OK, so we learned some big things from "the thumping": Voters don't like corruption, or the mess in Iraq.
Here are some other things I learned in the '06 elections:
Americans aren't anti-immigrant; they are pro-assimilation.
In Arizona, more than 70 percent of people voted for four state ballot initiatives on immigration: English as the official language, stripping illegal aliens of the right to bail, denying illegal aliens state-subsidized benefits (adult education programs and child care, among others), and denying punitive damages in lawsuits. Yet according to exit polls, when asked how they prefer to treat illegal immigrants, Arizonans picked "a path to legal status" over "deport them" 57 percent to 38 percent.
But they hate it when people get away with breaking the rules. In the Weekly Standard, Frank Luntz reports: "Among the Americans who swung from the GOP to the Democrats (Republican Rejecters), 'unethical and illegal behavior going unpunished' was number two on the list (behind illegal immigration)." Let me rephrase what Luntz is saying here: Among voters who switched from the GOP to the Dems this election, illegal immigration was the No. 1 issue.
Evangelical is the new black.
African-Americans are the most reliable voting bloc for Democrats. Despite Ted Haggard, Mark Foley, Dick Armey, John Ashcroft, Ryan Sager, David Kuo, and all the other sophisticated efforts to persuade evangelicals that the GOP is simply cynically using them, evangelicals turned out. According to The New York Times, "white evangelicals and born-again Christians made up about 24 percent of those who voted, compared with 23 percent in the 2004 election." Seventy percent of them voted GOP, compared to 72 percent in 2004. Evangelicals alone may not be enough. But without them, Republicans are nowhere.
You may beat a so-called gay marriage ban, as long as you never use the word "marriage" ... or "gay."
In 2004, gay rights made a variety of arguments against these amendments, including "don't write discrimination into the Constitution." In 2006 in Arizona, gay rights groups poured money into a new strategy. Here's how the Houston Chronicle reports it: "Opponents practically erased gays from their arguments in the months leading to the vote, focusing instead on the impact the law could have on unmarried couples in general. ... The group's advertisement points out the approach they decided to take. There were no photos of gay couples. The ad ... features photos of a young heterosexual couple, a child and two elderly heterosexual couples."
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.