Kaufman: A mandate — for moderation

Last week was an ideological repudiation of wokeness as Republicans surprisingly gained seats almost everywhere.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (Bernie Sanders/Facebook)

With most elections behind us, and amid GOP success from the U.S. House to local races, there are important intra-party questions to consider.

On the right, will there be reconciliation between “Never” and pro-Trump factions? Do Republicans keep the populist nationalist path blazed by Josh Hawley types during President Donald Trump’s tenure or return to a smaller government style with conservative aims, advocated by a Liz Cheney, Tom Cotton and Nikki Haley? Can populism and libertarianism blend, via Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse?

Let’s hope a narrow presidential loss does not lead to internecine chaos. The GOP did exceptionally well down ballot and now is more viable than the opposition.

NRCC Chairman and Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer said Wednesday every Republican House candidate who flipped a seat is a female, a minority or veteran.

“You win campaigns with the right message, great candidates and enough resources,” he claimed. “We empowered our delegations to tell us who the best-qualified candidates were.”

Some will blame abysmal polling and the pandemic, while populists position themselves as rightful presidential successors. This likely includes economic protectionism and a reaffirmation of “America First” foreign policy. With help from talk radio and Tucker Carlson — combined with Tea Party values on life support — “owning the libs” and assaulting big tech may animate more than deficit concerns and defending the homeland.

With improved House numbers and (hopefully) Senate control come January, conservatives can slowly cohere until they have a presidential nominee three-and-a-half years from now.

One can imagine a 2024 GOP primary agglomeration, including the aforementioned Cheney, Cotton, Cruz, Haley, Hawley, Rubio and Sasse, joined by Dan Crenshaw, Adam Kinzinger, Kristi Noem, Tim Scott and more. I don’t think Mike Pence or Mike Pompeo run. I hope provocateurs like Matt Gaetz and Donald Trump Jr. won’t.

Biden’s win will lead to Democrat overreach. Despite failure at every other level, the left will interpret a close presidential victory (over a polarizing president during a global health crisis) as a referendum on their agenda of racial division, eco-lunacy, identity politics and never-ending lockdowns.

The president-elect is calling for a massive amount of new spending on top of the swollen budgets ($11 trillion over the next decade). Depending on cabinet picks, there’s a chance the Democrats will veer hard left. Biden is actually better off with a GOP Senate to curb his party’s worst instincts. If Biden truly wants unity, better to deal with Mitch McConnell than Chuck Schumer.

With their overwhelming rejection last week, will Democrats’ future feature Michelle Obama’s ad hominem bullying and the heavy-handed socialism of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Will the agenda of creeping illiberalism be encouraged? Or does classical liberalism survive?

Newt Gingrich resigned as speaker 22 years ago this month after the GOP, expecting to gain dozens of seats, lost five. Democrats will perhaps lose double digits this cycle, when expectations were to add several. Why isn’t Pelosi under similar pressure to resign? Ocasio-Cortez says it’s irresponsible to criticize progressives but representing a sheltered left-wing district leaves you culturally blind.

Selena Zito recently wrote that elites “assume these voters are on the same page as an Ivy League women’s studies major. Center-rightism didn’t defy the odds. It was always present. It’s just that too few people asked people why.”

Last week was an ideological repudiation of wokeness as Republicans surprisingly gained seats almost everywhere. The GOP expected to lose nearly a dozen state chambers, yet didn’t. And by locking in their bicameral grip on numerous legislatures, including some of the largest states, Republicans can draw new lines for nearly 100 congressional seats this decade. Reclaiming the House in 2022 seems likely.

As Cameron Hilditch wrote in National Review:

“From Day One of his presidency, Biden will be the rope in a tug of war between the radical left and his moderate majority-makers on the Hill. He won’t have the personal energy or charisma to unite the two warring factions under the banner of his leadership. There’s a good chance Biden will be preparing to exit after one term, leaving the party without a leader. The presidency would then be ripe for Republican picking.”

Biden — the first president to enter the White House in 32 years without Senate control and the smallest House majority since 2002 — must now consider retooling his cabinet choices and altering his most ambitious goals, because Republicans can thwart his worst aims. Biden’s career shows he doesn’t take tough stances and isn’t attached to many positions. Since he moves where he thinks the party is, his malleability could be a blessing or curse.