This Is Serious
Dominance for Republicans. Vindication for the president. And a good showing from the American people.
12:15 AM, Nov 6, 2002 • By DAVID BROOKS
WELL, I'M HUMBLED. For the past two months me and just about every other pundit under the sun have been saying the same thing: There is no theme to this election, no trend. This nation is divided down the middle.
Wrong. This nation is still closely divided. The Republicans should not read a radical ideological mandate into the results tonight. But there is a trend here. The American people are fundamentally serious.
They know that the most important problem facing the country right now is terrorism and security. They know that George W. Bush is basically right on how to approach this problem. They know it is important to send people to Washington to support the president. In key states, they are doing that.
Second, they know that one party believes in its platform and the other party does not. The Democrats, led by Tom Daschle, sold their soul to win this election, and parties that sell their souls to win usually end up losing. They secretly wanted to roll back the Bush tax cut but didn't have the guts to say so. They wanted to oppose the president on Iraq but didn't have the guts to say so. They might have lost key seats if they had articulated these positions. But they lost these seats anyway, along with their self-respect. Look for a wave of Fresh Face-itis to sweep through Democratic ranks. I wouldn't want to be in charge of Tom Daschle's presidential campaign right now. Or Dick Gephardt's. Or Al Gore's. John Edwards and Howard Dean, on the other hand, are sitting pretty.
Don't underestimate the importance of the Wellstone memorial service/rally. The polls shifted in the last few days. One big event was that rally. People saw liberal self-righteousness and they remembered that they don't like it. People saw the future of the Democratic party and its name was Walter Mondale.
Don't underestimate the importance of exurban voters. Look at the states where Republicans have scored well, places like New Hampshire and Georgia. Those are places with sprawling new suburbs. Those exurban places are George Bush territory. Two liberal friends of mine just published a book called "The Emerging Democratic Majority." They are smart guys and good guys, but I sort of feel sorry for them tonight. It looks like that majority will be emerging a while longer.
Finally, never, ever, ever underestimate George W. Bush. It took me two years of being wrong about Bush before I finally got sick of it. The rest of the pundit class had better catch on. He is a leader of the first order. This historic night belongs to him.
I was ready for a dull, stagnant election. Instead, something happened--in New England, in my own state of Maryland, in Georgia, and though races out west that haven't been called, probably beyond.
David Brooks is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.