Same election, two messages

In the week of fallout since the most recent ground-shaking election day, Democrats and Republicans alike have been on the airwaves, trying to put it in context.  But have you looked at their postmortems side-by-side?

Marco Rubio owned the GOP message on election night:

But we know that tonight, the power in the United States House of Representatives will change hands. We know tonight that a growing number of Republicans will now serve in the Senate as well. And we make a grave mistake if we believe that tonight these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican Party.

What they are is a second chance. A second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be not so long ago. You see, I learned early on in this campaign – in fact it’s what propelled me to enter it – that what this race was about was about the great future that lies ahead for our country, a future that Americans know is there for the taking. But it requires actions on our part.

The theme of the Majority That Lost Its Way has been a consistent message for Republicans since 2006 – in fact, less than a year into the Pelosi Era, Rep. Tom Feeney argued that a philosophically adrift GOP had squandered its power:

We lost the majority in 2006 because Republicans could no longer convince voters that we were the party of fiscal restraint and traditional values. Polls in the closing days of the last election showed that a majority of voters felt that Democrats were more trustworthy when it came to issues of spending, taxation and general economic development — that we could no longer be trusted to fight for the limited government and personal freedom that have always been cornerstones of our party’s beliefs.

Contrast that to the Democrats’ lines about “what it all meant” – including the President, who has been vocal in chalking up the Democrats’ failures to messaging strategy:

What I didn’t effectively, I think, drive home, is that we were taking these steps not because of some theory that we wanted to expand government. It was because we had an emergency situation and we wanted to make sure the economy didn’t go off a cliff. I think the Republicans were able to paint my governing philosophy as a classic, traditional, big government liberal. And that’s not something that the American people want.

The first obvious thing is that Republicans, even now, seem contrite for driving the car into the ditch when they held most of the keys from 2001-2007.  Since Democrats haven’t had the benefit of time – and still have the responsibility of governing – contrition may simply be a luxury they can’t afford at the moment.  Still, the difference in where each party lays blame for still-somewhat-recent losses is stark: Republicans blame themselves for not living up to the expectations of the people, Democrats blame the perception that they didn’t meet expectations.

Another underlying current worth noting in all of these quotes is that, despite apparent sea change in the election of 2008, America remains a nation that trends philosophically toward smaller government – with both parties trying to frame their arguments through that prism.


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