The other Republican victory

The Republicans also made big gains in our nation’s political infrastructure; that is, the important but often neglected state governments:

While the Republican gains in the House and Senate are grabbing the most headlines, the most significant results on Tuesday came in state legislatures where Republicans wiped the floor with Democrats.

Republicans picked up 680 seats in state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures — the most in the modern era. To put that number in perspective: In the 1994 GOP wave, Republicans picked up 472 seats. The previous record was in the post-Watergate election of 1974, when Democrats picked up 628 seats.

The GOP gained majorities in at least 14 state house chambers. They now have unified control — meaning both chambers — of 26 state legislatures.

That control is a particularly bad sign for Democrats as they go into the redistricting process. If the GOP is effective in gerrymandering districts in many of these states, it could eventually lead to the GOP actually expanding its majority in 2012.

via Devastation: GOP Picks Up 680 State Leg. Seats – Hotline On Call.

Legitimate government controls?

George Will, in a column analyzing the election as a repudiation of liberalism, includes an interesting quotation:

George Mason University economist Don Boudreaux agreed that interest-group liberalism has indeed been leavened by idea-driven liberalism. Which is the problem.

“These ideas,” Boudreaux says, “are almost exclusively about how other people should live their lives. These are ideas about how one group of people (the politically successful) should engineer everyone else’s contracts, social relations, diets, habits, and even moral sentiments.” Liberalism’s ideas are “about replacing an unimaginably large multitude of diverse and competing ideas . . . with a relatively paltry set of ‘Big Ideas’ that are politically selected, centrally imposed, and enforced by government, not by the natural give, take and compromise of the everyday interactions of millions of people.”

via George F. Will – A recoil against liberalism.

And yet, aren’t conservatives accused of much the same thing, wanting to control people’s social relations and moral sentiments, replacing an unimaginably large multitude of diverse and competing ideas?

Is the only difference that liberals want to control everyone, except when it comes to sex, while conservatives want everyone to be free, except when it comes to sex? That, I’m sure, is an overstatement. But how would you state it?

Libertarians don’t want to control anything, and yet, arguably, preventing people from controlling you will take substantial state power.

Could we agree that there are certain social goods that the government does need to promote? Like what? Whereas other areas of human life need to be unregulated? Like what?

Who got the political spending?

Politicians spent some $4 billion trying to get elected, which comes to about $43 per vote. But who ended up with all that money? Mainly television stations and other media outlets. The Washington Post Company reported a 7% jump in revenue for the third quarter, which it credits to political advertising on its television stations, as well as its for-profit Kaplan University.

This article talks about other businesses that benefited–including pollsters, advertisers, and small town restaurants–to the point of calling the election “the midterm stimulus program.”

A dance of death

The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a statesman of the old school.  The Senator from New York was a Democrat, but he also served loyally in Republican administrations.  He was liberal politically, but he articulated positions that would now be called socially conservative (such as the horrific consequences of having children out of wedlock).  Steven Pearlstein reviews a collection of his letters and cites this haunting warning:

In a resignation letter he never sent to Nixon, Moynihan complains that “the extremes of left and right have joined in a dance of death” around “the presidency and every other institution of order and reason in American society,” exploiting society’s divisions for “short-term, narrow, shallow purposes.”

“The extremists of the left and right need each other, complement each other, strengthen each other,” he wrote, creating a symbiotic relationship that threatened “the quality, and ultimately the survival of the American democracy.”

via Steven Pearlstein – A short reading list for the congressional Class of 2010.

He’s right, isn’t he, about the way the far right and the far left feed off of each other?  And, whether you are a conservative or a liberal, can you see how the extreme ends of both spectrums, playing off of each other, can endanger the country?

Lessons for Conservatives

Republicans won big in the 2010 elections on a conservative wave.  But there are also lessons conservatives could take away from their victory.

They have a genuine popular movement in the Tea Party.  But Tea Partiers must remember that they have to field good candidates.  A person who just has the right beliefs or even the person who leads the local organization is not necessarily going to be a good candidate or an effective office-holder.  The Tea Party brought some new blood into the political scene, and some of their candidates–I think of Marco Rubio–are quite talented and have bright futures.  But when the Tea Parties fielded candidates whose only qualification was their zeal, they lost.

What are some other lessons conservatives can learn from the elections?

How Obama can win a second term

The crushing rebuke of the Democrats in the recent election by no means finishes Barack Obama.  He can easily win a second term by emulating the last Democratic President who likewise lost a midterm election but came back to win a second term.  Bill Clinton simply played along with the Republicans to the point of co-opting their positions.  Welfare reform was a Republican issue, but Clinton made it his own.  He also won the public’s sympathy.

President Obama could take upon himself the reduction of the deficit.  (Yes, he caused a big part of it, but that doesn’t have to matter politically.)  He could drastically cut corporate welfare, farm subsidies and the military, thus pleasing his left flank.  The Republicans would co-operate with his other cuts, such as eliminating  whole departments and highly-visible programs.  He could reform social security, perhaps by not letting rich people get it.  He could increase his popularity by just leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, while keeping up the drone assassinations.

I’m not saying he SHOULD do any of this.  I’m just describing what might be successful tactics.  What else could he do?


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