A ver­dict on Repub­li­cans

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

The vot­ers have spo­ken, with a sharp and painful re­buke to the Repub­li­can Party for its in­com­pe­tence and to Pres­i­dent Bush for the con­duct of the war in Iraq. Th­ese are the un­mis­tak­able con­clu­sions af­ter a wide cross-sec­tion of Amer­i­cans turned con­trol of the House, and per­haps the Se­nate, over to the Democrats.

The ev­i­dence be­gins with the exit polls, which called the win­ners more ac­cu­rately this year than in 2004. More than a third of the vot­ers called the war in Iraq an “ex­tremely im­por­tant” fac­tor in their vote; an­other third called it “im­por­tant.” More than half think the war has ren­dered the coun­try less se­cure. More than half want to with­draw, ei­ther in part or in full.

The ver­dict is loud, clear and un­am­bigu­ous. Since Pres­i­dent Bush’s name did not ap­pear on the bal­lots, the vot­ers pun­ished his party, just as an­gry vot­ers pun­ished Demo­cratic rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­a­tors in the wake of dif­fi­cult wars in Korea and Viet­nam. His­tory will tell of the con­se­quences, good and bad.

Repub­li­can in­com­pe­tence, min­i­mized in ear­lier elec­tions, was dealt with this time. Sixty-one per­cent of the vot­ers dis­ap­prove of how Congress has done its job. This is no doubt a cu­mu­la­tive con­se­quence of sev­eral sorry episodes, be­gin­ning with the mis­han­dling of the fed­eral re­sponse to Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina and con­tin­u­ing with the cor­rup­tion and ethics scan­dals; con­gres­sional in­volve­ment with dis­graced lob­by­ist Jack Abramoff; the ex­plo­sive growth of “ear­marks,” as “pork” is cur­rently de­scribed; un­con­trolled gov­ern­ment spend­ing and most re­cently Mark Fo­ley’s at­tempted se­duc­tion of the pages en­trusted to con­gres­sional care. Th­ese episodes were ag­gra­vated by the way the Repub­li­can con­gres­sional lead­er­ship seemed obliv­i­ous to it all.

Fi­nally, 41 per­cent of the vot­ers “strongly dis­ap­prove” of Mr. Bush’s per­for­mance, and an­other 15 per­cent “some­what dis­ap­prove.” Twenty-nine per­cent de­scribe them­selves as “an­gry,” and 30 per­cent are “dis­sat­is­fied.” This time the en­er­gized Amer­i­can left was joined by vot­ers in the mid­dle, and by many con­ser­va­tives who think the pres­i­dent and his party let them down.

The re­turns on Nov. 7 demon­strated clearly that this elec­tion was not a re­buke of con­ser­va­tive ideals, but a re­buke of those who be­trayed those ideals. In­deed, the re­turns demon­strated that con­ser­vatism has spread to the Democrats.

Sev­eral lib­eral and mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans fell who would still be up­right this morn­ing if they had not flirted with lib­eral nos­trums. In the Se­nate, Mike DeWine of Ohio, who earned a rat­ing of 56 from the Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union in 2005 and Lin­coln Chafee of Rhode Is­land, with a rat­ing of 12, were thrown out along with con­ser­va­tives Rick San­to­rum of Penn­syl­va­nia, Con­rad Burns of Mon­tana, Jim Tal­ent of Mis­souri, and, de­pend­ing on a re­count, per­haps Ge­orge Allen of Vir­ginia. In the House, vot­ers dis­patched lib­er­als of vary­ing hue, such as Jim Leach of Iowa, who earned a rat­ing of 33, Char­lie Bass of New Hamp­shire (58 rat­ing), Jeb Bradley of New Hamp­shire (60 rat­ing) and Nancy John­son of Con­necti­cut (60 rat­ing).

Democrats seem to have fig­ured out that left-wing can­di­dates can’t suc­ceed in mod­er­ate-to-con­ser­va­tive dis­tricts. This time they of­fered mod­er­ate and con­ser­va­tive can­di­dates — tax-cut­ters, fans of the Sec­ond Amend­ment and even pro-life can­di­dates. Ex­pe­di­ent or not, tributes to con­ser­va­tive val­ues worked.

Bal­lot ini­tia­tives re­flect­ing th­ese con­ser­va­tive val­ues con­tin­ued to suc­ceed. Michi­gan adopted a curb on af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion. Vot­ers in seven more states de­fined mar­riage as the union of one man and one wo­man (though not in Ari­zona). Ari­zona vot­ers made English the of­fi­cial state lan­guage and also banned bail, state adult-ed­u­ca­tion and child-care money for il­le­gal aliens.

The mes­sage of this elec­tion was not aimed at con­ser­va­tive val­ues and prin­ci­ples, but at a pres­i­dent and Congress whom con­ser­va­tive vot­ers be­lieve had abused th­ese val­ues and prin­ci­ples, al­low­ing a half-hearted pur­suit of the prize to be­come tarred by cor­rup­tion, scan­dal and above all in­com­pe­tence. Con­ser­vatism sur­vives them.

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