The Republicans lost -- now the Democrats have the ball for two years
Let's face it -- the Republicans lost big -- and they deserved to. But somehow I'm not wailing and gnashing my teeth this morning, neither am I rending my rather stylish garments. In fact, I feel strangely sanguine as I watch a starry-eyed and glowing Nancy Pelosi deliver her first press-conference as Speakeress of the House. So, let her have her day. In many ways the Democrats have become doubly dangerous because they have been frustrated and filled with rage ever since they lost the close election of 2000. They just never got over it, and have felt robbed ever since. This kind of frustration and the notion that they would be forever prevented from taking power due to some paranoid notions of Republican shenanigans at the ballot box, bred a kind of rabid hatred of George Bush and everything he stands for. They are like the kid who hasn't been allowed to play with the ball for six whole years and he's been throwing a temper tantrum the entire time. So, let them play. Let them show their stuff. Let them lead instead of carping from the sidelines with impunity. Already I'm hearing conciliatory tones and murmurs of how important security is. Oh, sure, it's all talk -- and talk is cheap, particularly when you are sailing high right after a win. But I'm not going to be churlish. Now that that enraged dog has finally been unleashed and finally managed to catch the mail truck, let's see what he does with it. I'm dying of curiosity. Let the American people see the Democrat party front and center for two years, and let the Republican party take the time to reassess, to regroup and to find its Reaganite roots again.
As for the vote -- this election was clearly a referendum on George Bush and the way he has handled the war in Iraq. Now that is not to say that the American people have voted to abdicate the war on terror, because a full 70% of the public recognizes that we will be engaged with radical Islam in a war sometime in the future. Unfortunately, George Bush seems to have reduced the entire war on terror to Iraq and nothing but Iraq, when I think we all recognize that as big a problem as that is, we still have to deal with Iran, the real terror central and real foe of our future. The problem is that we are bogged down in Iraq and Bush has refused to adjust or alter his approach. There is no sense in going over all the mistakes that were made after the initial toppling of Saddam. Now comes news that Rumsfeld has resigned. I don't know a thing about Robert Gates, the incoming SecDef -- but the fact that he comes from Texas does not please me, because off-hand it sounds like another crony appointment. And Bush's big problem has been his inability to tap talent outside his own small band of known insiders.
I think it was a mistake for Bush to personalize the campaign, making Iraq the sole centerpiece. Stay the course just isn't cutting it with the public anymore when the course is obviously failing. Using Iraq has succeeded before, but the public has grown weary of steady casualty counts and reports that the troops are being hampered by ridiculously PC restraints that, for instance, call for investigations to be made into every use of firearms -- as if this were a domestic police matter! I think people resent our leadership pursuing a stubborn policy without any acknowledgment that what they are doing isn't working and that new solutions must be found. Iraq is dangerously on the precipice of civil war, and no American wants to see his son or daughter involved in something like that. Americans don't shrink from a fight, but they want to win and get out. They don't want to pussy foot around, treading lightly and turning our troops into glorified policemen and social workers -- and then turning on those who act like they are in a war and charging them with capital murder. And increasingly it's becoming clear that the Iraqis are not even on the same page with us. Their goals are different. Maliki hasn't helped matters much, and the heady days of purple fingers have yielded to bloody days of tortured corpses littering the streets on a daily basis.
And let's face it -- the Republicans defeated themselves. They became arrogant in power, and only a few short years ago were bragging openly that they would have majorities for the foreseeable future. And what did they do with that power? Did they implement the conservative agenda of fiscal restraint and smaller government? No -- they became out of control spenders with bridges to nowhere, and we had the ridiculous spectacle of Hastert coming to the passionate defense of William Jefferson's freezerful of cash. Absolute power breeds corruption -- and Republicans sadly did become corrupt.
And let's not forget that George Bush intended to finally end the Reagan legacy, and instead he has presided over the demise of the party and its recognizable principles, and turned it into warmed-over LBJ-style war on poverty, compassionate pablum. Karl Rove thought he could insult the conservative base time and again and try to purge them from the party, fully expecting that they would drag themselves to the polls because they had little other choice. But I think many people became so disgusted with what is going on in Washington that broken-glass Republicans became I-have-a-bunion-today Republicans.
Well, I'm kind of punch drunk this morning, and I'm not saying quite what I want to say. The party needs to regroup, let the Democrats have the ball and let's see what they do with it. And let the Republicans take stock and reshape the party into something that can field a great candidate in 2008, someone who understands the dangers that we face and who understands the need to speak to common-sense everyday Americans about our core values, the way Reagan did. Compassionate conservatism, the "new tone", being concialitory to the point of obsequiousness -- this brand of governance is dead. And if it isn't, God help the Republican party and the American people.