Supposing Republicans win a big victory on November 4. What then?
First, celebration. Republicans are sober and conservatives are . . . conservative. Neither group has a reputation as party animals. But The Weekly Standard gives them permission—nay, we urge them with the full authority of our weighty editorial voice—to let themselves go for one night. Pop the champagne corks. Put on the party hats. Go wild with the funny little noisemakers.
Because the result—assuming it’s as strong as it looks 12 days out—will be worth celebrating. It will be good news that Barack Obama’s spell over the electorate has been broken. It will be a relief that the Grand Old Party lives. It will be heartening that the conservative movement still moves. It will be gratifying that the obituaries of 2012 were premature. It will be reassuring to have a Republican majority in the Senate to mitigate the damage Obama can do in his final two years. It will be exciting to anticipate the arrival of bright, young, impressive new Republican officeholders on the floor of the Senate and the House.
We look forward to celebrating ourselves (insofar as curmudgeons ever really celebrate). But we also look forward to getting back to work. For the celebratory mood, though heartfelt, will be brief. It might last through coffee the next morning, as we take one last look at the satisfying election returns. But then, as we go outside to put the champagne bottles in the recycling bin, we’ll recall that we’re still stuck for two years with a president who fiddles while the West burns. As we dispose of the noisemakers and paper hats, we’ll remind ourselves that it’s no big deal to win big in the sixth year of a presidential term: It’s happened five of the last six times. As we head off to work, we’ll remember that this sixth-year election, like its predecessors, was mostly a negative and backward-looking referendum on the incumbent. And as we arrive at the office, we’ll reflect that the electoral results of 2014 are probably of limited utility in indicating what will happen next in the drama of American politics.
What will happen next is 2016. And it is toward victory in 2016 that all conservatives will turn their efforts. Virgil said it well: Hoc opus, hic labor est. This is the work, this is the toil.
Will November 2014 turn out to be a new beginning for the conservative movement, the harbinger of an era of American constitutional self-government at home and American greatness abroad? Or will 2014 be merely a brief interruption in a long downward slide toward mediocrity and decay?
Much will depend on what happens over the next two years—in Congress, in the statehouses and governors’ mansions, in the overall political discourse of the country, and in the Republican presidential nominating process. Victory in 2014 will mean we conservatives have a chance—more of a chance than most observers gave us six years ago.
But the tasks of 2015 and 2016 are far from trivial. Republicans have to constrain the president, rebuild American defenses, do their best to stop a bad deal with Iran, lay the groundwork for repealing and replacing Obama-care. They will need to be vigilant in countering the president as he tries to do end runs around Congress via the regulatory apparatus and executive orders. There is overdue business to attend to: pushing an economic growth agenda for Middle America and enlivening and invigorating the Republican party to increase the chances for victory in
the all-important 2016 presidential election.
Conservatives will be the first to recognize that history is full of chances not exploited and of promising roads not taken. But there are also moments when a party, a movement, and a nation rise to the occasion. To have contributed to such a moment would be worthy of a lengthy celebration.