has been caving in, the war against terror continues to plod along, and we have been generally doubtful about our future. So the entire nation, whether we liked his policies or not, watched in quiet respect as our nation’s first African American President was elected. We hoped that he’d be a bi-partisan, solutions oriented leader – unfortunately, that has not been the case. We hoped that he’d reach across the aisle to Republicans and find common sense solutions to the free spending, big government habits we saw in Congress for decades before. Instead, our President established spending and government habits that were exponentially worse than those of the Congress before him.
Tuesday night, conservatives and independents across the country spoke – loudly. In fact, they spoke so loudly that President Obama referred to it as a “shellacking.” And a shellacking it was, as over 60 U.S. House seats and 6 Senate seats turned Republican. As Karl Rove aptly pointed out, the last time Democrats occupied this few seats in the House was 1946. Many of the Democrats who lost were senior members with 15 plus years of experience.
One of the most critical victories of this midterm election doesn’t even come from the actual seats picked up, but in the 8 governors and over 500 state legislative seats that turned Republican. This gives Republicans across the country an overwhelming advantage with the reapportionment process that will come soon and give them a decided advantage in the 2012 elections. Last week President Obama had the audacity to say that “our enemies must be punished,” speaking of his Republican opponents. In reality, the Democratic party was punished on Tuesday night, as the mandate of the American people was shown.
Republicans would be naïve and foolish to think that the election was a statement of pro-Republican support. On the contrary, Tuesday night’s election was instead a referendum on the stubbornness and audacity of the Obama administration, as the nation lashed out against policies they know are dangerous for our future. Republicans should take heed to a startling statistic John Fund mentioned some time ago in describing the cyclical turnover of Congress. Democrats had been in control of Congress for 40 years when the Republican sweep of 1994 took place. It took 12 years for them to lose it. The Democrats have held it for 4 years. We know that history has a tendency to repeat itself, and if history is any indication, Republicans have an extremely small window into which they must demonstrate some speedy, substantial progress. In order to make that progress, they must first get their own house in order.
Right now, Republicans in Congress are split into two very distinct factions: those who embrace the sometimes hyper conservatism of the tea party and those who embrace the remnants of the Republican establishment that has been through several changes of power in Congress over the last decade. If these two factions do not seek avenues to coalesce, then they will face the dangerous status of being so divided they will not be able to deliver on the mandate of the voters. The Republican establishment must be open to listen and heed the advice of the new but powerful movement of the tea party Republicans. The tea party Republicans must take care to be reasonable and concise as they deliver to Washington their expectations for policy.
One certain factor should help motivate Republicans in Washington to get on the same page: even the most moderate of Republicans will not tolerate compromise on core principles of conservative orthodoxy such as spending and the size of government. While Republican leaders must be willing to negotiate and compromise with the Democrats on some small details, they must also hold firm to the principles of free market, smaller government, and reduced spending that they recently campaigned on. Any indication of compromise on those core principles will bring an all out war with tea party Republicans and will quickly insure Republican defeat in 2012.
The last several days before the election, CNN/Opinion Dynamics polled former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney against President Obama. Huckabee polled ahead of the President 52-44, Romney polled ahead 50-45, and Obama polled ahead of Palin 44-52. Momentum is clearly behind Republicans headed into the election of 2012. It would be wise for the Republicans in Congress to wage a war against the President’s agenda, even when there’s no resolution in sight. If Republicans are doing so on the basis of conservative principles, then such a policy war becomes not a means to an end, but an end to itself. With the Senate and White House in Democratic hands for at least two more years, there will likely be long, drawn out policy debates before any strategic objectives are met. However, such dialogue, debate, and political discourse will keep the conservative base excited headed into a 2012 election that could prove to be even more exciting than 2010.
In short, the road only rises for a Republican Congress who insists upon uniting around core conservative principles and aggressively pursuing policies based on those principles without compromise.