Fred Barnes points out the obvious – and what appears to not be obvious to conservatives who think sitting out the election will "send a message". Barnes rightly points out that if sending a message by an electoral defeat worked, the Democrats would have changed by now.
If you suspect there are forces eager to suppress Republican turnout, you are right. Rarely has the press echoed Democratic themes as relentlessly as it has in the closing weeks of the 2006 campaign. And the main theme is that Republicans are about to be blown away. The question now is whether this message will persuade Republican voters to stay home on Election Day. It shouldn't, so long as Republicans–and especially conservative Republicans–act like adults, not like petulant children angry over one thing or another that didn't go their way.
Yes, the Republican performance in the last two years has been disappointing. The Iraq war isn't going well. President Bush and the Republican Congress have spent too much of the taxpayer's money. They got nowhere on overhauling Social Security and only part of the way–beefed-up border security–on immigration reform. The list goes on. Still, the reasons given for staying home on Election Day are pathetically disconnected from the realities of politics and political power.
The president and Republicans need to be taught a lesson: We hear that a lot from conservatives. And maybe Bush and company do. But allowing Democrats to take over Congress won't achieve that. It won't lead to a Republican course correction any more than losing the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections taught Democrats to move to the right. Politics doesn't work that way, and it never has. Losing simply hurts a political party. A landslide loss in 2006 would merely weaken the Republican party. And, for the foreseeable future, the Republican party is the only vehicle through which conservatives and moderates can accomplish their goals.
Would Democrats join with social and religious conservatives to curb abortion and block same-sex marriage? Never in a million years. Would Democrats please small-government conservatives by cutting taxes and limiting spending growth? Not a chance. Would they thrill libertarians by pursuing privatization of Social Security or by resisting the demands of the global-warming faddists for a full-blown regulatory state? Don't bet on it. Would they satisfy moderates by compromising with conservatives? Only under duress. Rather, the prerequisite for attaining any of these goals is a Republican Congress. It's as uncomplicated as that.
The other ballyhooed reason for not showing up on Election Day is that Democrats, once in power again, will misbehave so egregiously that Republicans will roar back in 2008, stronger and more conservative than ever. No doubt Republicans thought this in 1954 when Democrats won back both houses of Congress. But that was followed by 40 years of Democratic control of the House and 26 years of Democratic rule in the Senate. And for most of those years, Democrats held on to power in defiance of a rising conservative tide in the country. They know how to keep power once they get it.
Some people might want to recall that last sentence. Regular readers know I am not overly thrilled with many things the Republicans have done, and I routinely criticize the administration. But I have a personal reason why I would not even consider putting the democrats in office until they get serious about defense of this nation. Since aside from Joe Lieberman, I see very Little sign of that, it isn't likely to happen any time soon. If you want to sit out the election, that's your prerogative. Just know that you will be actively helping Nancy Pelosi fulfill the strategy she has been following to regain the House. Your vote will have been suppressed with your cooperation. That, as Barnes points out, losing simply hurts a political party. Don't believe it? Look at the Democrats in the last 12 years or so.