No Final Victories, No Final Defeats


The Republican party had a very good election last night, and the Democrats had a very bad election.  The Republicans took control of the House and have gained approximately 60 seats with around 13 still to be decided.  The House will be more pro-life than at any time in our nation’s history since Roe v. Wade in 1973.  In the Senate the Republicans have gained approximately 6 seats with around 3 still to be decided.  The Republicans have gained at least seven governorships with a few to be decided, and at least 17 state legislative chambers have flipped to the GOP.  By any standards it was a great night for the GOP, and a vote of no confidence in both the Obama administration and the Democrat Congress.  It would be tempting to predict only triumph now for the Republicans and only doom for the Democrats in the future, but it is a temptation to be resisted.

After the 2008 elections many on the Left, giddy with victory, predicted that in future the Republican party would be only a rump party of the South, doomed to wander in the political wilderness for 40 years.  Typical of this commentary was a piece written by frequent commenter Morning’s Minion:

For look at what the Republican party has become in recent years: a rump party of the south and the plains, mired in an anachronistic culture that has little resonance with the modern world and with the younger generation.

Of course this commentary betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of American political history.  In that history there are no final victories and no final defeats.  The great issue in contention since the days of the Federalists and the Republicans, the role of government in the lives of a free people, has remained with us no matter what names the two parties call themselves.  When a party dies, the Whig party for instance, a new party steps forward to carry on the fight.  The parties themselves shift and change, but the large issues involved tend, at bottom, to remain the same.  Kipling wrote long ago:

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

That is sound advice in American politics, no matter if an election is good for your party or bad for your party.

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  1. True, but some abiding changes in political economy and social relations were effected in 1861-77, 1933-39, 1947-54, and 1954-71.

    Finessing the country’s problems in public finance &c. will require co-operation between the political parties. That will require (among other things) that the negotiating parties be able to set priorities and have some degree of appreciation for the concerns of the opposite party. The intramural culture of the Democratic Party is infected with social and historical fictions which inhibit the latter and we have seen little evidence that the President is capable of the former or the latter. We are in for interesting times.

  2. Cogent as always Art, although I think the more things change, often the more they stay the same. Slavery for instance. The basic argument in regard to slavery was is there a class of human beings that may be treated as property. I would argue that the same basic debate is being carried out in regard to abortion, with unborn children being reduced to chattel. Pro-lifers have often noted the eerie parallels. In regard to the role of the federal government and the states, you could take the arguments of the Whigs and the Jacksonian Democrats, and transplant them to the modern day, re-label them Republicans for Jacksonian Democrats and Democrats for Whigs, and with only very little alteration they would sound like a recent debate on the floor of Congress.

  3. “The basic argument in regard to slavery was is there a class of human beings that may be treated as property. I would argue that the same basic debate is being carried out in regard to abortion, with unborn children being reduced to chattel.”

    I once got into a debate with a anti-lifer who insisted that a fetus was an object that the mother was in possession of and not a human. Somehow, through the “miracle” of birth, the “object” became a human; when I inquired as to the process of this he just stated that a human isn’t a human until it’s born.
    I pray for his soul (and the souls of all those who think like he) most days of the week.

    On topic, I’m very glad that the Republicans managed to win just the House (I’d be super excited if it were both Chambers, but one is enough to stop the Obama agenda).

  4. I like Rubio’s quote from last night: “We make a great mistake if we believe that tonight these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican party. What they are is a second chance, a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago.”

  5. I think that is the exact mistake Democrats and liberals in general made with 2008. 2008 was not some great embrace of the liberal agenda as MM’s quote above mistakenly thought. It was a repudiation of Republican lip service to conservative principles followed by decidedly unconservative actions. Last night was a clarification of that sentiment, and it seems at least Rubio gets it (also heard Steele saying something similar, but again, that may just be lip service from him). Also, one of the most annoying moments was hearing Steele trying to somehow take credit for the Tea Party, as though he was all in favor of it.

  6. Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
    Churchill, November 1942

    If only . . .

  7. “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,”

    That is a constant.

    “Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn out tools;”

    If we work extremely hard, we may avoid that tragedy.

  8. As I told my son, who’s taking AP History this year, in 2008 I heard people wondering what party would take the place of the GOP, which would disappear by 2016. And in 2002, I heard people wondering what party would take the place of the Democratic Party. And in 1991, I heard some people joking about Democrats thinking of nominating George H.W. Bush as their nominee in ’92, since he was bound to win anyway.

  9. That quote stands. It helps to think in longer terms than electoral cycles.

    If you think this represents a positive endorsement of the Republican party, you are deluded. It was a kneejerk rejection of the ruling power, its perceived arrogrance, and its perceived inability to bring the power of government to end the worst recession since the Great Depression. Sadly for the American political system, that meant…going back to the people who brought you the recession in the first place! What was that about thinking long term again?

  10. MM, the first sign of recovery from a mistake is to admit that you made one. Your statement in 2008 indicates that you understand this country and its politics as well as a pig does penance. In your blind partisan joy in 2008 you thought the GOP was headed for the ashheap of history, and, instead, it is the administration of the most pro-abortion president in our nation’s history that may be headed in that direction.

    He may recover; Bill Clinton certainly did after 1994. However, I think Obama has more of the ideologue about him, and I doubt that he possesses the flexibility that President Bubba possessed. We shall see.

  11. that meant…going back to the people who brought you the recession in the first place!

    Right. Because clearly the recession was caused by Republicans, and not by a bi-partisan attempt to expand access to housing, flawed monetary policy set by the guy who was also head of the Federal Reserve under Clinton, and the actions of millions of private actors. I suppose the expansion during the dotcom bubble should be credited to Clinton, but the collapse of said bubble should be blamed on Bush?

  12. The quote doesn’t stand at all, but it certainly does provide yet another example of partisanship, domestic political ignorance, and snide.

    MM is correct that the election does not represent a positive endorsement of the Republican party – in fact, the GOP is probably less popular than the Democrats. But the election certainly was a rebuke to the Democrats, who have overreached.

    And then here come the partisan blinders…..the Republicans brought us into the recession. Well, they did – along with the Democrats, those that took out loans they shouldn’t have, the supposed regulators, and the banks that so outrageously bet with the full faith and credit of the public purse.

    The story of this recession simply can’t be told without this uncomfortable truth being front and center: the effort, since the early 90s, to “expand opportunity” to folks that had no business whatsover purchasing property and taking on huge debt loads in general. WARNING: “RACISM” ALERT”!!!!! HIDE!!!!!

    Events such as the White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership on Oct. 15, 2002 have been pushed down the memory hole with good reason: a lot of our ruling class is complicit, just as the borrowers are complicit.

    Is this the whole story? No. But it’s a very big part of it, and MM’s status-posturing whenever its brought up has comical these past few years (because, of course, he’s not racist!).

    The economy would not be in the tank now, and unemployment would be a lot better, and wages would be higher, if : 1). there was a requirement of 15% down to purchase a home 2). the labor market had not been flooded with low skill labor these past few decades

    You want to be a social democrat in a place with high social capital? Great – me too! Look to Germany, where the labor left deserves a lot of admiration. They are starting to protect their high wage labor markets, and their fiscal policies actually make sense (like Italy, their businesses typically do not take on mounds of debt, and their elites usually do not try to demonstrate their moral superiority too badly).

    Thilo Sarrazin, a leftist, is right. MM, you are a smart guy, but your partisanship and water carrying do tend to get the best of you.

  13. However, I think Obama has more of the ideologue about him, and I doubt that he possesses the flexibility that President Bubba possessed. We shall see.

    More to the point, the public finances of the United States are trashed, the labor market has sustained a series of injuries and is suffering from the worst sclerosis it has seen in 70 years, and the lesson drawn from the last thirty months by Messrs. Krugman, Stiglitz et al is that the public authorities were insufficiently profligate. That last will be the Administration’s point of departure; that of the Democratic caucus will be maintaining the pipeline of patronage to their constituencies; that of the Republican caucus will be magical thinking on taxation. This is not 1995, and we have only a few years to turn things around before the bond market cuts us off at the bar.

    going back to the people who brought you the recession in the first place!

    Messrs. Bush, Hastert, & Lott may be faulted for a number of things. Generating an asset bubble with their trusty magic wand was not among them. ‘Fraid allowing deposits-and-loans banks to get mixed up in proprietary trading, prime brokerage, securities underwriting, hedge funds, and private equity was a of bipartisan folly signed into law in 1999. As for Citigroup taking on $55 bn in subprime loans and $500 bn in uninsured foreign deposits, why not query their $15 million/year resident guru, Robert Rubin (D). Dr. Mankiw and Sen. McCain may have wanted Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to improve their accounting practices and capital cushions; they were sabotaged by Barney Frank acting at the behest of his boy toy Herb Moses and various other members of the Democratic insider nexus…

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