As Carrie pointed out this morning, last night was bad for Republicans but not the end of the world. Things turned out worse for the GOP than I had predicted. But the election results really aren’t THAT shocking. Most people predicted a Republican loss; the question was how big that loss would be. Voters on both sides of the political spectrum are frustrated with the status quo and the votes reflected that. As I see it, here are the key points of interest coming out of 2006, looking forward:
• Lots of people are saying it, but it bears repeating: Republicans must get back to basics, particularly fiscal responsibility. Much of the criticism of the status quo in Washington has been coming from conservatives and libertarians. Big-government conservatism has alienated much of the GOP base. The key to any future electoral victories will be reclaiming that base — banking on the idea that “the Democrats will be worse!” clearly has not been effective.
• It is a shame that several genuinely good people got swept out of office along with the Democratic tide. And I’m not just talking about the national losses like Clay Shaw or Rick Santorum. State-level politicians normally rise or fall on the coattails of national races. Yesterday a lot of solid local candidates went down in flames for the “R” next to their name, and that’s a shame, as they had nothing to do with the national frustration behind the election.
• How will President Bush respond to all of this? I was relieved to see Bush mention his continued commitment to private accounts for Social Security in his post-election press conference today. But Bush hasn’t been a veto machine over the past six years. A lot of Republicans are banking on the fact that he’ll find a new-found love of veto power as soon as Nancy Pelosi starts to push through liberal policy. I’d like to think that’s true, but Bush is still a bit of a wild card in this regard.