Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Losing the House in 2006?

Ramesh Ponnuru almost has me convinced. The risk lies in how Republicans would interpret such a defeat. Of course, it also lies in how Republicans would respond to a narrow victory.

Discussions - 10 Comments

There’s an essay on this in the latest issue of the Atlantic. Some Democratic insiders are suggesting that the best possible result for them is for the Republicans to hold on to both houses, but just barely. That way they can block anything they don’t like--with the help of a few RINO collaborators--while still avoiding the responsibility that comes with being the majority party.

Ponnuru and others are outsmarting themselves. It would not be best for the Republicans to lose either house of Congress, or to lose seats.

In addition, it is dangerous to talk this way, as various conservatives have been doing.

This kind of speculation -- by giving voters, and volunteers, and of course other pundits, "permission" to walk away from the election -- contributes to the very real possibility of a Republican rout. It also diverts attention from the utter irresponsibility of the Democrats, and their radicalism, which should be the issue in this election. It also legitimizes those radical Democrats, however left-handedly.

A Democratic Senate would simply be a disaster. Even a tiny Democratic majority, when coupled with all the soft and squishy and RINO "Republicans" in the Senate, would come close to a cloture majority on some key legislation. Combined with a Democratic or even a barely-Republican House, we could have liberal legislation from Congress. And even a slight loss of Republican seats in either house would probably weaken the conservative position in House-Senate conferences.

We cannot count on Bush to veto liberal bills. He signed McCain-Feingold, and he clearly favors a liberal amnesty bill -- which would pass Congress if the Republicans lost EITHER house.

A Democratic Senate would probably never confirm a serious conservative to the Court of Appeals (except perhaps at a steep price), let alone the Supreme Court. Bush would be encouraged to appoint squishes or "nontraditional" judges -- Harriet Miers types.

Democratic control of the House would all but ensure a serious move to impeach President Bush. It is not out of the question that a Democratic House might, in fact, impeach him, which would mean a Senate trial. It is certain that there would be rhetorically radical, and dangerously irresponsible hearings and investigations, run with an iron fist by Democrats, directed at destroying Bush’s reputation and eviscerating the war on terror, as well as the Iraq war.
Congress’s time would be consumed by Democratic propaganda, and the media’s steady diet of liberalism and national weakness would become even more pronounced.

Let’s remember, too, that Democrats are experts in the use and abuse of power. Yes, they will say crazy things at times, as they always do. But with the media on their side, how much of that will filter through to the median voter? How much does now? There are many, many ways in which even a small Democratic majority can work mischief. It is foolish to assume that such mischief can be undone by a (hypothetical) future Republican congress, let alone one with the kind of small majority that seems to be all we can win from the voters.

Ponnuru’s analysis has an unspoken, and perhaps even unconscious, assumption: The old conservative theme of the "silent majority." Its particular application in this case runs as follows: Americans crave conservative policy, or at least candid, clear conservative messages. The more conservative Republicans are, and the more openly conservative they are, the better they will do in future elections. This is, at best, unproven.

In addition, Ponnuru seems to think the surviving Republican incumbents will use a loss of Congress in a profitable way, to seriously rethink their course as a party -- and, more important, to act appropriately (rightwardly) upon that rethinking.

I would suggest that politicians interpret election results as they wish to. People who want to be "moderates," or roll over for the Democrats and the Establishment, or focus on "the needs of my district or state" (i.e., pork) will continue to do this.

Furthermore, rethinking is one thing. Actually becoming more conservative is quite another. Actually becoming not only more conservative, but intelligently and articulately and effectively conservative, is yet another thing.

Finally, I would caution that every congressional election result affects every future congressional election result. If, for example, the Republicans lose 20 seats and are down to 212 in the next House, that means they must gain at least 6 in 2008. And 2008 may well be another bad year for us, even if Ponnuru is right and the Republican leadership returns to the Gingrich-like clarity they had a decade ago. (Among other things, the Republican presidential candidates are thoroughly unimpressive, except for the problematic Giuliani.) A Democratic majority in either house is just as likely to demoralize Republicans, and further legitimize the Democrats’ radicalism in the eyes of swing voters (who aren’t very smart), as it is to remoralize, clarify, and energize them. Concretely, we might see a wave of Republican retirements, which would give the Dems more opportunities. Also, Democratic retirements would be put on hold.

We need only remember that incumbents are terribly difficult to beat, to reflect that the newly Democratic seats won’t necessarily swing back to the Republicans in 2008, or ever. Newly Democratic Senate seats are lost until 2012, which, for all we know, may be another bad year for us.

I share Ponnuru’s frustration. And, should we lose Congress, I would certainly hope the right lessons would be learned AND the right actions taken.
But it is always a mistake to lose, if only because we don’t know what the future holds.

Republicans’ obligation, now and always, is to fight the Democrats. It is not to play speculative games.

The risk is simply this: what the Jihadist Islamofascists will do with Democrats in charge. Nothing else matters.

Well, Julie, if you’re gonna engage in pre-emptive terrorizing, let me ask this. How much worse could it be than what occurred while the GOP was in charge?

Also, if the Dems are the pro-Al Qaeda, pro-terrorist, "Islamofascist"-appeasing party, then maybe the terrorists will be pleased to just pick up the phone and ask for what they want, since the Dems (as in, LIBERALS, of course!) would be so happy to work with them. They could significantly reduce their attack-planning and bomb expenses and still get whatever it is they want. Gosh, if I were a terrorist, I’d welcome a respite from the non-stop, 100% effective asskicking (called the Global War on Terror OR Global War on Violent Extremism, depending on who’s talking) that has been the Bush administration! What better way to say "Thanks for the much-needed break!" than by calling off that water-supply poisoning or bridge explosion?

Of course, I don’t really buy your starting premise, but your dire warnings of subsequent doom should the Dems take over provide a wealth of opportunities for logical whiplash.

Come on, Julie Ponzi! That wasn’t even on point, and children may be listening.

"The risk is simply this: what the Jihadist Islamofascists will do with Democrats in charge. Nothing else matters."

I agree. Nothing else matters. Not the economy, not civil liberties, not our relationships with our allies, not the environment, not health care, not education. None of the things that have gone to hell-in-a-handbasket over the past 6 years. Nothing else matters but our certainty that the Islamofascists could successfully attack us only with a Democrat-controlled Washington. LIke they did 9/11/01.

3: Julie, an agreement and a strong objection. You’re right that a Democratic Congress’s effect on the (broader) war is what matters most. You’re absolutely wrong to say that "nothing else matters." Just for starters, how about the courts? How about immigration? How about my argument that we cannot put ourselves into a hole if we don’t know how future elections might turn out?

Fung and Scanlon, get your sorry selves off this thread, which is about the best outcome for the Republican party. As people who hate the Republican party, you cannot contribute anything but vitriol to this discussion. Show some class for onece.

Earlier today, searching for something Peter Lawler mentioned on the Corner, I found the following from Thomas Sowell. The context is an article in the NYTimes about corporate support of think tanks.


The self-infatuated idea nobody could disagree with you for honest and informed reasons is far more dangerous than possible influence from donors’ money. Far more is involved here than cheap-shot journalism. It is the audience for such journalism that is the real concern. Our whole educational system, from the elementary schools to the universities, is increasingly turning out people who have never heard enough conflicting arguments to develop the skills and discipline required to produce a coherent analysis, based on logic and evidence.


The implications of having so many people so incapable of confronting opposing arguments with anything besides ad hominem responses reach far beyond Wal-Mart or think tanks. It is in fact the Achilles heel of this generation of our society and of Western civilization.

8: The Sowell piece sounds like great stuff. Can you tell us where to find it?

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