BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Nov. 11, 2010 – The conservative outcome of the midterm elections was a reigning topic of the Alabama Policy Institute’s Annual Dinner, which took place at the Cahaba Grand Conference center. Established in 1989, the API is “a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families” and drew an audience of 1,100 to its annual dinner.
Alabama’s newly elected governor and lieutenant governor, Robert Bentley and Kay Ivey, attended the event. Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Moore and Fred Barnes formed the panel of guest speakers, all of whom have spoken at previous API events.
“The panelists are all people whose opinions and insights are highly regarded,” Gary Palmer, API president and panel moderator told me via e-mail. “In addition, they are all individuals that I have known for many years and that have also known each other for many years. I think the familiarity helps account for the excellent chemistry of the panel.”
Stephen Moore, economics editor and member of The Wall Street Journal editorial board, announced that evening that he predicted exactly a year before that Republicans would win the House of Representatives in the midterm election.
Indeed, the midterm Republican gains in the House are the largest since the 1940s, and one-third of those incoming Republicans are freshmen.
The transfer of power was just as significant at the state level — and the 2010 election results in Alabama were symbolic to say the least. On Nov. 2, Alabama gained both a governor and lieutenant governor from the Republican Party as well as a Republican legislature for the first time in 136 years. It was one of the most dramatic of many historic shifts in state legislatures across the country.
“I never would have thought that as Alabama goes, so goes Wisconsin!” said Fred Barnes, host of “The Beltway Boys” on Fox News Channel and executive editor of The Weekly Standard, referring to the conservative victories in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial, state legislature, one U.S. Senate and two congressional races.
What led to this conservative surge?
Last month President Obama said at a Democratic fundraiser, “Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument do not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared, and the country is scared.”
But according to the API panelists, nothing could be further from the truth. Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of the polling company inc./WomanTrend, said that “the crimson tide” swept across the nation from Alabama because the “average voter this year was more financially sophisticated and politically savvy.”
Voters were informed, not ravenously angry and terrified.
Conway, a conservative mother of four, noted that this was a “year of the woman activist and voter” and observed that Democrats particularly made a big mistake about women, who are responsible for two out of every three dollars spent on health care in the country.
“Women rejected Obama’s health care policy,” Conway concluded, adding that health care should be allowed to be purchased across state lines.
In light of the 2010 election results, what will be next for the country?
A central dispute will be Obama’s attitude toward the new Congress, which he apparently believes was elected on fear and ignorance rather than a serious response to his agenda.
“Can Barack Obama learn from this election?” Moore asked. “I’m not convinced that Barack Obama is capable of moving to the center.”
Although the Republican majority in the House and stronger minority in the Senate can help set the tone in Washington, Barnes warned that “you can’t govern from Capitol Hill,” a concept he mentioned in an earlier article.
“We can’t do the sort of tax reforms conservatives would like until we have a conservative president,” he admitted, while reminding us that states now have a lot of power in affecting policy — especially health-care policy — nationwide.
Moore also said he expects to see states reassert their power and authority. Conway echoed this in a later interview saying, “For a long time, federalists like me have believed that the action is in the states, and [that] we should be a bottom-up, not a top-down, movement.”
But a reflection on the outcome of the 2010 election isn’t complete without pondering the next curious scenario: election 2012.
When moderator and API President Gary Palmer asked the panelists for their take on potential 2012 presidential candidates, Moore brought up the names Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and Mike Pence. “Moore forgot Sarah Palin!” exclaimed Barnes, who said that Palin is the most solidly conservative possibility with a tremendous following.
While he considered Jim DeMint to also be a good potential candidate, Barnes said, “Never underestimate Sarah Palin.”
“Please don’t rush to find a nominee,” advised Conway. “Come up with a job description for president, and force these job aspirants to audition for the role.”
She encouraged Republicans to have a competitive primary and not get lost in the superficial notion of win-ability.
“Don’t ask who can win. Ask who can lead.”
Amanda Read is an unconventional scholar, a Southerner without an accent, a Christian who hasn’t been a churchgoer in 16 years and a college student who lives with eight younger siblings. A writer and artist, she blogs at www.amandaread.com and is the author of the historical drama screenplay The Crusading Chemist. Amanda is majoring in history and minoring in political science at Jacksonville State University.
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