Next to major holidays, Election Day pre–poll closing is the worst for political junkies. All the opinion polls are moot. Everything that has been said has been said multiple times. The pundits have enumerated all the potential surprises, so there are no surprises, other than in Rumsfeldian terms, the unknown surprises. The election today is not about what will happen but by how much. So all there is to do is wait until the votes come in.
Rather than make predictions (OK, if you insist — 74 in the House and nine in the Senate), I thought some suggestions for the winners and losers might be in order. For the White House, which may be the biggest loser of them all, this is the time to shift tone and act presidential. Some sincere reflection and admission of their failure to address the voters’ concerns (about debt, bailouts, spending) would signal some much-needed maturity.
For the new GOP House leadership and the expanded GOP Senate caucus, modesty and circumspection is in order. No matter how big the victory, the voters’ message is not that they have “permanently” shifted to the GOP or that the GOP has proved itself as the party of good governance. Shifts are never permanent, and the governance skills have yet to be demonstrated. And whether the new leadership suspects that Obama’s presidency is kaput or not, it is unseemly and unwise to celebrate the demise of a presidency after only two years. (If David Brooks’s sampling of GOP officials is accurate, there is hope in this regard. He observes, “This year, the Republicans seem modest and cautious. I haven’t seen this many sober Republicans since America lost the Ryder Cup.”)
For the self-fancied “moderate” Democrats who survive (there will be some) or who were fortunate enough not to be on the ballot, the lesson to be learned is one of differentiation. To the extent that the public perceives Democrats from competitive seats as loyal foot soldiers of their leadership and the White House, those Democrats are an endangered species. Their votes need to match their labeling.
For the Obama spinners and sycophants who promoted a cult of personality and labeled his victory in 2008 as one of those “permanent” realignments, some mea culpas would be nice; more intellectually honest analysis would be even better.
And for the conservative blogosphere and base, learn the correct lessons. Not every Republican can win, so choose candidates wisely. A core message of economic conservatism is unifying and politically popular. Finally, give those much-maligned Republican leaders some credit. Yeah, they had some goofy favorites in the primary; but they kept the GOP caucus focused, held them together on key votes beyond expectations, and, to be blunt, acted more professionally than the president who constantly derided them. With some Tea Party–backed candidates to stiffen their spines, they might surprise us in the next couple of years.