As the Republican debacle retreats ever more in the rear-view mirror, what can be said of the road ahead?
First, a retrospective….
The congressional results were awful, but not out of line with midterm results during Korea and Vietnam. With considerable encouragement from the press, Americans do not look kindly on protracted war. They are notoriously impatient, accustomed to results yesterday. In war they want victory fast, a quick in-and-out.
Bleeding Iraq was a major contributor to the November 7 results, and the administration helped principally in not asking for national sacrifice. Following 9/11, President Bush told the citizenry to go on as though nothing had happened — and not to let the attack, which he said changed everything, change anything in individual lives and routines. Instead, he should have demanded sacrifice and broadened participation in the war effort.
But Iraq was not the only contributor to Republican electoral defeat in this country closely divided on partisan lines for at least a decade. Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 saying they would do better and be better than the Democrats. Yet scandal after congressional scandal demonstrated that too many Republicans in Washington behaved badly — as badly as the Democrats who had gone before. Republicans also lost control of the congressional agenda and reaffirmed that when it comes to governance, they do it less well than the Democrats.
Republicans also retreated from the values that carried them to victory a dozen years before. Notes Indiana Republican Mike Pence, who might become the next House minority leader: “After 1994, we were a majority committed to balanced federal budgets, entitlement reform, and advancing the principles of limited government. In recent years, our majority voted to expand the federal government’s role in education and entitlements, and pursued spending policies that created record deficits and national debt.”
If Iraq combined with Republican arrogance, hubris, and corruption to return control of Congress to the Democratic claque, what will the future hold? Likely, for instance, these things:
— Investigations into administration performance in the War on Terror.
— A hike in the minimum wage — leading to higher unemployment and the very outsourcing liberals in another voice deplore.
— Protectionism and limits on free trade.
— Refusal to confirm John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.
— Refusal to confirm federal judicial nominees uncommitted to legislating from the bench.
— Failure to do the things necessary — such as approving drilling in ANWR and offshore — to help move the country toward energy independence.
— Failure to build into Social Security the reforms it has to have to survive.
Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.
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