"Now is the winter of our discontent." So begins Shakespeare's Richard the Third, and such is the refrain likely to be heard from conservatives across the country as they analyze this week's election results. However, just as Shakespeare's line is misunderstood most of the time it is quoted, so it is easy to misunderstand the lessons of this year's elections.
Richard the Third was not saying that the nation was entering a period of discontent — just the opposite. His point was that although things were bad, they were about to turn better. The "winter" was merely the low point, the turning point. In the same way, we should look at the 2008 election results in the contexts of 1980 and 1992. Right after Reagan won decisively in 1980, the Republicans were clobbered in the House and Senate races of 1982. And right after Clinton's win in 1992, the Democrats were clobbered in the House and Senate races of 1994. Therefore I would suggest that although this year's results were not what many conservatives had hoped for, there's really no reason for despair. The House and Senate races for 2010 could actually turn our way. So if you hear a fellow conservative bemoaning the 2008 election, they probably have it wrong — just as those who try to show off by brandishing Shakespeare's quote about the Winter of Discontent have it wrong.
Let's begin our analysis with three quick statements on what this election was NOT.
1. It was not a landslide
2. It was not an ideological election
3. It was not a realignment election
A landslide used to be defined as 60% to 40%. This one was basically 52 — 46. 52% is no landslide, and thus no basis for claiming a "mandate."
It was not an ideological election. Based purely on what Senator Obama said, not on his record, he appealed to the American people with a centrist, bipartisan message. He spoke of a new kind of politics, of moving away from party labels, or left and right, or conservative versus liberal, or red state versus blue state. No one can acknowledge the receptivity of the American public to that message, or the crowds that he drew with that message, and still argue that this was an ideological election. It's better described as a protest election, a personality election, or a reaction election, but not primarily an ideological one. It remains to be seen whether the Obama presidency is as centrist and non-ideological as the campaign. If it is not, then the basis for a negative reaction election will have been set.
It was not a realignment election, either in the body politic as a whole or in the Congress. The Democratic party's gains in the House were only about half of what most pundits had predicted. There are a couple of Senate seat yet to be decided through recounts, but it seems that there too, the Democrats' gain will be less than what many analysts had predicted. They will not have a filibuster proof Senate.
Finally, the successes of marriage protection amendments in Florida and Arizona, and the close but still undecided fate of Proposition 8 in California, are all indicators that social conservatism not only was not rejected, but actually is a majority position. Look at all three states marriage amendment votes compared to those states' presidential votes: in all three, the marriage amendments polled substantially better than McCain, by double digits.
So there's plenty of good news for conservatives in the wake of this historic election. We must stand firm, regroup, reenergize and renew our efforts to preserve this great republic from erosion from within. Or, to close with another quotation from Shakespeare, like Henry the Fifth, it's time to sound the cry, "Once more into the breach."
This has been Colin Hanna of let Freedom Ring for American Radio Journal. Please visit us on the web at www.LetFreedomRingUSA.com.