Well…it could have been worse. So be thankful.
Seriously. It's true. I actually had a morbid sense of joy on election night. Democrat gains in the House were held to 20, a filibuster-proof Senate majority didn't materialize. And here in California, a great candidate holds the only contestable Senate seat and everyone in town knows that the Villines Republicans only losing a net two seats in this environment was a best-case scenario. Booyah!
So looking ahead, what do we have to look forward to? Here's my list.
The Fresh Start
The canvas has been wiped clean and the brush and palette have been handed to the next generation. The G.W. Bush era is finally over and with it goes the odd parochial cronyism that led to a federal government staffed with mediocrity and even incompetence. The Texans are gone.
Hopefully also gone are the earmarking and corrupt excess of the Congressional Republicans. I'll forever contend that this lot had as much to do with the GOP demise as the Bush White House. Plenty of deadwood remains but there's also young rising stars who are principled and have character, including California's Kevin McCarthy, Devon Nunes and John Campbell.
Republicans should look with hope to their governors, particularly Jindal in Louisiana and Pawlenty in Minnesota. Those will be the states where the GOP will once again innovate and show that it can lead and my money is on a current or former governor being the nominee in 2012.
The 2010 Mid-term
The odds of a counter-reaction to a Democrat-drenched Washington are good…very good.
First, let's not forget that Congressional leadership is already held in contempt by the public. And the Democrats have gifts that keep giving. Pelosi is seen as divisive and not a leader. Frank is a ranting liberal that wants to cut military spending by 25 percent. Rangel is the top tax writer who can't pay his own taxes. This crew really is a gift and completely obscures the very strong Blue Dog presence in the majority. In fact, look for a very shrewd Obama to pick some public fights with this hapless menagerie left wing characters. He won't want to be mistaken as their friend.
Then there's President "Change" himself. I will happily confess that I am optimistic that he will govern moderately and pragmatically. If his early cabinet picks are any indication, he will be shrewd and measured. Governance for our nation at this moment is too critical not to be rooting for him.
But here's the rub for Obama by 2010. Being the "change" candidate carries a mandate that can't be implemented. Nothing changes that much. And as time goes by the outsider quickly becomes the insider who owns the mess. And as he becomes the insider trying to solve the mess, he appears more and more like a conventional politician. The next thing you know, the change candidate has become the victim of his own impossible expectations. Does this sound familiar?
Here in California optimism for the mid-terms should run high. The likelihood of well-funded nominee for governor is high and possibly even for U.S. Senate. Hard work has been going on for over a year already to recruit strong candidates to constitutional races. We should be ready to seize on opportunities provided by the Obama mid-term.
We can Regain Intellectual High Ground
Finally, if we're finally able to move past our own corruption and profligate spending, we can re-establish ourselves as the party of ideas and competency. As brilliant as the Obama campaign was, there was no policy agenda attached to it.
The crisis we're in now calls for new ideas and innovation, the Republicans are not bound by the rusty shackles of union protectionism and Keynesian economics that will be the death knell of Superpower USA unless they are cast off by Obama.
Republicans have the opportunity to communicate that America's future lies in free trade and gaining consumers in South America and Asia. GOP governors must show the way to do more with less and find new efficiencies.
Ideas will matter again. This is the time to earn the right to govern again. We need to get over our silly obsession with issues like immigration and alternatively quit the vapid happy talk that ignores that some ideas are better than others. Instead, we need to see and understand the bigger world as it exists and as we want to make it. If we can, then this might be a great time to be Republican. Game on. The battle for ideas is ours to seize.