Republican wave” that swept Nancy Pelosi and her colleagues out of power in the House of Representatives, but when compared to the expectations the GOP has built over the past year, this was really a wave that wasn’t.
While acknowledging their historical gains in the House, their failure to retake the Senate can almost entirely be attributed to the Tea Party phenomenon that has created a Civil War within the Republican Party.
The Democrats have clung to power in the Senate by a single seat, a seat that likely would have gone to the GOP in Delaware had moderate Republican Representative Mike Castle not lost to “not-witch” Christine O’Donnell in the primary. Polling suggested that Castle would have defeated Democrat Chris Coons, who later went on to beat O’Donnell by 16 points. As soon as she was nominated, Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell was attacked by conservative icon’s like Karl Rove as unelectable, and lampooned on cable television for past comments that she’d “dabbled in witch craft.”
Things were far from a loss for Tea Party candidates. Rand Paul brought the GOP a senate seat in Kentucky and Marco Rubio did the same in a three-way race in Florida. To be clear, last night was a victory for the Republican Party. It’s the long-term consequences for the path to victory that conservative pundits should find troubling.
A troublesome trend in GOP primaries this past season was the way moderate Republicans were forced to the right by Tea Party opposition, only to be left supporting positions that alienate moderates and independents. Sarah Palin has hinted that she will run for president "if nobody else is there to do it," and this already has seasoned Republican operatives fearful that a Palin run would force moderate Republicans out of the race and hand Barack Hussein Obama his second term.
While the loss of the House certainly puts a damper on the president’s plans, the Democrats can see an upside in having a GOP majority in the House of Representatives. The past two years of Republican politics have been trademarked by obstructionist opposition to Obama’s agenda, and as a party voted out of power, there was little that forced them to provide an alternative or demonstrate their ability to govern better. This is no longer true.
With seats in both congressional chambers up for grabs in just two years, the GOP will have to demonstrate that they can create jobs and cut down on the federal deficit while limiting spending. 2008 was the year of the Democrat and it only took two years for the American public to change their minds about whom they want in control. Given the recent short sightedness of the American electorate, the GOP should not count on their swing-state gains being dependable in 2012. The theme of this election cycle was anti-incumbency, and if current outrage over the economy remains strong in 2012, that anger will be directed against leadership across the board.
The Republican Party won a historic victory last night that they should be proud of. Now it’s time for them to get to work. If they can’t come through on their promises, their victory will likely prove short lived.