Is it safe?
The title comes from "Marathon Man" where the Laurence Olivier character is asking for a sign if it's safe to conduct business. I chose it because the vote last Tuesday was a sign to the Republicans that doesn't seem to be taking. And I asked myself what does it take for conservatives to vote as they did? What would drive some of them, though a small but significant percentage, to vote for someone other than a Republican candidate? I came across an article by Michael Franc of the Heritage Foundation giving, again, telling information about the election (the article is linked from Tapscott's Copy Desk).Franc repeats that the Repubs lost, not conservatism. But, the telling part of the article is how conservatives voted:
"exit poll data demonstrate that self-identified conservatives who supported the Democratic House candidates made up fully 6 percent of the electorate, while liberals who gravitated to the Republican amounted to only 1.7 percent of the total. That means the "my-conservatives-for-your-liberals" trade netted a loss of 4.3 percent of the total electorate."
And it seems that Bill Clinton caught the movement fairly accurately:
"The reason we are at this moment," he said in a campaign speech last week, "is that [Republican leaders] do not represent faithfully the Republicans and the more conservative independents in the country." He stretched reality a little, but not by much, when he argued that anyone who takes the conservative view on the budget, law enforcement and other issues ought to cast his or her lot with the Democrats." Seems that that is exactly what some conservatives did.
Now, here's my thought: With all the warnings about a Nancy Pelosi Speaker, no constructionist judicial appointments, a weakening of national security, there were conservatives that took to voting for Democrats. Why? I posit exasperation. The Repubs were being warned in 2002 (though there is also a thought of those people who voted Repub in 2002 because of 9-11, supported GWB against Kerry, but went away by 2006). The conservatives were talking about "holding their noses" and pulling the lever for Repubs in 2004. And with no veto's (save one), amnesty, Harriet Miers, No Child Left Behind, Mediscare Prescription Drug Plan, McCain/Feingold, the conservatives saw no out. That with all the warnings being sent to conservatives by Karl Rove and the neocons ("It will be worse with THEM"), the Repubs were ignoring all the warnings sent to them by conservatives. And so, in exasperation, the voters voted for reform,change.
And once again, there is this telling statistic: "one election-eve poll found that Americans trusted Democrats over Republicans to control spending by a remarkable 53 percent to 29 percent."
Franc also writes: "Republican strategists, and more than a few Democrats, will undoubtedly take note of how easily legions of conservative voters switched their partisan loyalties, and will scrutinize the data for clues as to how this could have happened." The Republican strategists will take note. The Senate has not and it looks like the House will follow suit. The Senate leadership has voted for their leadership and the House will elect their leadership tomorrow.
So much for sober reflection.
We, the voters, taught the lesson. The Senate Republican leadership didn't learn it at all by returning Trent Lott to leadership (in a parallel move that mimics bringing out Walter Mondale to replace Paul Wellstone). Tomorrow we'll see if the House Republicans have learned the lesson.
And if the House Republicans don't get their act together and show they've learned the lesson the voters taught them, well, they have two years to practice saying "Madam President".