As Election Day 2010 is a week past, Democrats are trying to keep their wounded head high while many Republicans are thumping their chest. On the other hand, I see the results as a warning to both sides as a mandate for sensible governance over both the bully pulpit and intentional obstructionism.
Instead of focusing on the partisan rhetoric delivered by various GOP leaders and self-anointed spokespersons, here are the words of notable conservative columnists to support my point.
Nor should Republicans overinterpret their Tuesday mandate. They received none. They were merely rewarded for acting as the people’s proxy in saying no to Obama’s overreaching liberalism. As one wag put it, this wasn’t an election so much as a restraining order. The Republicans won by default. And their prize is nothing more than a two-year lease on the House. The building was available because the previous occupant had been evicted for arrogant misbehavior and, by rule, alas, the House cannot be left vacant.
Mr. Obama has a far better product to sell than Tea Partiers like Mr. DeMint. But Mr. Obama needs to connect better with American voters. He needs to lose the cool and start sweating — and slugging. If he can do that, and if the economy comes back over the next couple of years, he can still be remembered as one of our great presidents. One who served two terms.
On many of these fronts, Congressional Republicans will protest that there’s nothing to be done so long as Barack Obama occupies the White House. Hence Boehner’s calculated attempt to lower expectations; hence Mitch McConnell’s insistence that the most important thing Republicans can do is work toward the president’s defeat in 2012.
But even if they’re right, that’s all the more reason to spend the next two years getting serious about policy. It will profit neither conservatism nor the country if Republicans take the White House two Novembers hence, and find themselves as unprepared to govern as they are today.
The point is not “He (Ronald Reagan) was a great man and you (Sarah Palin) are a nincompoop,” though that is true. The point is that Reagan’s career is a guide, not only for the tea party but for all in politics. He brought his fully mature, fully seasoned self into politics with him. He wasn’t in search of a life when he ran for office, and he wasn’t in search of fame; he’d already lived a life, he was already well known, he’d accomplished things in the world.
Here is an old tradition badly in need of return: You have to earn your way into politics. You should go have a life, build a string of accomplishments, then enter public service. And you need actual talent: You have to be able to bring people in and along. You can’t just bully them, you can’t just assert and taunt, you have to be able to persuade.