As expected, Republicans fared well in last night’s elections — regaining control of the House, picking up at least six Senate seats, and adding several more governors to their ranks. I’m sure there will be plenty of feedback and analysis throughout the day, as well as much rejoicing from the GOP, but Ross Douthat cautions the Republicans about getting ahead of themselves:
Majorities come and go; big legislative achievements (and say what you will about the 111th Congress, but it wasn’t afraid to go big) can last a long, long time. Certainly there are many conservatives who wish that the Republican congresses of the Bush era had risked the public’s wrath to pass Social Security reform or tax reform, instead of playing it safe and eventually losing anyway amid the backlash against the Iraq War. Politics often gets covered as though the legislative sessions are just a long prelude to the real action of election season. But for all the breathless horse-race coverage, elections only matter to the extent that they produce (or forestall) actual legislation. And where the policies of the United States government are concerned, all the ground the Republicans regained tonight doesn’t change the fact that what liberals achieved in Barack Obama’s first two years in office was more consequential than any conservative victories in recent memory.
The question is what happens next. If the backlash persists into 2012, if the Republicans get serious about policy, if this cycle’s conservative gains are a prelude to conservative legislative successes down the road, then the Democrats’ decision to gamble their majority on health care reform may come to look reckless and self-destructive, and the victories of the 111th Congress will seem pyrrhic rather than enduring.
But that’s a lot of “if”s. For now . . . Republicans need to keep a lid on their euphoria and recognize that while they’ve come out on top in this election, in the most important sense they haven’t won anything just yet.
Agree? Disagree? Too busy celebrating to care?