As political pundits, the media, and party leaders sort through the unexpected results of Tuesday’s midterm election, one key takeaway stands out above the rest – the American people want new leadership in Washington, D.C.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, a red wave did come, just not in the way “experts” predicted. The rising tide did not lift all boats in 2022 — just the ones sailed by captains who knew where they were going. Across the country, conservative candidates who offered courageous leadership and a clear policy agenda were rewarded. Candidates who focused solely on blaming President Joe Biden for the country’s problems, without offering any solutions, were disappointed.
Predictably, Republican congressional leaders — especially in the U.S. Senate — were in the latter camp. Throughout the campaign, the GOP’s supposedly wise and sophisticated tacticians urged their candidates to avoid policy, avoid positive proposals, and instead just let inflation and the president’s sagging approval rating carry them into the majority.
Official Washington is stunned that it didn’t work. But it shouldn’t be. Not after so many years of public dissatisfaction with both parties and dysfunction in Washington.
The American people seem sick of the 30-year old Swamp see-saw. Democrats and Republicans continuously trading aimless majorities in listless Congresses has not improved everyday Americans’ lives. Now, facing inflation, a crime wave, a border crisis, an education crisis, and a collapse of public trust in federal institutions — all catastrophes manufactured in D.C. — voters felt no need to hand out yet another mandate to an out party merely by default.
Elsewhere, though, mandates were readily granted to principled, competent leaders who earned them.
Governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida, Greg Abbott in Texas, and Brian Kemp in Georgia all spent the last four years taking on woke extremism and fighting for working families in the face of relentless liberal criticism. All won in landslides.
Across the map, conservative workhorses won. There is a lesson there for anyone who wants to learn it.
One who learned this lesson before Tuesday is Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who defied his party’s leaders earlier this year by publishing a 12-point agenda, including more than 100 specific policy proposals. Scott’s Rescue America plan covered everything from the border crisis to election integrity to the budget and crime. He called for education freedom and parental empowerment, congressional term limits, and the protection of religious liberty, women’s sports, and unborn babies.
Suggesting all federal legislation sunsets in five years might not be popular in Washington, D.C., but at least he was willing to address an important issue, not ignore it, as so many of his colleagues did.
Scott’s agenda was detailed, comprehensive, courageous — and almost unanimously attacked by Senate Republican leaders.
Tellingly, his colleagues did not take issue with this or that specific policy in his agenda. They slammed Scott for offering a plan at all. This is how Washington works today. Leaders hide bills from members; members hide their priorities from their constituents; candidates hide their agendas from voters.
And we wonder why Congress’s approval rating hovers around 20 percent.
Scott took the risk of offering his plan because he — like most Americans — was sick of the partisan see-saw. He didn’t want Republicans to win by default. He wanted to win by persuasion. He wanted to show the public how conservative values and policy could improve their lives, solve America’s problems, and make the federal government work again.
Congressional Republicans thought they could win without doing that kind of hard work. Tuesday’s elections showed they were wrong, while Scott, DeSantis, Abbott, Kemp, and others — were right.
The kind of changes America needs — in Washington, along the border, on our streets, in our classrooms, our health care system, and our economy — will never be achieved by default. They will require hard work and harder choices. They will require Republicans to seek out and earn a mandate for reform. Senate Republican leaders attacking Scott for daring to do that work while eschewing it themselves is a good illustration of where the GOP finds itself today.
Americans want courageous, principled leadership. Tuesday night, they rewarded candidates who offered it and punished those who did not. Perhaps, when they convene to elect their conference leaders for the 118th Congress, House and Senate Republicans should do the same.