Wednesday, November 06, 2002
Well, I'm pleasantly surprised.
Important wins: Minnesota Senate, Massachusetts Governor, Maryland Governor, Missouri Senate, South Carolina Senator, South Carolina Governor. I can't get upset about the Pryor victory; Hutchinson was a slimeball who defeated himself. I can't get too excited about GOP Senate victories in North Carolina or Tennessee either, but I guess Liddy and Lamar! can't do much harm. And I can't get too excited about the Georgia or New Hampshire Senate races either, sorry to say, the former because I don't know much about either candidate, the latter because I can't get my back behind anyone named "Sununu." We're still waiting to hear about South Dakota Senate, Oregon Governor and Arizona Governor, any of which would be important wins. And the overwhelming victory for English in Massachusetts and the close loss of the income tax repeal in that state are important indicators, along with the Romney victory, that there is a future for an alternative to the Democrats in the liberal Northeast. The GOP should get this through their heads once and for all.
Meanwhile, 3 losses that are a damned shame, for which the GOP only has itself to blame. Top of the list is the California Governor's race. Does anyone - anyone - doubt that Rick Riordan would have trounced Gray Davis? Admittedly, Riordan ran a lousy primary campaign, essentially ignoring the party and asking to be anointed. But the end result, which is what matters, is that the California GOP once again cut off its nose to spite its face. The Republicans will never be the majority party unless they can fix their operation in America's biggest state. Republicans chose a novice and a terrible candidate who was a reliable conservative over a popular, experienced mayor who thought for himself. And they lost to the least popular governor in America. That'll teach Riordan to respect the party base. Right.
Second, the New Jersey Senate race. Forrester must have been a truly awful candidate not to have trounced Frank Lautenberg. Republicans won huge in liberal bastions like Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Maryland. There is no reason they couldn't win in New Jersey. Lautenberg is not an icon like Mondale; he replaced a disgraced Senator, not a martyred one; and he was replaced by judicial fiat that overrode state rules not according to those rules. Lautenberg is old, was retired, and ran his short race on absolutely nothing. This one was winnable, no question.
Third, the Colorado English initiative. Here is a story from the Denver Post. This is the first defeat for Ron Unz, after his victories in California in 1998, Arizona in 2000 and Massachusetts this year. And the circumstances of the loss in Colorado should bring shame on the GOP. This should be a Republican issue. Bi-lingual education has no legitimate supporters, and is wildly unpopular among Anglos and Hispanics alike. But the GOP has consistently refused to make it a priority to eliminate it. Why? Three reasons, I think. One, they are afraid of being demagogued by Hispanic activists who do not represent Hispanic opinion but claim to do so, and who are rabid supporters of bi-lingual ed. Second, they don't think Anglos really care about the issue, so they don't see how pushing it wins them votes. And third, they know that immersion programs could cost money and, just as with welfare reform, some Republicans are more interested in saving money than in promoting conservative principles and competant governance. In any event, the English initiative in Colorado failed because of two factors. First, a liberal heiress whose kids learn Spanish in a Spanish-only class for bi-lingual students spent millions to defeat the initiative. In so doing, she disgraced her own cause by airing frankly bigoted anti-Hispanic ads that contained outright falsehoods. The GOP couldn't have stopped her, but could have made her an issue were it not for the second factor that ensured the initiative's defeat, and that was Bill Owen's strong and surprising opposition. I know conservatives are all in love with this guy, but his reasons for opposing the English initiative were poor, and reveal a fundamental lack of political courage. Ostensibly, he opposed the initiative because it would have allowed parents to sue the state if their kids were left in bi-lingual classes against their wishes, and Governor Owens didn't want the state to be liable or to enrich the trial lawyers. But the pro-English forces have a very legitimate reason for including such a provision: they have seen how, in a number of states, local and state bureaucrats have undermined and subverted the will of the people by simply refusing the implement English immersion and to dismantle mandatory segregation by ethnicity (which is what bi-lingual ed is). What is going to bring them to heel if not the threat of legal action? I suspect, rather, that the Governor opposed the plan because it potentially would cost money. And that is really penny-wise but pound-foolish, because bi-lingual education, a strategy for educational waste and failue, is an enormous drain on the resources of the state, as well as being unjust, and must be ended.
All in all, a very good evening for the Republicans. But they should be thinking about where they failed, not where they succeeded, and not rest on their laurels.