The good news? Quite a bit of it!
1. The GOP took the state legislatures and governorships in numbers that will have lasting impact in the states no matter what happens in 2016.
2. The quality of the GOP class just elected. You know how I always complain about Nixon ruining the country -- not with Watergate per se, but because backlash against him caused a wave of the nation's wickedest politicians to be elected? I think there's a good chance Obama just did the same in reverse. (And Henry Waxman, emblem of the nation's wickedest congressional class, retired rather than stick around. Which is perhaps emblematic of his class being vanquished at last.)
I happened to tune in to Rush Limbaugh for a few moments a day or two after the election when he was complaining bitterly about Reince Preibus (GOP chairman) culling candidates in this manner:
On Oct. 1, 2013, 16 potential Senate Republican candidates were met at baggage claim in Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport by trackers—those annoying, hyperactive, politics-obsessed, camera-wielding twentysomethings whose job is to make a candidate lose his or hers. After a series of fundraising events and policy briefings, the candidates met at the offices of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and recounted their stories with tales of their personal, belligerent Democrat. “We said that’s interesting; We’d like to show you the video of you and how you reacted to the tracker because we put those trackers on you,” said Sen. Rob Portman, the NRSC Finance Vice Chairman.Unless I'm confusing this piece with another similar one, I think an earlier version of the story indicated that these faux reporters specifically hounded candidates on abortion and "war on women" issues. This bothered Limbaugh for some reason -- he took it as the Party trying to downplay social issues. I think it was smart. I don't want the pro-life cause at the mercy of the Todd Akins of this world.
[Let me just digress for a moment here to say something about that. Anyone can fumble in a debate situation. But Akin's gaffe -- arguing that pregnancy from rape is a non-issue because it rarely occurs thanks to a biological defense mechanism-- was an idea advanced by Dr. Jack Willkie in the early 1990s. It may or may not have some scientific basis, but in addition to sounding horribly insensitive to the victim of an assault ("is it real rape?"), it's rhetorically weak because it opens the door to the idea that abortion is the right solution to rape cases. Most engaged pro-lifers abandoned that argument swiftly. To my mind the problem with Todd Akin was not that he was completely tin-eared, but more that he clearly hadn't thought seriously about pro-life issues since the 1990s.]
I am tired of the GOP -- both the party and its voters-- accepting as pro-life anyone who says he'll support a human life amendment with no further questions. To my mind, putting people to the test and training them is a sign of taking pro-life issues MORE seriously, not less. The social issues are winning issues in the proper hands, and we have a class of Senate candidates (now Senators-elect) who seem to be stellar: whip-smart, disciplined and of good character -- people who didn't need to run away from abortion and the birth control mandate because they are sure of themselves and know how to give as good as they get. High hopes!
3. The defeat of the "War on Women." Others have written about this so I won't add much except to say it's naive to think the war on women tactic will just go away. What's been defeated, hopefully, is GOP/pro-life defeatism. (Ditto the whining from folks who default in every election to how much the media are against us and there's no real difference between the parties. Whatevs. The media and party hacks you have always with you. If you can't figure out your way around those things, maybe you're not a good candidate. Those assertions have differing degrees of truth, but they're both just helpless downer talk from people who are essentially apolitical and want the world to just change without anyone having to make political arguments as opposed to moral assertions. There is always something to be done....)
The next few items are just things I personally find yummy in the results.
4. My 3-decade losing streak is broken. For the first time in my life a candidate I voted for in a state/local election won. Maryland, of all places, elected a pro-life GOP governor (ditto Massachusetts and, most shockingly, Illinois). I wish him well. The state didn't give him a legislature to work with, but it felt good on election night. (For the first time in my adult life, I'm proud of my state!) To what do I attribute his decisive win? Two things: Gov. O'Malley's rain tax. (Really? Even Marylanders have some limits). And Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's being a poor candidate. The only thing he was really tasked with as Lt. Gov. was the roll-out of Maryland's Obamacare exchange, which was even worse than the Obamacare rollout itself. And he doesn't come off as the brightest fellow. By the end of campaign season the Anthony Brown signs had disappeared and generic placards urging us to "Vote for the Democrats" were everywhere.
5. Wendy Davis lost in Texas. That's no surprise, but you know what's delicious? The poster child for late-term abortion on demand didn't even win the women's vote. Along those same lines: though I would have held my nose and voted for him if I were in NH just to wrest the Senate from the villainous Harry Reid, I don't mind that Scott Brown lost in New Hampshire. He ran a great campaign qua campaign, for which I give him credit, but he's a presidentially handsome pro-choice Republican, and had he won a certain wing of the party would be foisting him on us as a presidential candidate. No, thanks. Ditto gay Republican Carl DeMaio's loss in CA-52. I kinda like the guy in the abstract and setting aside his disastrous ideas about family policy, but had he won he'd have been foist on us as the changing face of the GOP (indeed, the race was close and the Washington Times jumped the gun and ran such a story).
6. Scott Walker, Scott Walker, Scott Walker. I think nothing made me as happy Tuesday night as Scott Walker's re-election, simply because I viewed his race as a straight-up case of good (man of upstanding character, champion of little people) versus evil (public sector union bosses defending graft and incompetence). He proves in the hands of the right guy there are no third-rail issues in American politics. My current choice for President 2016.
7. My other pet races: Mia Love -- first black Republican congresswoman; Tim Scott, first black senator elected from the South -- and he's GOP; Tom Cotton, senator-elect from Arkansas, because he talks to voters like this . (His victory speech --watch it!-- is almost a Reagan-like "time for choosing" speech.) Mitch McConnell: because some people in the GOP have unjustly accused him of being weak or a RINO, not understanding the guy is a brilliant tactician and parliamentarian to whom we owe much.
For the record, I did endure two heartbreaks Tuesday night. It's astonishing Ed Gillespie almost beat Mark Warner in VA and sad that he didn't. Ditto my man Dan Bongino in a hard-fought congressional battle here in MD. You can tell what kind of man Bongino is by how gracious he is in his concession letter to his supporters.
I also agree with whichever wag on Twitter it was who said the election was not an endorsement of Republicans, but a restraining order on the Democrats. That's exactly right. Conservatives have a brief window now in which to make the case to the working poor, "workers" middle class families, blacks and latinos that their policies are the fairest and best. PLEASE, GOP, do not blow it by a) doing nothing and always being in reactive mode or b) having the first thing you do be passing business tax cuts or repealing the minimum wage hike -- moves which might be good eventually, but will be bad optics in this economy and will slam the open window shut, hard.
Let your first move be surprising, like pushing for education vouchers -- everyone's against the teacher's unions now. Or maybe something like