November 9, 2006
There being no serious likelihood of any major upward revisions in his vote totals, Sen. George Allen gracefully conceded defeat this afternoon. Jim Webb now has a margin of about 9,000 votes, 2,000 more than yesterday, but the difference is still only 0.38%. Democrats won by similarly tiny margins in Missouri and Montana. As noted by the Washington Post, "The concession spared the country from a recount that could have left control of the U.S. Senate in limbo for weeks." Remarkably (not!), there were no charges of fraud from the conservative candidates or their staffs. Let's hope the Republican Party's members heed Allen's advice to stand strong and not be blown over by the gale force winds of adversity.
I expected this race to be very close, but I was still genuinely taken aback by Webb's victory. Who the heck is this guy? * Apparently, voters were not swayed by all those Republican-sponsored negative TV ads about Webb's opposition to the marriage amendment, or about the sexist attitudes revealed by his novels and articles. Perhaps such messages would have resonated better if Allen had not said early on that he was "going to run this campaign on positive, constructive ideas." These days, it's hard to abide by such a commitment.
This means the Democrats will take control of the Senate as well as the House, unless Sean Hannity can prevail upon Sen. Joe Lieberman to "jump ship" like Jim Jeffords did in 2001. I wouldn't count on it. Maybe the other new Independent in the Senate, Bernie Sanders!
* One final thought on the upset win by the outsider Webb: Before the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913, senators were typically chosen by state legislatures, under the assumption that selecting elder wise men to sit in the Upper Chamber was a task best left up to political experts, not the masses. After all, you never know who The People are going to choose. Perhaps there should be some restriction on who is eligible to run for the U.S. Senate, such as past legislative service.
Pundit / blogger reactions to the electoral debacle on Tuesday have varied widely. Most of the thoughtful conservatives have shown equanimity, while the more acerbic partisan hacks are either furious or sullenly silent on the matter. I won't name the latter, but you can tell who I'm talking about by checking whether they posted anything yesterday. So, let's concentrate on the former:
The usually-dour George Will sees a "silver lining" in the historic defeat. Voters did not reject conservatism, he writes, they rejected candidates who strayed from conservatism. (That has been Rush Limbaugh's main point.) Will also points to signs of enduring conservative strength, even among some Democrats. Nancy Pelosi will have to respect the large number of pro-Second Amendment folks on her side of the aisle. One of them is former Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler, who just won a seat in North Carolina.
Robert Novak is deeply annoyed that Republicans in Congress ignored clear warning signs several months in advance, and refused to make the necessary changes in time. He cites (as did I yesterday) the bellwether race in Kentucky, where incumbent Anne Northup lost even though she did nothing wrong. Voters simply refused to be "bribed" by pork barrel spending on local projects, and their anger over corruption and Iraq boiled over, blaming Republicans in general.
Ever the ornery-but-gentle contrarian, James Lileks put in a good word for Donald Rumsfeld and aptly expressed the long-stifled sense of outrage among mainstream conservatives:
I'm serious: no one said as much, but I have the feeling that many on the right & center-right are relieved to have this Congress repudiated, as much as they dislike the potential effect of the alternative. Two more years of the same would have been two more years of tentative dithering, culminating in another appeal to hit the polls lest the Republic crumble.
Exactly. All that nonsense had to end eventually, so we might as well get it over with and "reboot." He also expressed a more nuanced traditionalist view of the gay marriage issue, closely paralleling my position.
Linda Chavez notes that the immigration issue failed to attract votes to the Republican side, and probably cost at least two House members their jobs: J.D. Hayworth and Randy Graf, both of Arizona. She was right to ridicule Hayworth's call for a three-year ban on legal immigration from Mexico, but her hopes for passing "comprehensive immigration reform" are extremely unrealistic. On thorny issues like this, incremental measures are the best we can hope for. She cites other examples, including Indiana's Rep. John Hostettler, chairman of the House Immigration Subcommittee. He made some off-the-wall comments and proposals that probably undermined the cause of honest immigration reform. As our own Sen. George Allen learned too late, failure to avoid the minefield of anti-immigrant sentiment can be very costly.
Andrew Sullivan proclaims, "The GOP is now very much the party of Dixie," thanks to "Nixon's cynical ploy - played beyond the extreme by Rove..." To the extent that the Dixie states are on the forefront of social and economic progress (think "Sun Belt"), that is a good thing, and Sullivan would be well advised to ease up on his implied anti-southern bigotry. Still, one can detect occasional dark shadows of the bad old days of "massive resistance" among some of the hardline social conservatives, and his point is well taken.
Radley Balko dares to suggest that libertarians should be pleased with a victory by Democrats. Well, he might have a point if it arouses the attention of complacent Republican legislators, but not otherwise. It would be hard to deny this trenchant observation, however: "Republicans seem to rediscover their limited-government principles when they're out of power." Ouch! (via Michael Oliver)
Is Michael Steele a possible replacement for Ken Mehlman as Republican National Chairman? That's the rumor from Chris Cillizza at washingtonpost.com. Mehlman is without a doubt a good guy (after all, he posed with me ), but he is too closely associated with the current Republican leadership on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.