Signs of a com­ing Repub­li­can wave

Americans ap­pear ready to march right on Elec­tion Day

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By David A. Keene

Although signs of the po­lit­i­cal wave Repub­li­can lead­ers have been pray­ing for may be peek­ing over the hori­zon, it’s been late in com­ing this year as many con­testable Se­nate, House and gu­ber­na­to­rial races have re­mained up in the air for months. There are a num­ber of rea­sons for the lack of clar­ity. Repub­li­can Se­nate chal­lengers face en­trenched Demo­cratic in­cum­bents who have been rais­ing money for years and, in almost ev­ery case, have more cash in the bank. Se­nate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, has put to­gether a se­ries of su­per PACs to do what­ever may prove nec­es­sary to pro­tect his Se­nate majority and has been run­ning at­tack ads against Repub­li­cans that have set a lower stand­ing for truth­ful­ness than any­one could have imag­ined pos­si­ble when the cur­rent cy­cle be­gan. Even The Wash­ing­ton Post’s “fact checker” has mar­veled at the way Mr. Reid’s friends are play­ing fast and loose with the facts in their at­tack ads this year.

Democrats may not want to ap­pear with Pres­i­dent Obama, but they’ve wel­comed the mil­lions of dol­lars he has raised for them. The pres­i­dent has al­ready ap­peared at two dozen Se­nate com­mit­tee-spon­sored fundrais­ers, more than Pres­i­dent George W. Bush at­tended and twice as many as Pres­i­dent Rea­gan at­tended in their eight years in of­fice. Those mil­lions have kept afloat Democrats who might have al­ready drowned, if left to their own de­vices.

Still, last week, Repub­li­can can­di­dates fi­nally be­gan putting dis­tance be­tween them­selves and their Demo­cratic op­po­nents as vot­ers be­gan ac­tu­ally look­ing at the can­di­dates, fac­ing the fact that they are go­ing to have to make a choice on Nov. 4 not be­tween a dream can­di­date with whom they agree on ev­ery is­sue and an op­po­nent they re­ally dis­like, but be­tween two hu­man, flawed con­tenders seek­ing their support.

That decision was eas­ier for vot­ers in 1994 and 2010, two GOP wave elec­tions sim­i­lar to what Repub­li­cans have been hop­ing for this year. In both, vot­ers angry at the poli­cies the Democrats were pur­su­ing, as well as at the con­di­tion of the coun­try, couldn’t wait to fire them and hap­pily voted for their Repub­li­can op­po­nents. In both cases, mil­lions of vot­ers were will­ing to take a chance on the Repub­li­cans be­cause they thought they just had to be bet­ter than the Democrats they wanted to send pack­ing.

This year, vot­ers aren’t so sure. They’ve voted Repub­li­can in the past and have been dis­ap­pointed. They don’t want to wake up on Nov. 5 to find that noth­ing has changed. It’s why poll­sters tell us vot­ers have been say­ing they aren’t as ex­cited about vot­ing this fall as one might ex­pect, and it’s why sig­nif­i­cant num­bers are weigh­ing the wis­dom of cast­ing a “protest” vote for in­de­pen­dent, third-party or lib­er­tar­ian mi­nor can­di­dates — even in close races.

As Elec­tion Day ap­proaches, many, if not most, of th­ese hes­i­tant vot­ers are re­think­ing the con­se­quences of sit­ting this one out or cast­ing a protest vote that could leave the Se­nate in Demo­cratic hands. It’s easy enough to sug­gest, as some have for decades, that there isn’t much dif­fer­ence be­tween the two par­ties, but that sim­ply isn’t true. The dif­fer­ences be­tween the most con­ser­va­tive and most lib­eral Repub­li­cans pale when one com­pares them to the stark dif­fer­ences be­tween the most lib­eral Repub­li­cans and the most con­ser­va­tive Democrats.

The par­ties are, for good or ill, more starkly ho­mo­ge­neous to­day than at any time in our his­tory. The Demo­cratic Party of Harry Tru­man and John F. Kennedy has mor­phed into a Euro­pean-style So­cial Demo­cratic party that nei­ther man would rec­og­nize. The na­tional Demo­cratic Party doesn’t have much ide­o­log­i­cal breadth as it ap­peals mainly to class envy, racial prej­u­dice and mon­eyed lib­eral elites.

They may have to rely on a nar­row base, but Democrats are more con­vinced than ever that to win, all they have to do is se­cure their base vote, fig­ure out how to outdo the op­po­si­tion me­chan­i­cally, and so de­mo­nize the op­po­si­tion that even vot­ers who don’t like Demo­cratic can­di­dates or the di­rec­tion they’re tak­ing the coun­try won’t be able to bring them­selves to vote Repub­li­can. The strat­egy proved deadly ef­fec­tive in 2012, and Demo­cratic lead­ers are hop­ing it will work again.

As the Democrats pre­pare to de­liver their vot­ers on Nov. 4, Repub­li­cans and con­ser­va­tives up­set enough with their party’s can­di­dates to sit this one out or vote for a third can­di­date are the Democrats’ ace in the hole. Early polls show up­ward of 90 per­cent of Demo­cratic vot­ers have al­ready de­cided to support their party in im­por­tant races, while 20 per­cent or more of Repub­li­cans re­main un­de­cided.

As the prospect of another two years of Mr. Obama’s un­con­tested power sinks in, vot­ers disgruntled with the pres­i­dent and his party are fi­nally de­cid­ing to ex­press their dis­plea­sure by vot­ing for Repub­li­cans. As that hap­pens, the wave Repub­li­cans have prayed for is build­ing and could leave the big-spend­ing friends of Messrs. Obama and Reid won­der­ing why all the money they raised and spent didn’t make that much dif­fer­ence in the end. David A. Keene is opin­ion ed­i­tor of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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