‘There Was No Republican Wave’

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on November 6, 2014

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.

election-map‘There Was No Republican Wave’
“Given Obama’s low approval ratings, Republicans could have been running away with this thing,” the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne wrote last week.

Well, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. Anyway, according to CNN’s Sally Kohn, Democrats had “already won” three weeks ago. After all, there was “still a contest in the Senate,” “Democratic policies” were “emerging as third rails,” voters know “about ‘Republican War on Women,’ ” and, most of all, “Republicans appear desperate.”

“In the end, there was no Republican wave,” Gary Younge reports in London’s Guardian. New Hampshire’s Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was re-elected narrowly over Scott Brown—a victory from which, according to the New York Times, “a top aide to Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democrat who will soon lose his position as majority leader, said on Twitter that he took some solace.” That’s one way of describing Adam Jentleson’s tweet, which reads: “The fact that we got our butts kicked up and down the block only makes it *more* hilarious that Scott Brown lost. #smallvictories.”

Still, there were some bright spots for Republicans. Beleaguered incumbents Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Pat Roberts of Kansas held on to defeat, respectively, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and independent Greg Orman, the former inspiring one final limerick from reader George Struve:

Alison Lundergen Grimes
Did she vote for Obama two times?
Perhaps even once?
She acted the dunce
And now it’s with “boozer” she rhymes

In Georgia, Republican David Perdue avoided a runoff with Democrat Michelle Nunn to hold an open seat. Republicans defeated Democratic incumbents in Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina and picked up open seats in Iowa, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia.

That puts their majority at 52-47, with three currently Democratic seats yet uncalled, two of which Republicans seem likely to win. In Alaska, challenger Dan Sullivan is ahead of incumbent Mark Begich by 4% with 73% of precincts counted. Virginia incumbent Mark Warner clings to a narrow lead over challenger Ed Gillespie. If Gillespie comes back, the commonwealth will be represented in the Senate by former chairman of the Democratic and Republican national committees; Gov. Terry McAuliffe is also a former DNC chairman.

Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu appears to have won a plurality; she leads Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy 42% to 41% with almost all precincts reporting. But as the Bayou State has a jungle primary system, Landrieu and Cassidy will compete in a Dec. 6 runoff. The partisan breakdown of the vote is 55.5% Republican, 43.5% Democrat, 1% Libertarian. With the GOP Senate majority already secure, drumming up turnout for Landrieu promises to be a thankless job.

If Landrieu loses, Republicans will hold every Senate seat in the South outside Florida and Virginia, each of which elected a Democrat in 2012.

If Republicans mistake this for a wave, a report in the Hill suggests a reason: “A bad night for the White House on Tuesday got worse as a number of Democratic gubernatorial candidates for whom President Obama campaigned in the final weeks of the midterm elections fell to their Republican challengers.”

Before the election, analysts noted that incumbents of both parties were vulnerable to challenges, but at most two Republicans will have lost: Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, who went down as expected to Democrat Tom Wolf, and Sean Parnell of Alaska, who trails independent Bill Walker by 1% with 73% reporting. But Republican incumbents Rick Scott of Florida, Nathan Deal of Georgia, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Paul LePage of Maine, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Scott Walker of Wisconsin all fended off challenges in races RealClearPolitics rated as toss-ups on election eve.

Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn of Illinois also lost. Republicans also picked up open-seat governorships in Arkansas and the deep-blue states of Maryland—probably the biggest surprise of the night—and Massachusetts. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado held on; Connecticut’s Dannel Malloy—up 3% with 83% in—may do so as well; and Democrat Gina Raimondo prevailed in Rhode Island. In Vermont, the state Legislature will choose the governor, as incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin and Republican challenger Scott Milne both fell short of a majority.

We’re not done. CNN puts the Republicans’ House majority at 243-178, with 14 seats undetermined. That’s a pickup so far of 10 seats from the current 233-199 majority (with three vacancies). Republicans have already exceeded the 242 seats they won in 2010 and are within a hair’s breadth of their postwar high, 246 seats in 1946. If they manage that, they’ll have a bigger majority than in any Congress since the 71st (1929-31), when they held 270 seats.

And that’s not all. National Review’s John Fund reports that the Democrats have sunk to “pre-Great Depression levels” in state legislatures, as measured by the number of chambers where they have majorities. Republicans took majorities in the Colorado Senate, Minnesota House, Nevada Assembly and Senate, New Hampshire House, New Mexico House, New York Senate and West Virginia House, as well as a tie in the West Virginia Senate. Control of the Colorado House and West Virginia House are yet to be determined.

And not only did abortion fanatic Wendy Davis get trounced by some 20% in the Texas governor’s race, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that her state Senate seat was won by Republican Konni Burton, ”a Colleyville conservative with Tea Party ties.”

The election saw a few firsts: Utah’s Mia Love became the first black female Republican elected to the House. South Carolina’s Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican gubernatorial appointee, became the South’s first elected black senator since Reconstruction. (He’ll face the voters again two years hence.) And in upstate New York, Republican Elise Stefanik, 30, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

National House exit polls (summarized by CNN here and here) complicate the Democratic narrative of the “emerging electorate” set against Republican appeal limited to old white men. There was a “gender gap,” but this time in Republicans’ favor: Democrats outpolled Republicans among women, 52% to 47%, but Republicans’ advantage among men was 56% to 42%. Republicans did better among voters over 45 and Democrats among those under 45, but Republicans still managed 43% of the under-30 vote.

Republicans attracted 10% of blacks, 35% of Latinos and 49% of Asian-Americans. The comparable figures in the 2012 presidential race, according to the New York Times, were 6%, 27% and 26%.

Liberals are not taking it well. A New York Times editorial grouses about the “negativity” of the GOP campaign:

Even the voters who supported Republican candidates would have a hard time explaining what their choices are going to do. . . . Campaigning on pure negativity isn’t surprising for a party that has governed that way since Mr. Obama was first sworn in. . . .

Virtually all Democratic candidates distanced themselves from Mr. Obama and refused to make the case that there has been substantial progress on jobs and economic growth under this administration.

But Republicans also had little to say about reviving the economy, and their idea of creating jobs seems to be limited to building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, cutting taxes further and crying “repeal Obamacare” at every opportunity.

We have to admit, the Times editors know a thing or two about negativity.

Salon’s Elias Isquith offers some even more colicky colloquy. To him, the election proves that “the whole structure of American government” is “increasingly broken and corrupt”:

At this moment in its history, the United States of America, the self-proclaimed oldest democracy in the world, lacks the basics of real self-government: access to the polls for citizens, accountability to the voters from politicians, competition among candidates to discern the people’s will, and real options for those who feel their voices aren’t being heard. Sure, we have all the trappings of popular democracy. But it’s “kabuki,” a pantomime; the fading shadow of a system that in essence, if not in law, has nearly reached a complete stop.

Among other things, Isquith is unhappy that “incumbents almost never lose.” He must’ve been rooting for Scott Brown.

Slate’s William Saletan, living up to his site’s #slatepitches reputation, declares the election “A Victory for the Left.” He lists 13 examples, and some of them actually support his case, such as some Republicans’ backing for the minimum wage and the earned-income tax credit. Others are a stretch: He construes Republican opposition to regressive taxes as support for progressive ones. A lot of them have no ideological content whatever; we’re supposed to believe that concern about unemployment, underemployment and the lack of upward mobility are all intrinsically of the left.

This one is particularly amusing:

3. Equal pay. Republicans researched how much money Democratic officeholders paid their male and female staffers. Any Democrat who paid women less was called out for it, regardless of circumstances. Republicans used this tactic in at least five states: Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and Oregon.

That’s a classic example of Saul Alinsky’s Rule No. 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” But although Alinsky framed his rules as “for radicals,” they are tactical, not ideological, in character. Calling someone a hypocrite does not imply endorsing his professed principles.

At any rate, if this was a victory for the left, we’d reckon it’s one the right can live with.

Anyway, if it’s a victory for the left, why is the New Republic’s Brian Beutler urging President Obama to “wage war”? Why is the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel advising him to “double down”? In the latter case, we suppose, because she’s never played blackjack. You can’t double down after losing a hand.

Vanden Heuvel has a list of recommended actions ranging from the not-especially-bold (“Go up to the edge of normalizing relations with Cuba”) to the fanciful (“Nominate Tom Harkin to the Federal Reserve Board”) to the ineffectual (“issue a Good Jobs Executive Order”). The first on her list: “Start with serious immigration reform”—as if that were possible without congressional cooperation.

Her last item seems especially far-fetched:

Nominate a diverse set of progressives to fill every judicial vacancy at every level, and then make this a huge national throwdown fight when they are not approved. Given the poor public view of the runaway, activist, Citizens United-tainted Supreme Court, judges could become one of the big issues of the 2016 campaign.

The New Republic’s Jeffrey Rosen has a more realistic view of judicial politics. He argues that if a Supreme Court seat becomes vacant in the next two years, the result will be “disaster”—meaning that Obama would be unable to get a liberal nominee through the Republican Senate.

“But there’s a more optimistic possibility,” he adds: “Democrats can point to bipartisan Supreme Court confirmations, like justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, where they have voted for nominees with whom they disagree.” But Scalia’s unanimous confirmation (in a Republican Senate) predated the attack on Robert Bork, and while the vast majority of Republicans voted for the confirmation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, Democrats did not reciprocate. Samuel Alito would not be on the Supreme Court today if Democrats had the Senate in 2005-06.

As for Thomas, only one Democrat who voted for his confirmation in 1991 is still in the Senate—Richard Shelby of Alabama, who became a Republican 20 years ago next Sunday.

Anyway, it’s unlikely any justice will voluntarily vacate his seat before 2017. And as for vanden Heuvel’s proposal, have lower-court judicial battles ever captured the attention of the wider public? To be sure, that may not be the point here: Beutler, while lacking vanden Huevel’s specifics, defines the objective as “shoring up his political base, so he can hand it off to the next leader of the Democratic Party”—that is, the 2016 presidential nominee. Based on his choice of pronoun, Beutler assumes that will be Hillary Clinton.

But while the Obama base will be necessary to elect Mrs. Clinton or another Democrat two years hence, it won’t be sufficient. A truculently leftist lame-duck Obama would pose a challenge of triangulation to the next Democratic nominee—one we’re not sure even Bill Clinton would be capable of meeting.

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