When we published the Election Aftermath thread this morning, you give us an earful. The overarching theme for many of you seemed to be that if there was one thing worse than the prospect of losing the election yesterday, it was winning the election yesterday. The biggest concern seems to involve waiting to see how long it will be before the newly elected GOP majority stabs conservatives in the back. Given the speeches being made by McConnell, Boehner and others since the polls closed, with repeating themes of “getting things done” those look like legitimate concerns. Yes, we want you to accomplish things, but not just anything.
Leon Wolf at Redstate has a similar message for the GOP along the same lines. Dear Republicans: No One Elected You to Work with Democrats
Let us review the bidding. Republicans ran this year on very little of substance. Their brand ID is still very underwater with the American public. There is no program right now that the American public is clamoring for the Republicans to undertake with one exception: they hate what President Obama is doing and they want Republicans to stop it. Exit poll after exit poll last night showed that the single most important thing in the minds of the voters this year was the looming shadow of death Obama cast on all his Democrat allies.
If voters really wanted people who would work closely with Obama and other Democrats to “get things done,” they would have just voted for more Democrats. After all, virtually every elected Democrat has “worked with” Obama (in the sense of doing exactly everything he asked) for the last six solid years. Say what you want about the information level of the average voter, but absolutely no one was confused into thinking that they were replacing a Democrat with a Republican in the hopes that the Republican would be more friendly to the Democrat agenda.
Matt Lewis has a slightly different, but still cautious message. Don’t get too cocky because there are tougher battles to come and they aren’t all that far off.
I don’t want to be too much of a downer. Republicans ought to celebrate what happened Tuesday night. It’s important to celebrate your victories — but not rest on your laurels. There is a distinction that I think is very important.
The lesson here is not for Republicans to go squishy or cower or retreat ideologically. It is instead for them to do the hard work associated with winning arguments. They must be serious and smart and focused. They must govern as competently as they campaigned. And they must be cognizant of the fact that the demographic challenges that haunted them in 2008 and 2012 among minorities, college-educated urbanites, single women, etc., didn’t magically disappear Tuesday night.
They must modernize, not moderate. They must be confident, but not cocky. This is not an argument for surrender, but rather, an argument for prudence — for that is the only way that conservative ideas will be given a chance to flourish in 21st century America.
It would, in my opinion, be foolish to advocate doing absolutely nothing. That would only provide fuel for the ongoing theme of Democrats who say that the GOP is just the Party of No and that Republicans want to shut down the government. There are a few things which are on the conservative agenda which enjoy broad, bipartisan support among voters. These include finishing the Keystone Pipeline and repealing the medical device tax. Some of these items should be able to be knocked out quickly in January and sent to the President’s desk.
But it’s still a fairly short list. Unfortunately, as Leon Wolf discussed, there is simply too great of an ideological divide between conservative principles and Obama and his allies. We don’t even all agree on exactly which things are problems that require attention. And where there is agreement that something needs to be done, the proposed solutions are often completely opposite from each other. But, again, that doesn’t mean that you just sit on your hands. While they may not make it into law, there should be specific conservative proposals crafted into legislation, debated robustly and sent to the President’s desk. If he wants to veto them all, at least the case will have been made to the voters and they can decide in two years whether or not that want a president who will approve such measure. If nothing else, they will at least have a record to run on.