Hope and Change: 2010
A big question on many minds the day after last week's election was whether its results will bring cooperation among Democrats and Republicans to move America forward or gridlock and a lack of progress; but there is a more important question that must be answered first: Will House and Senate Tea Party activists and Republican moderates be able to find common ground and thereby provide an effective antidote to the Obama Administration's program of big government and higher taxes?
The glimmer of an answer emerged at victory celebrations for two moderate Republicans outside Chicago on November 2: one for Mark Kirk, who won the US Senate seat once occupied by Barack Obama; the other for Robert Dold, who won Kirk's former Congressional seat. Kirk's record of compromising with Democrats on specifics has unleashed relentless efforts to label him a RINO (Republican in name only). But Kirk describes himself as "a fiscal conservative, a social moderate, and a national defense hawk," a description that Dold also embraces. They-and the overwhelming majority of Illinois conservatives-reject the RINO moniker as little more than a demand for ideological purity.
Like most 2010 campaigns, theirs became heated and vitriolic; and for Kirk, that included a nasty primary challenge from the Right that did not relent even during the very heated general election campaign. As Kirk announced his Senate victory and thanked those who helped make it possible, he made a point of singling out Patrick Hughes in the ebullient crowd and thanked him for his work in helping Kirk to victory. This was significant because Hughes was Kirk's most credible primary challenge. Moreover, those challengers and their followers refused to support Kirk throughout the campaign. That Hughes ultimately did was a factor in many conservatives "coming home" in the campaign's final days, and helping to propel the Republican to victory. Is this an example of the Right reaching out to a moderate?
At Bob Dold's celebration that night, his supporters gathered for hours before his Congressional race was called. They watched the election returns from across the United States: some to celebrate; some that disappointed. And while these largely moderate Republicans were cheered by so many successes that night, there was a special sense of excitement about Marco Rubio's Florida triumph. Not only was Rubio one of the first lions backed by the Tea Party, but he also trounced a prominent "moderate" in Governor Charlie Crist. When Rubio's election was called, there was a real buzz among Dold's supporters for what they saw as "the future of the Republican party." Is this an example of moderates reaching out to the Right?
Illinois-which now has a Republican majority in its Congressional delegation and a new Republican Senator-is a real test case for Republicans. Illinois is arguably the "bluest" state in the union, making it is impossible for an ideological conservative to win election, outside of a few small districts. This will challenge Republicans to master realities without abandoning the conservative principles that make them relevant. Success in Illinois will bode well for national success, and that process might already be underway.
Posted on 11/07/2010 8:57 AM by Richard L. Benkin