Friday, November 11, 2005

Much Ado About Voting

It has only been three days since Americans went to the polls in several states to pick new governors and other state officers, as well as to voice their opinions on several notable initiatives and referenda. And for about as long, we have had to endure the likes of Howard Dean and other prominent Democrats trumpeting what they perceive as landslide victories and vindication of Democrat principles (as if such things exist).

Having had a chance to reflect upon some of the outcomes, and recognizing that each side would have attempted to cast itself as the victor, regardless of what had happened, I think it is safe to posit that what happened Tuesday was relatively insignificant -- but not without its lessons for a wounded Republican Party.

Let's take a peek at some key races, shall we?

New Jersey. On Tuesday, New Jerseyans reaffirmed their state's status as the Armpit of the World by making Senator Jon Corzine their next governor. This can hardly be cast as a landslide of a coup for Democrats, especially when you consider that two of the last three elected governors of that state (not including Corzine) were Democrats, and the lone Republican governor in that mix -- Christine Todd Whitman -- could hardly be cast as a Goldwater Girl. Corzine will likely deliver for New Jersey in the same way he has delivered in the Senate, with unprecedented access for lobbyists (indeed, his prior extramarital affair with union boss Carla Katz, who still heads the Local 1034 of Communications Workers of America, brings the term "lobbyist access" to a whole new level) and a guaranteed zeal for increasing taxes and spending.

Not exactly a watershed event, is it?

Virginia. Much was made of Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine's elevation to Governor in the relatively conservative state, and both he and outgoing governor (and likely 2008 presidential contender) Mark Warner deserve a lot of credit for running a better public relations machine than defeated outgoing Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. I would point out, however, that neither Kaine nor Warner would consider themselves bleedinghearts, and much of Tuesday's success is owed to Warner's cautious avoidance of entanglement during his four-year administration with the liberal wing of his party and his tacit acceptance (in word, if not in deed) of tax cuts and frugal spending.

I would also remind those of you tempted to cast Kaine's victory as signs of a Democratic resurgence of two other facts. First, Kaine's victory fits with a thirty-year pattern of governors being elected who are of the opposite party of the incumbent president. And while the above can be spun as pure coincidence, this cannot: Virginians also elected Bill Bolling to be their new Lieutenant Governor. Bolling, to his credit, ran an unabashed campaign against, among other things, the uncontrolled flow of illegal immigration. He called for the banning of in-state tuition benefits, welfare benefits, and driver's licenses for illegal immigrants -- and he won.

California. I won't waste your valuable time trying to explain why Californians rejected some fairly reasonable ballot proposals. Most of us can only hope at this point that California's unique brand of political insanity does not destroy the rest of us. Rather, I would point out that nothing happened in California that was unexpected.

***

While the above situations can hardly be considered portents of a Democrat takeover of Congress in 2006, they do serve as stark warnings to Republicans that they need to return to their conservative roots. This round of Republican defeats shows this quite clearly.

Doug Forrester, Corzine's challenger, was a millionaire with a moderate record. In addition to showing poor judgment by using Corzine's ex-wife's bitter statements in a last-minute media blitz (a move that turned off undecided voters in the lead-up to the election), Forrester was also tripping over himself to vow his support for abortion and stem cell research, while he was notably cool in discussions of tax cuts and spending cuts.

He lost.

I have been told (and correct me if I'm wrong, those of you in the D.C. Metro area) that Kilgore suffered from a similar reluctance to shout support for low taxes and low spending, and opted instead to hammer Kaine solely for his opposition to the death penalty.

He lost.

Republicans in Congress - who only belatedly have begun expressing support for spending cuts and calling for long-overdue enforcement and enhancement of immigration laws -- had better understand that Americans have not been voting for them over the past decade-plus simply because they are Republicans. The days of party loyalty for party loyalty's sake are over. People voted for them because of their express support of conservative principles.

Republicans have been wandering too frequently from what makes them them -- and they do so at their peril. I only hope they figure that out before it is too late.

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