Last night was rough: I was definitely surprised at the extent of Democratic pickups in the House and the Senate. And there may be some real bad consquences to having Democrats in power. My greatest concerns is that the Democrats will hobble intelligence agencies and hinder the war on terror. I’m also sad to think that the Washington DC voucher program (it’s up for reauthorization next year) may be killed, which means that about 1700 low income students in the nation’s capital will likely have to leave their current schools and return to the miserable DC public school system.
That’s the bad news, but there is good news in this election too. Republicans are going to have to do some real soul searching and remember why people supported them in the first place. This means returning to first principles, like a belief in limited government, less regulation, fewer government handout programs, a transparent tax code, reformed entitlement programs, and more individual control. When I was on Fox News yesterday, I struggled to come up with any legislative victory from the past two years. It shouldn’t be that hard. Republicans in Congress really fell down on their job, beginning with their failure to engage with the President on reforming Social Security. This should have been a no brainer. It should be conservativism 101 to want to transform our broken, tax-and-spend Social Security system into one that is based on savings and investment. Not only is this good policy, but survey research increasingly shows it’s also good politics. Yet the Republican Congress balked, and proved that they were more concerned with avoiding a challenging political conversation than in doing the right thing. That has to change. Republicans need to get back to talking about their vision of an ownership society.
The Democrats didn’t win this election so much as the Republicans lost it. The country didn’t embrace a Democratic vision of government and domestic policy: they never even offered one. They put forth a few small time initiatives — a higher minium wage and more subsidies for student loans — but never tackled any of the big issues, like Social Security, healthcare or immigration. Many of the big pickups for the Democrats came through candidates that positioned themselves as fiscal conservatives and practically Republicans on many core issues.
Conservatives should take heart. In two years, there is another chance to reclaim Congress. By that point, not only will we we will be able to point to the vacuous Democratic agenda, hopefully, we will have committed conservatives to root for.