Americans of a conservative stripe certainly could go to bed Tuesday night pleased with the election results. Holding on to the House of Representatives and recapturing slim control of the Senate are enough to guarantee a peaceful night’s sleep.
But deep down, what really warms the heart of the true conservative isn’t our electoral victories — we are cynical enough to know that it is only a matter of time before our champions let us down — but our opponents’ defeats.
The plain fact is that it is just impossible to get too fired up over Liddy Dole or Lamar! Alexander. Instead, we draw our pleasure in Democratic losses, taking particular delight in the downfall of several liberals of the most sanctimonious and demagogic sort.
On that score, several races Tuesday were particularly and deliciously satisfying.
Nowhere was this more the case than Minnesota. One influential Republican analyst told me on Monday, “I don’t really care if we keep the House or win back the Senate, as long as Mondale loses. I will be a happy man if Minnesota packs up that old bag.”
Beating Walter Mondale was much more exhilarating than trouncing Paul Wellstone would have been. True, Wellstone was a nut. But deep down he was a good guy who did what he believed, and who was willing to fall on his sword rather than sell out his principles, loony as they might have been (see the Iraq vote). At least you could respect Paul Wellstone.
But how could anyone respect Mondale and the Democratic machine that engineered the notorious memorial service for Wellstone at the University of Minnesota? The most telling thing about it, as some pundit pointed out last week, was that the event was too tacky even for Jesse Ventura. ‘Nuff said.
The Mondale defeat was also tremendously satisfying because it brought closure to the 1984 presidential election. Mondale won a single state in that race — his own Minnesota — to Ronald Reagan’s 49. It was nice to see residents of the Land of 10,000 Lakes get the chance to correct that mistake and tell Walter to march back into the political retirement the rest of us consigned him to 18 years ago.
It wasn’t just Minnesota that provided the tonic to get through another two years. The voters of Missouri corrected their own electoral mistake, tossing out Jean Carnahan. She waltzed into the Senate rather easily two years ago largely because John Ashcroft, in a noble gesture, declined to challenge the seemingly fraudulent results in his defeat to her late husband. Mrs. Carnahan repaid the favor by trashing Ashcroft and voting against his nomination for Attorney General. I would imagine Ashcroft watched her concession speech with a broad smile on his face.
In New Hampshire, John Sununu fended off the particularly noxious attacks from Governor Jeanne Shaheen to prevail in their Senate race. This was particularly impressive because Sununu, a down-the-line conservative, was forced to contend with petty ankle-biting from the man he defeated in the Republican primary, former GOP turncoat (and apostate on environmental issues) Bob Smith. A lot of telepundits wrote off Sununu over the weekend. Not so fast.
Jeb Bush’s reelection in Florida was enjoyable not because his opponent — Bill McBride — rubs conservatives the wrong way, but because this race was so important to Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe. The hero of Global Crossing made it clear in the days leading up to the balloting that defeating the President’s brother was a top priority. Here’s to hoping that McAuliffe is taking the Florida loss particularly hard.
In Maryland, conservatives were treated to a rare twofer of liberal misery. Robert F. Kennedy’s daughter Kathleen, who relentlessly invoked his assassination to point out the perils of gun violence, was shot down by voters in her race for Governor. Marylanders instead opted to send Republican Bob Ehrlich to the statehouse (along with a very impressive lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, who happens to be black).
And in the posh Montgomery County suburbs of Washington, D.C., longtime liberal Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Morella was told to hit the showers. True, her replacement, Chris Van Hollen, is a roll-up-your-sleeves young left-wing firebrand who will be on the scene (and in our faces) for years to come. But it is nice to finally have to stop holding our noses for the Queen of the Republican In Name Only Caucus. And since her vote won’t be needed to keep a Republican in the Speaker’s chair, I say good riddance.
A couple good chances got away. It would have been nice to see Gray Davis go down in California, for instance. And it’s not yet clear if Tom Daschle’s good buddy Tim Johnson will lose his Senate seat.
All in all, however, it’s going to be nice sleeping soundly over the next few nights knowing that Daschle, McAuliffe, and company are not.