The Tea-Leaves Of Off-Year Elections

Jonah Goldberg sounds chipper:

For some time now Frank Rich, Sam Tanenhaus and countless others (including David Frum) have been arguing that the GOP is a rump party and the only way for it to survive is for it to embrace me-too Republicanism of one flavor or another. The story of all three major races (VA, NJ, and NY-23) is that this conventional wisdom was incandescently wrong and ill-advised...The GOP is an unapologetically conservative party, providing a choice not an echo, and horror of horrors it’s working.

This was signaled by Karl Rove last week as the way to frame Tuesday's votes. But Rove is the worst political strategist of several generations, and these three mid-mid-term races do not a long-term strategy make. They are almost tailor-made for a protest vote (and anyone watching Fox News these past few months must believe that a communist take-over designed to destroy America is worth protesting). That protest vote may even bring the GOP real gains next year. But when voters actually decide on what direction they want the country to take in 2012, and the actual policies they favor, and know they might be electing an actual government, the equation shifts.

That's why I think it's perfectly possible that many partisan Republicans like Goldberg will have a wonderful time these next two years but will be bitterly disappointed until they craft an actual policy message that appeals with leaders who seem capable of governing a divided country. Tactics will keep them going; a profound lack of strategy and policy seriousness will kill them (absent some huge intervening event or a massive Obama fuck-up.) It seems to me that that point has not yet been even marginally reached. In fact, the image of the GOP as purely obstructionist has deepened even as the "choice not an echo" meme has gained traction.

Yglesias's thoughts on party discipline work as a counterpoint:

The common sense way to behave is to try to insist on orthodoxy in places where orthodox candidates can clearly win, but to be more flexible elsewhere. Instead Democrats are dealing with a rogue senator from Connecticut, while the GOP drove Arlen Specter out of the party for being an occasional deviationist in a state that’s consistently backed Democratic presidential candidates for 20 years.

So do James Joyner's:

 While I’m a Big Tent guy who thinks the Republican Party needs to accept the fact that winning seats in the Northeast will require backing candidates who would be considered “liberal” in Mississippi, I fully understand the thinking of people like Malkin who prefer an ideological party.  At some point, having an “R” after a candidates name doesn’t mean much if they’re going to work against your leadership.   But you can’t have it both ways.  Either the GOP accepts people like Scozzafava as candidates in liberal districts or it runs them off to become Democrats.