Friday, November 10, 2006

Election Postmortem

My attitude before the election was best summed up as, "Vox populi, vox dei." In contrast to prior years, I never got the sense that either party was worthy enough that I could really have a rooting interest behind it. The general contour of the election had been set for the better part of the year: the Iraq was was increasingly unpopular, but there was no real positive enthusiasm for the Democrats. I was really wondering how the American people would sort the whole thing out, and expected that they would do a good job.

After the fact, I'm less than impressed. Not so much that the GOP lost, because they deserved that much, but the merciless repudiation of everybody associated with the party. I can see, when Conrad Burns or Mike DeWine loses, it's just culling the herd. But the GOP also had some outstanding candidates, without any hint of scandal or responsibility for the Iraqi failure: Steele, Santorum, Kyl, Pawlenty, etc, and the voters took it out on them too. As my dad says, "When the paddy wagon comes, they take the good girls along with the bad." (Of course, he's talking about the stock market, but the point is the same.)

In the 2004 aftermath, there were odes and paeans written about the wisdom and good judgment of the American voter. I didn't believe it, because the fact that a circus act like John Kerry won 48% of anything ought to be an embarrassment. I thought this year would be different. It wasn't.

Even allowing for all that, the real responsibility for the election has to be split between the institutional GOP establishment and the conservative base. The establishment got itself drunk on power, and the base let it happen. This is in addition to the voter dissatisfaction with Iraq. Because the base couldn't or wouldn't discipline their guys the Washington, the voters had to, with the only means that they had. I have a feeling that in other circumstances the American people might have had more patience with the stalemate in Iraq. But it's hard to give the benefit of the doubt to someone you have no respect for, and with things like the Mark Foley/Congressional page scandal and the bridge to nowhere, the contempt was well-earned.

One thing I've read over the past couple of days is that the GOP lost but conservatism didn't. I don't buy that at all. As I mentioned before, that the voters had no interest at all in trying to make a distinction between limited government true-believers and perk-hoarding timeservers. The Hugh Hewitts of the world should bear this in mind. There's also the practical reality that the Democrats didn't just win contoro of the House, they also have a little cushion as well. Enough to make it more difficult than it ought to be get it back once we have regular order restored to the GOP.

1 comment:

Prior Peter, OSB said...

I was cut off when I tried to log in, so this comment might appear twice.

I was especially sad to see Santorum lose. He did get some unfair press this past year as doesn't represent a particularly red state, but I agree that he lost because voters were fed up with his party.

I would add some nuance to the trust you have in the American voter. There is a lot of bad information out there. Few people have both the inclination and time to think through complex issues like national fiscal responsibility. I believe that voters are interested and act in good faith, but good judgments require more than that.