Republican voters are down on the sluggish GOP officials they elected, and the officeholders whine about the unreasonable people who voted for them. Republican backbenchers complain about their lame leaders, and GOP leaders grumble about their unruly followers. Right-wing pundits despair of unimaginative Republican pols, and the hard-headed pols are impatient with impractical commentators. Conservative activists loathe the GOP establishment, and the establishment is terrified and contemptuous of the base.
And there’s more . . . Republican donors, memories fresh in their minds of 2012—when they were assured by GOP bigwigs that the public polls were wrong and that their hopes of ambassadorial appointments in a Romney administration would not be dashed—now disbelieve the same public polls that were right in 2012 and that in fact, contrary to media spin, suggest a good and perhaps very good result for the GOP in 2014. So the donors hesitate to reach for their wallets, lest they be disappointed again. The consultants complain about the donors. And the donors (not unreasonably) distrust the consultants.
It’s just one big happy Republican family, moaning and groaning, sniping and whining, mumbling and grumbling.
November 4 is likely to lead to a GOP takeover of the Senate after eight long years of Democratic control, and to perhaps the largest GOP majority in the House in modern times. It’s an election that could—that should—set the stage for victory in 2016, as the Democrats’ triumph in 2006 set the stage for victory in 2008. So even though it’s contrary to interest for an opinion magazine to suggest a time out from groaning and sniping and grumbling—and even though we reserve the right to groan and snipe and grumble at our discretion—maybe it’s a good moment for everyone out there who thinks the country is endangered by Barack Obama, that it is being damaged by Harry Reid, and that it would be ruined by another Democratic presidential victory in 2016 to take a deep breath, let bygones be bygones, leave future concerns to the future, and work to win in November.
Fear of the Democrats should be a sufficient motive. But is there anything else to be said to inspire voters to vote, donors to donate, and activists to activate?
Yes. The Republican class of 2014 candidates are very impressive. A glance at their biographies would show an unusual number of high-quality men and women, many of whom have real achievements outside politics, few of whom are career politicians or children of politicians. From Tom Cotton in Arkansas to Joni Ernst in Iowa; from Ben Sasse in Nebraska to Dan Sullivan in Alaska; from Elise Stefanik in upstate New York to Lee Zeldin on Long Island; from Marilinda Garcia in western New Hampshire to Martha McSally in southeastern Arizona—a new generation of Republicans has stepped forward worthy of support.
And a glance at their birth dates would show that the Grand Old Party is this year the party of youth. For example: There are seven marquee Senate races in which the Republican candidate has a good chance to take a Democratic seat (on top of virtually certain pickups in West Virginia, Montana, and South Dakota). It is on these races that control of the Senate will hinge. In all of these contests—Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire—the Republican challenger is younger than his or her Democratic opponent.
Looking at the GOP field in 2014, it’s perhaps an exaggeration to invoke John F. Kennedy’s words: “The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans . . . tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”
But looking at these candidates, Republicans would be justified in thinking—as Democrats thought in 1958, two years before Kennedy’s inauguration—that theirs is the party of youth and energy, of new ideas and bold imagination. In the 1958 off-year elections, Democrats increased their majority in the House by 48 and won 13 Republican Senate seats, defeating 10 Republican incumbents. The GOP won’t achieve a victory of that magnitude in 2014. But they can aspire to big gains, especially when polls show disapproval of Obama high, Republicans leading in the generic congressional ballot, and a slew of Democratic incumbents below 50 percent.