Republicans are on the verge of picking up six House seats in the New York/New England region, according to the Wall Street Journal—and they will have done so, it’s argued, by plumping for the Purple:
As a group, Republican candidates in the region this year have focused on the pro-business, small-government planks of the GOP platform. Some have avoided the social issues familiar in the campaigns of their peers in more conservative states.
Charlie Baker, the GOP candidate for governor in Massachusetts, supports gay marriage and abortion rights, while Richard Tisei, who is running for a House seat and has featured his husband in campaign ads, skipped the Massachusetts GOP convention this year because of its socially conservative platform. Tom Foley, the Republican candidate for governor in Connecticut, supports abortion rights and said he wouldn’t try to end gay marriage, which is permitted in the state.
If these seats do indeed flip to red next week, you can expect a lot of media types in Washington and New York to urge the party to jettison the traditionalism while leaving intact an economic agenda that overwhelmingly benefits elites.
This would be terrible advice.
The essential thing to bear in mind about these midterms is that they’re, well, midterms; as I’ve noted before, America is two countries, and Republicans dominate the smaller one. And the smaller one is what’s up for grabs on Tuesday. Just because Republicans win in these (traditionally competitive) congressional districts does not mean they will be able to win statewide, and among a browner and younger electorate, in 2016 with the same agenda.
Republicans did not lose in 2012 because Mitt Romney was pro-life or opposed to gay marriage. And they’re not going to win because Charlie Baker is the opposite of those things. They’re poised to win, as David Frum notes, because a majority of voters will “protest that proceeds of economic recovery [are] not reaching most Americans.”
These same conditions will obtain in 2016. Republicans either will coalesce around an agenda that addresses the struggles of working- and middle-class Americans, or they will lose. A shiny elite veneer on social issues will gain the GOP nothing except a demoralized religious base.
Remember this as you’re forced to listen to the inevitable paeans to Purple.