In Michigan, the GOP establishment deserted Ward Connerly's principled battle to end reverse discrimination. But while the GOP went down to defeat, the Connerly ballot initiative, rooted in the idea of equal justice under law for all races, swept to a 58-42 victory. When Republicans desert Reagan Democrats, Reagan Democrats desert the GOP. Which is as it should be.
On social issues, our national division that dates to the cultural wars of the '60s, endures. Embryonic stem cell research lost a huge lead to win a slim victory in Missouri, while the toughest anti-abortion law in America went down to narrow defeat in South Dakota. But gay marriage was routed in every state where it was on the ballot, and pot for medicinal purposes was rejected in libertarian Nevada.
Yet the effect of the Republican defeat on Bush appears to have been almost destabilizing. Within 48 hours, all the campaign bluster was gone and Bush was moving to accommodate his critics.
He fired and humiliated his loyal deputy Donald Rumsfeld, told the new Mexican president he would fight for "comprehensive" reform of U.S. immigration law -- i.e., amnesty and open borders -- and had Nancy Pelosi down to the Oval Office, where she was treated as a queen, despite having portrayed the president as an incompetent ignoramus.
Coupled with what appears to be the outsourcing of Iraq policy to James Baker, Bush family consigliore, the questions arise, one after the other. Is there any real core to George W. Bush? Is there any real constancy and constancy of character and purpose?
And do we have another broken presidency on our hands?
For conservatives, the lessons of 2006 seem clear. They failed in their duty to hold the Republican Party to account when it departed from principle and political ethics, and thus failed to rescue it from the rout it has now received. The Right failed in the basic responsibility of true camaraderie: Friends don't let friends drive drunk.
What conservatives should do now is what they should have been doing for six years. Stand behind the president when he fights for low taxes and conservative judges. But when he joins with Pelosi, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderon and McCain-Kennedy for open borders, or with Dick Durbin for "moderate justices," give him another "thumping" -- like he got from conservatives when he sought to elevate Harrier Miers to the Supreme Court and just as he got from the nation on Nov. 7.