The election results are devastating to the Congress, the Bush administration, and potentially to the nation. No two ways about it.
Republicans took congressional power claiming theirs was the party of ideas and reform. On the reform part, at least, it proved not so. They kept in place many of the same power practices the Democrats perfected. They proved no better personally, either: Think DeLay, Abramoff, Foley, even Hastert. Scandal affected congressional officeholders in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Texas, Montana, Arizona, Nevada, and California — and that is not a complete list.
In the realm of ideas — ideology, perhaps — the Republicans did prove generally (though not entirely) superior to the Democrats. On taxes, terror, and Iraq the Democrats continue daily to demonstrate their intellectual bankruptcy.
That is why the coterie of incoming House leaders certainly (Pelosi, Hoyer, Dingell, Hastings, Rangel, Conyers, Waxman, Frank) and Senate leaders possibly (Reid, Durbin, Biden, Levin, Byrd) give Republicans, conservatives, and moderates everywhere the screaming meemies by the mere mention of their names.
The economy is roaring because of tax cuts and free-market fundamentals locking in despite Democratic carping all the way. The administration’s prosecution of the War on Terror has succeeded broadly, though difficulties in Iraq played to a historically impatient American public — those difficulties magnified by an enemy driven by the belief that Republican defeats would brighten its long-term prospects for ending the American military presence.
An altered domestic media landscape, initially more helpful to conservatives and moderates seeking alternatives to the leftism rampant in the establishment press, turned and bit Republicans and conservatives especially hard this year — particularly bloggers.
Who can define “media” these days? Is a blogger a journalist? Does a talk-radio guy oversee a legitimate news operation? How is cable news an improvement on network?
The instantaneity of the Web magnifies and disseminates every stupid stumble, botched joke, malignant rumor, and hidden truth around the world at practically light speed. It also greatly helps polarize the electorate and push it into niches too often sanctuaries of the mean.
Republicans performed poorly in the elections this year partly because too many of them have behaved badly. Bad behavior, both politically and personally — behavior hardly different from the examples set by their Democratic predecessors in power — ran them up against a voting public ultimately unforgiving.
The other principal part — the other big piece in the puzzle — was, yes, Iraq.
Bitter Democrats never have recovered from their 2000 presidential defeat. Many of them still refuse to accept George Bush as their president. The administration has fallen victim to postwar realities on the ground in Iraq, combining with an American public never good at the long haul. And this war — the War on Terror, the Long War, World War IV, the war for civilization, whatever — is playing out in Iraq and not going as well as it could or should.
The Democrats have carped, caterwauled, and criticized, but they have conspicuously offered little in the way of alternatives in Iraq except…end it, get out, come home.
If they hold true to form, the Democrats, controlling the House and perhaps the Senate, will seek to do these things: raise the minimum wage, cut subsidies to the oil industry, kill temporary federal tax cuts, penalize outsourcing, throttle all talk of privatization initiatives for Social Security, and stymie the confirmation of Bush nominees to the federal courts. Given even a Democratic House armed with subpoena power, expect as well highly publicized “investigations” of Republicans in Congress and the White House.
The administration response should contain two principal elements: inflexibility regarding low taxes and decisive steps regarding Iraq.
Policy in Iraq should be based on pacifying the populace so as to build a government both stable and free. This can be accomplished in Iraq in ways only the administration and the military can know — and let us remember that the military remains the public’s most respected profession (far more than Congress, the administration, or the press).
And it should be accompanied by demanding sacrifice from the American citizenry via such things as a war footing for the population at large and compulsory universal service — with a front-end military component — for all men and women 18-23.
For in Iraq and the Long War, there can be no compromise. Churchill voiced for all time the ultimate necessity and the ultimate consequence of failure: Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.