The Return of the Right

It was just months ago that liberal writers, flush with Barack Obama’s presidential victory and Democratic control of Congress, were writing gleeful obituaries for the conservative movement and its Republican Party adjunct. In this triumphalist narrative, the Right had been repudiated in successive elections and the era of Democratic rule had begun. If this week’s midterm elections demonstrated anything conclusively, it is that both the Right’s decline and the Left’s resurgence have been greatly exaggerated.

Republicans were the obvious winners in this year’s “political tsunami.” Their Election Day rally – including a net gain of over 60 formerly Democratic seats – represents the largest single gain by a political party since the election of 1948. That sweep, as analyst Michael Barone puts out, leaves Republicans with a larger majority than they enjoyed even in their 12 years in charge of the House between 1994 and 2006. More significantly, regaining control of one branch of Congress will make it easier for Republicans to challenge the Obama administration’s agenda and restore the fiscal responsibility that was at the heart of their campaign.

Just as important as the GOP’s newly bolstered ranks is that the party won political converts in the country’s disaffected independent voters. After helping Obama capture the White House just two years ago, independents have beat a hasty retreat from Democrats, defecting to the GOP in record numbers. That backlash swept aside even those Democrats who once reliably counted on independent support. Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, whose support among independents dropped by almost 20 points since 2004, was the most prominent casualty. In addition to strengthening the party ahead of the 2012 election, the injection of new blood could help Republicans make good on their pledge to cut federal spending and shrink the deficit, both issues that resonated with independent voters.

In a complimentary development for the GOP, this week’s election has established the Tea Party as a genuinely popular movement. Democrats, including Obama, spent the weeks leading up to the election dismissing the Tea Partiers as an “astroturf” campaign, manufactured by wealthy foreign sponsors and lacking mainstream support from the electorate. The attacks could hardly have been more wrongheaded. According to exit polls from Tuesday’s election, 41 percent of those voting in House races said they support the Tea Party. (If exit polls are to be believed, Tea Partiers also ended up being more bipartisan than Democrats gave them credit for, with 11 percent supporting Democratic candidates.)

Tea Parties also justified much of the hype surrounding their political clout. Tea Party favorites like Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida won their respective races after pushing aside establishment Republican challengers in the primaries. In Wisconsin’s Senate race, Ron Johnson, an Oshkosh plastics manufacturer with Tea Party ties, scored an upset over incumbent and left-wing icon Russell Feingold. Tea Partiers also proved kingmakers in close races. Republican Pat Toomey’s victory over Democrat Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania’s tightly contested Senate race owed much to the fact that 39 percent of the electorate was made of up of Tea Party members.

The big losers on the night were, of course, President Obama and Democrats. Their collective defeat was made all the more embarrassing by the denial that greeted their final moments in control of Congress. As comedian Jon Stewart pointed out, this year’s pre-election forecasts depended greatly whether the one predicting “was a Democrat or anybody else in the world other than a Democrat.” It was left to the polls to restore sanity, as incumbent after incumbent was handed the electoral version of a pink slip.

To be sure, it was not all glory for Republicans and their Tea Party allies. Left-wing pundits have made a habit of mocking Sarah Palin and other Tea Party supporters for having the reverse Midas touch – that is, backing candidates who are ideologically simpatico but politically flawed. The argument has been repeatedly refuted – witness the success of Tea Party candidates like Paul and Rubio – but on occasion it has hit the mark. In Nevada, Sharon Angle lost a close election to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, helping Democrats keep control of the Senate. A perennial survivor, Reid’s political demise was nevertheless suggested by several pre-election polls. And it still may have come to pass, some have argued, had Republicans put forth a more astute and less polarizing candidate. In Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, written off from the beginning as a sure loser, proved to be just that as she lost by 17 points to Democrat Chris Coons. Likewise, in New York, Tea Party-aligned Republican gubernatorial challenger Carl Paladino suffered a heavy and much-publicized defeat. And while the New York race was never Republicans’ to win, many GOP strategists and pundits had argued that Delaware was very much within reach had Republicans followed the so-called Buckley rule by choosing a more electable standard bearer – in Delaware’s case, Tea Party nemesis Mike Castle. Whatever the reality, it’s fair to say that this election will not have convinced all critics of the viability of Tea Party candidates.

But if Republicans sometimes got the strategy wrong, the real comeuppance came to Democrats for passing the wrong policies. Most notably repudiated was ObamaCare. Although Democrats have argued, rightly, that individual elements of the legislation are popular with the public, the inescapable lesson of the election is that as a whole the legislation was a failure with voters. The Wall Street Journal points out that 33 of the 219 House Democrats who voted for ObamaCare lost their jobs this week, a mass eviction consistent with the attitudes of 48 percent of voters who favored the legislation’s repeal, according to exit polls. Those Democrats who believed that the merits of ObamaCare would convince the public in the end were pointedly disabused. In Virginia, Democratic Congressman Tom Perriello defied many of the constituents in his Republican-leaning district by voting to pass the legislation. The Left hailed Perriello as a true “conviction politician,” but those he actually represents disagreed. He went down to defeat on Tuesday.

The outstanding question of this election is whether the biggest loser not to actually lose his job understands the new political reality. On the evidence of his press conference this week, President Obama does not. Formally, at least, the president has struck a note of contrition, acknowledging the “shellacking” his party received and offering to work with Republicans. Yet there is no evidence that he is changing course. He hasn’t seemed to recognize the extent to which his policies – especially the $800 billion economic stimulus package and ObamaCare – have fueled the voter discontent that was on display this week. Instead, Obama insisted that the “American people” don’t want to see Republicans and Democrats refight the “arguments that we had over the past two years.”

In fact, the election results suggest the opposite lesson. If President Obama seems uneager to rehash the debates of his first two years in office, it’s because he recognizes that Americans have increasingly chosen sides. And they have not sided with him.

  • DisappearHere

    Once again we see in the world an election result that proves most people lean to the conservative side of politics. Sure, there's been a flirtation with the liberal side of things, almost universally a disaster, but thankfully the majority seems to have come to it's senses.

    Let's hope the world in general moves back towards common sense for another decade or so. Then we can make the mistake all over again!!!

    • Fred Dawes

      common sense is dead or americans would not be facing a third world order inside the USA The empire of monkeys is here and cannot be stopped by voting the real Losers are the people, listen the savage nation, but keep up the hope for a day of common sense it will never be but hope is the only thing nowadays.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    While it's true that several tea-party candidates lost, others won big. And let's not forget the extent to which they energized the base and produced the turn-out for such a historic night.

    I'm not a social conservative, I'm a fiscal conservative. It's my estimation that the Tea Party movement is the best (and perhaps LAST) hope for setting America right.

    • alcestiseshtemoa

      Hopefully like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio you believe that social issues should be left up to the states.

  • gerard

    I have a Dream… My dream was of 2 people were elected to Lead United States through those tough times.
    Sarah Palin and Allen West. Those 2 people have the heart , wisdom and courage to lead.
    Wise word from a black African who love united states

  • Ezra

    Hello, today's problems where not created by the left, but rather and combination of left and right. I was hoping that The Tea Party would be a third party, and not just a part of the Republican Party. We have won nothing. We just put the other halve of the problem back in control.

    • tanstaafl

      I personally feel that the Tea Party would do well to avoid joining up with either established political party. There is no reason why we can't have three political parties in the United States.

    • Jack

      Political races are more like matches than actually races. Two opponents compete, not a whole field. There are only so many votes and to dilute the conservative vote by running two candidates with similar political ideologies, would be the same as handing the win to the liberal every time. But, you knew that, didn't you ezra?

  • ThinkRight

    Horowitz, Limbaugh, Hanity, Beck, Savage, Hedgecock at al – to be EVERY DAY ON MAIN TV stations (new "real Fairness Doctrine")
    Do it!!! Let the people hear the truth! Fight liberal bias!!

  • Reason_For_Life

    The Tea Party is best if it doesn't become an actual political party. As a party it would have "leaders" who will eventually end up looking like Newt Gingrich, more concerned with winning elections than with the principles of limited government.

    As a mass movement it cannot be taken over by co-opting the heads of the party. It will not spend its time looking for a messiah and there will be plenty of politicians vying for the position of Tea Party Messiah.

    The Tea Party was born of rebellion. It is most powerful as a warning to politicians who wander away from the principles of low taxes and lower spending. Mike Castle and Charlie Crist will be the prime examples of what happens when you think that big government can get you elected. It's not important whether their replacements won or lost, it is that they got booted off the ticket before they even ran that Republican bigwigs will remember.

    Once the political powers that be understand that we would rather lose with a good candidate than win with a candidate that will betray us they will know that limited government isn't a campaign slogan, it is the principle on which we vote.

  • Mary Frances

    I have my own version of Hope and Change now that Lt Col Allen West (ret) has been elected to Congress. He is out of Florida's 22nd CD. Keep an eye on this rising star.

  • sue805

    It's amazing what WE THE PEOPLE can do!! Socialism will not progress!!

  • Mike in VA

    The biggest winners in Tuesday's elections were the American people, not the GOP. At long last, the hard-working patriotic citizens of our great republic are standing up and reclaiming the reigns of power in Washington and in our state houses.

  • Mike in VA

    Want more proof that the neo-Marxist Left can't face reality and that the Democrats will get clobbered again in 2012? Check out the post-election discussion thread over at

    Hilarious. The Left didn't lose the election because of their bad ideas and policies – they lost it because of "stupid" Americans, "nefarious" corporations, the Citizens United decision, sexism, prejudice, Fox News, etc., etc.

    I can't wait to hear the gnashing of teeth after the GOP completely takes over both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in 2012. :)

  • DisappearHere

    Jim, I don't know what the hell you just said then.

  • ezra

    Jack I'm a independent Jewish conservative. I would arrest most of Washington and put them in gitmo for treason, starting with Mr Obama. Recognizing that the problem will not be solved by these to groups only means I know my history.

  • StampOutLibs

    I think that the moderates in this country are easily swayed by a smooth talker (Obama) and don't really look closely at the candidates and their radical pasts. I am glad they came to their senses this time around and I hope the conservatives can stick to their message and agenda, in spite of how the leftist news media will try to demonize them.

  • 080

    But the Republican party is organized. The tea partiers are not. That's a big difference.

    • Guest

      That part of the GOP that's "organized" are the liberal-lite RINO's who just want to be part of the DC cocktail party circuit – so they suck up. Its been like this for decades as the country has devolved continuously toward socialism. Except for Reagan there's been no conservative voice since before WWII – that's 70 years for those of you in Rio Linda.

  • Jim Johnson

    What the Tea party should concentrate on is restoration of Democracy in congress. No longer should we have laws written by lobbyists or laws that congress must vote on before they can read it.

    When Democracy is restored in congress then opportunity will reappear and people will have jobs again.

    A very common sense friend of mine said he felt that what we call our government was really some one else's government.

    The American People must have their Government back. Mr Smith must come to Washington one more time.