Election 2006 myths
National Review Editor Rich Lowry runs 'em down in today's column. Among the standard fare that doesn't hold water in his book:
- Republican losses were in keeping with typical setbacks for a party holding the White House in the sixth year of a presidency. Gerrymandered districts have made this a much smaller factor in the last 20 years -- Reagan lost five seats in 1986, Clinton gained a few seats in '98 (even though he got smashed in '94) -- so for Democrats to win 29 seats despite the advantages of incumbency is "a big deal."
- The conservative base, discouraged by the GOP’s doctrinal impurity, didn’t show up at the polls. In 2004, conservatives were 34 percent of the electorate and liberals 21 percent, and this year's numbers were very similar. "The GOP didn’t lose the election with its base, but with independents, who broke against them 57 percent to 39 percent," Lowry said.
- The GOP was too socially conservative for voters. Voters continue to vote for socially conservative issues such as gay marriage bans, even in greater numbers than they gave to Republican candidates. The key for Democrats, Lowry said, was that they "went out of their way not to antagonize social-conservative voters this year."
- The election was a great victory for conservative and moderate Democrats. There were a few (e.g. Heath Schuler of North Carolina) but this year's class of Democrats is still overwhelmingly liberal. "[O]nly about five of the 29 Democratic winners in the House can be considered social conservatives," Lowry said. "They will be lonely."
- President Bush now must give up on the Iraq War. Less than one-third of voters favor withdrawal, and a New York Times poll found that 55 percent of the public favors sending more troops to Iraq. It's an unpopular war, yes, but the election was hardly a referendum on withdrawal.