The musings of one Andrew Langer - defender of liberty, passionate protector of individual rights, foodie. (Note: Said Musings of Andrew Langer are his own, and the views represented herein are likewise his views, and not the views of any other people, entities, foodstuffs, etc [unless otherwise specifically and explicitly noted].)

Friday, November 10, 2006

So What Really Happened On Tuesday, Andrew?

Well, it’s been quite a week, hasn’t it?

I’ve been trying to find time to sit down and write this, but, frankly, there hasn’t been a lot of that. Time, I mean. So, it’s taken me a few days longer than I would have wanted.

Let me say at the outset, that as disappointed as I am (and, let’s face it, this isn’t good), I am actually excited, and optimistic, and not nearly as despondent as a lot of people are, and think I ought to be.

So let’s just do a quick outline here. I’m going to lay out what happened, ie, why we lost, then offer up what I consider to be some “silver linings” of this whole mess, and then make some suggestions as to where to go next.

Why am I not despondent? Well, as I’ve been saying to most of the folks who’ve called me, either to commiserate or offer condolences, it would be one thing entirely if America had woken up on Tuesday morning and had all of a sudden believed in the liberal Democratic agenda (or, should I say, the “statist” Democratic agenda). If the Democrats had offered up some sort of a “Contract with America” of their own, laid out a roadmap to getting there, and had any sort of possibility of delivering on those promises, _AND_ Americans had bought into it, then I’d be concerned.

But for the vast majority of Americans who went to the polls and “pulled the lever” (and isn’t that a metaphor in danger of disappearing from the American lexicon?) for Democrats, this isn’t the case.

No, the GOP’s losing both houses this year (and I’m going to focus on the congressional races, frankly), was entirely of their own doing. Just like it was Al Gore’s own fault that he lost in 2000 (in that case, he squandered the overwhelming popularity of a Presidency, ran a lackluster campaign, and put himself in the position of having a relative few thousand votes [and Ralph Nader’s campaign] destroy his election), in this instance, the GOP did it to itself.

What’s good about that is that we can learn from our own mistakes. It’s a tough lesson – a lesson I’d hoped we wouldn’t have to learn, but that I’d been saying for quite a long time we needed to. What do I mean by that? I mean that for the last three election cycles I’ve been saying that our elected officials couldn’t count on saying one thing and doing another, and simply hoping that the lack of a Democratic agenda and a lack of Democratic organization would carry them through. Eventually, either a smart Democrat (Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama, etc) would develop an agenda, the Democrats would organize a la Grover Norquist’s Wednesday morning meeting, or the electorate would get so pissed off that they’d either stay home or out and out vote for the Ds.

Turns out, it was this last thing that happened. The Ds simply let us hang ourselves – and they didn’t need to better organize or come up with an agenda to do it.

As I said, this is a lesson we can learn from. And _THAT’S_ why I’m optimistic. There will be more on this in a moment, when I talk about silver linings.

But let’s talk about what happened first. Essentially, the election broke along four major areas:

1) Moderate to Conservative Republicans lost to Conservative Democrats—This is the key demographic, the one that we’re talking about when we’re talking about Republicans who crossed party lines out of anger and frustration with the GOP. This is the key switch – the GOPers who want to change course in Iraq or feel like those in Congress are spending like… well, like drunken pirates back from a season at sea.

This is also why we continue to have a conservative/anti-statist Congress (or at least, we should) –and also plays into the adage that, “When we act like us, we win. When they act like us, they win. When we act like them, we lose.”

2) Candidates Credibly Painted With the Corruption Brush Were Knocked Out—I don’t mean that the candidates themselves were actually corrupt, merely that their opponents tried to paint them that way. Pombo, for instance, didn’t lose because his constituency didn’t agree with his views on the environment (though the environmental groups are trying to claim that it was). He lost because the environmental groups ran ads that connected him to Jack Abramoff, as if merely accepting a campaign donation from Abramoff was a crime. Northup and others lost because of this as well.

Furthermore, John McCain is going to have to answer for the candidates that lost merely because they had accepted Indian tribe monies. Carlo had to answer for Sonny getting whacked on the causeway (more on this at a later time).

3) Candidates Who Ran Incompetent Campaigns Lost—George Allen. Here’s a cautionary tale for you: never run for your next office before you’ve secured your current one. I had someone question whether or not it was Allen or the campaign who was incompetent, and I answered him this way: if Senator Allen had been focused on Virginia early on, he would have never had been put on the defensive and lost his 16 point lead. Once that vanished, it was catch-up all the way. It was up to his campaign to focus him.

4) RINOs Were Kicked Out: When we act like them, we lose, pure and simple. Republicans cannot out-left the left, even if your name is Lincoln Chafee.

Clearly, there are races that didn’t fall into these four main categories. Michael Steele, for instance, fought a valiant uphill battle and came damned close. I make no secret that in the waning days I thought he might actually win. But Democrat votes outnumber Republican votes in MD by 2:1. Just consider how well he did.

Some silver linings:

There are some silver linings to all this, in the end:

1) As I said, we didn’t lose because of any inherent sea change in what Americans believe, policywise. The Polling Company’s numbers are demonstrating that, in fact: America’s want victory, they want a limited government, and they want fiscal responsibility. They were getting frustrated because those in power weren’t living up to their promises. That can change;

2) We will have staff turnover on the Hill, and what will be left will be better. About a thousand staffers will leave the Hill as a result of this, several hundred of whom will find good jobs in DC. Those who stay will be a hardier bunch of people, and those who try to go to the Hill to get jobs will be more committed to the cause.

The importance of this cannot be understated: today’s GOP superstars: Ed Gillespie, Ken Mehlman, Marc Lampkin, Mike Zarrelli, Horace Cooper, Lampkin, Wilkes, McBurney, Dennis, Roger, etc (and yes, you all know who you are…), came of age on the Hill (or off) when we were in the minority. They know how to toil – and how to keep the Majority flummoxed.

3) It’s over, it’s done, now we can move on. Now the Democrats have to deliver, they’re going to have to have some votes, they’re going to have to get on the record with something, and those so-called “Blue Dogs” are either going to have to vote their principles or vote with the caucus.

And where do we go?

Well, at it’s most basic level, we need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and move forward. It would be cliché to say that ’08 started on Wednesday. In all honesty, for me, the race for 2008 started a long time ago. But here’s what has to happen:

1) Someone will emerge as the standard-bearer for the party.

2) This person needs to articulate a goal – something clear, something positive, something that goes beyond merely wanting to regain the House and Senate (and these are do-able).

3) This person needs to articulate a roadmap for getting us there: setting the agenda and laying out the complete strategy.

4) This person then needs to spend time in the individual districts, not laying the groundwork for the primaries, but instead recruiting candidates for all levels of offices.

This, too, cannot be ignored. One of our big problems this year was that we have, basically, no bench, especially in the Northeast. No depth of candidates to counter well-recruited Democrats. New York was a disaster for the GOP. While I liked John Spencer on a personal level, he couldn’t match Hillary Clinton, even as a sacrificial lamb. Pirro had her problems, too. And what kind of party can’t capitalize on a completely fractured Connecticut State Democratic party?

We need to be like the Yankees and work on rebuilding our farm system, especially for our bullpen.

I think it will take 3+ cycles of concerted effort for us to rebuild and recapture the House and Senate. Much less for the Senate, obviously, as the margins are closer, but we can make significant gains incrementally for the House.

So, I’m optimistic. I’m excited at the prospect of rebuilding. We are at the crossroads of an opportunity here, and as the great Yogi Berra said, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.”

Wanna come down that fork with me? Please do.

- Andrew Langer


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you in love with Lampkin? You said his name twice as a star. Why is Zarrelli on your list?! hahahahhaaaaa

January 08, 2007 12:01 PM


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