National commentators are doing their best to either build up, or shoot down, the significance of Republican victories in Virginia and New Jersey in Tuesday's elections.
I am thrilled about those victories, and I believe they do in fact mark a huge shift in the minds of voters - away from the movement toward communism now evident in Congress and the White House, and back toward the basics of our form of government - free markets, and equal opportunities to excel for all citizens.
But there are other indicators concerning last night's elections that may give an even better overview of the mood of the country and the voting public.
Take Connecticut, a small New England state that is consistently colored blue on national maps, meaning it supposedly is a liberal, leftist state that falls solidly in the Democratic camp. Yet in community after community in Connecticut yesterday, Republicans who held the highest offices kept them, and in many places where the Democrats had ruled, often for very long periods, voters turned them out.
Stamford, a city in Fairfield County which borders New York, went Republican. So did Trumbull, another Fairfield County community up the Merritt Parkway from Stamford that had a Democratic First Selectman who seemed invincible. Perhaps those GOP victories could be viewed as inevitable since Fairfield County is seen by the rest of the state and probably the country as being all about money, and money is not doing well in Fairfield County, Connecticut, these days.
Out-of-work executives are as common in that section of Connecticut as out-of-work machinists are in the center of the state.
But Norwich, a small city near the Rhode Island border which is best known as the home to two gambling casinos, also turned out its long-time Democratic mayor and replaced him with a Republican. This is a stunning reversal as Norwich has long been seen by local political strategists as a Democratic stronghold. Republicans running for a regional office that encompasses Norwich, work to keep within 1,000 votes of their Democratic opponents, hoping to make up the difference in mostly rural communities outside the city.
A Republican mayoral victory in Norwich, Connecticut has as much significance in terms of reading the minds of the voters, as the ouster of New Jersey's Democratic governor. Part of the reason for the GOP victory was a split Democratic Party, which is usually the case, but it gives Republicans a great opportunity to show what can be done.
As I listened to the national pundits this morning, all I heard were predictable commentaries from Democrats who universally were grousing that there really isn't a shift of mood. Democrat strategist Bob Beckel for instance, said on FOX News that voters aren't really angry, and this was supposedly proven by the drop in turnout.
If voters are angry, he claimed, the turnout is high.
I disagree. Anger manifests itself in many ways, and while the turnout was down in some places it was up in others. I believe that is a factor of how successful the party leadership on the local level was in defining the urgency of the issues.
In New Jersey and Virginia the battle lines were clearly drawn and voters clearly understood what was at stake. If Democrats stayed home in sufficient numbers to allow Republicans with lower voter registration numbers to prevail, then a significant number of voters were angry, but chose different ways to display that anger. Whether it is defined as anger, disenchantment, cynicism, or apathy, call it what you want - they didn't vote Democratic and the result is the same.
Conversely, if Republican leaders in some communities and regions were able to capitalize on voter dissatisfaction with the economy and other issues, good for them. But victories achieved because the opposition was uninspired should not be considered lasting victories.
It is up to the Republican Party at all levels to capitalize on voter dissatisfaction first by clearly defining the issues that are facing us now, in the coming months, and the coming years, and then by showing Independent and Democratic voters that we have a better plan.
We may not be able to convince significant numbers of hard-core Democrats to cross over to the Republican side, but if we can show that the GOP has better ideas and better candidates then we can motivate our own base, attract Independents and hopefully show that yesterday's victories are just the tip of the iceberg.
Yesterday's showing in so many communities big and small is an indicator that should not be lost on Republican party leaders.
Republicans are not machine politicians as is the case in places like Chicago, because the machine exists primarily on patronage. Thus party leaders doling out taxpayer funded jobs usually aren't the driving factors in Republican victories. A core Republican principle is personal initiative, not living off the welfare state, either through direct welfare payments or indirect welfare such as patronage jobs that aren't needed, but are funded through ever increasing taxpayer payments.
So Republicans must attract voters based on better candidates who clearly define by their statements and past actions who they are and what they believe. The GOP also has to clearly define the issues and show why Republican values give us better options to solving them.
In communities where turnout was low, local leaders should determine right now how they intend to motivate the electorate next year. If this election is to be considered a bellwether for the near future, then motivation and turnout are key factors in keeping the momentum.
This also is a golden opportunity to recover GOP losses from the past decade, especially if you believe the statements from Democratic leaders like Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz, who also is Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee.
She appeared on FOX News this morning, poo-poohing yesterday's results and indicating that for Democrats it's nothing to worry about - just "electoral history." Other succinct comments from Shultz included such gems as "historical trends" and that giving any credence whatsoever to yesterday's victories amounted to comparing "apples and oranges." Really, she said that.
Is she kidding? And as far as any changes to Democratic strategy that might result from yesterday's vote - "Our incumbents are battle tested ... they are reaching out." But apparently, not too far.
And the one comment that I guess was to be expected - "The only one that matters is New York 23" meaning the 23rd House District in way, way upstate New York where the Dems actually won after successfully splitting the GOP by running a RINO Republican In Name Only.
I see. That's where we should focus our attention, not on Virginia, or New Jersey, or even on the myriad small towns like mine where the GOP swept the election.
OK. You just keeping talking Deb, that's what you're good at.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009