Stephen Colbert opened his interview by rolling tape from 2 years ago, on the eve of the 2008 presidential election. There I was, warning that the GOP had no future as the party of Palin. And here we are, 2 years later, the party of Palin – and winning a crushing victory. Colbert pointedly asked, “So how does it feel to be completely wrong?”
But it was true then, and true now.
Tonight’s results are an opportunity and a challenge: an opportunity to rebalance and redirect American politics – but also a challenge to do a better job governing than Americans have experienced these past 10 years. From 9/11 to the stimulus, almost everything Washington has done has gone wrong: stagnant incomes, unsuccessful wars, financial crisis, unemployment, foreclosures.
Now it’s again a Republican turn, or partly a Republican turn. What do we have to offer? Tax cuts plus Medicare spending? More angry accusations? Investigations? Gridlock? Shutdowns? Impeachment?
Tea Party Republicanism had a big outing tonight, much bigger than I’d have thought possible. So it’s fair to say to me: You were wrong. You thought that nominating people like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell and Ken Buck would be a formula for disaster, but see – we got away with it, more or less. Except we didn’t get away with it. The people who inflicted Angle and O’Donnell on the GOP threw away ridiculously winnable Senate seats. We’ll see how Joe Miller and Ken Buck do in the later morning hours.
Will there be accountability for these self-inflicted disasters? It’s one thing to lose an election over principle. But what principle requires the nomination of the inept and the arrogant? Here are candidates who declare that they are running to defend freedom from Kenyan Marxist fascism and then refuse to answer questions from reporters – or outright order reporters arrested.
You cannot build a party this way, you cannot govern the country this way. And while O’Donnell and Angle and Paul remain (thank God) untypical of the GOP, their followers have imposed self-destructive limits on Republican thought and action. Republicans have come to power in the midst of the worst economic crisis since World War II without an economic plan – that is, beyond preserving the tax cuts which failed to prevent the crisis in the first place. We have fielded an impressively diverse slate of candidates, while simultaneously repelling the minority and youth voters such candidates should have attracted.
Which is why I believe at this hour of Tea Party triumphalism that the mission of this site has become more urgent than ever. A party of Palinite resentment and Rand Paul conspiracism cannot win and should not win.
More than ever we need a culturally modern Republicanism to represent the whole nation – that governs in the interests of the many, not the few – that can solve social problems at a cost within the nation’s means.
The work of building that alternative continues. And we recommit to that work tonight.