The “War on Women” - the successful left-wing mantra against the party - was always more hyperbole than substance. But just as claims that the Democrats were soft on Communism worked well for the Republicans in the 1980s, the war on women sounded scary enough to drive anti-Republican sentiment.
Electing more Republican women does not necessarily mean that the GOP is the place to be for women in the electorate, but it does a lot to help dismantle that reputation.
The Republican Party has not closed the gender gap, but because American politics is so diverse and because there are so many women in conservative circles, it is unfair to say they are waging a war on women.
There is plenty of criticism that can be aimed at the party, which even after last week, is in need of serious retooling. The party’s support for its female and non-white candidates deserves a nod.
For critics and adversaries to make light of this is hypocritical. They cannot first argue that the party does not reach out to women and minorities and then turn around and mock those who won as out of touch patsies.
This election was not as much a referendum on the president as it was a well-won round by the Republicans. Midterms are going to look like this for a long time to come. The party that elects a president tends to not have the energy to mobilize two years later.
No matter how you interpret last week’s elections, it was significant in many ways. Non-traditional Republican candidates won big victories, such as Elise Stefanik and Mia Love. The State of Maryland elected a Republican governor for only the second time in four decades, and Martha Coakley is the gift that keeps on giving in Massachusetts.
The Republicans also need to tell the story that these were not Tea Party activists who won last week. In fact, many of them defeated Tea Party-backed candidates to get to the General Election.
The old rhetorical dogs such as “war on women” and “Tea Party conservative” did not hunt on Tuesday. The onus is now on the Republicans to show that they can be a sustainable legislative majority.
Michael Grimm getting re-elected on Staten Island is still one of the more interesting stories of that big election night. Putting aside Grimm’s upcoming court battles, he too is a centrist on Capitol Hill. He was simply a better candidate than his opponent.
Unlike 1994, this was not an ideological sweep of conservatism, nor was it a wave of anti-Obama hysteria. It was simply that the Republicans had a better team in places like Utah, New York, Massachusetts, and Florida.
What the party needs to do now is keep its agenda in Washington short and unified. If they want to address immigration, energy (namely the Keystone pipeline), and spending issues, they need to make sure that all hands are on deck.
A large, ambitious agenda that bears no fruit is not beneficial to the country, but a shorter one that stays fixated on a few pressing needs would signal to the voters that this is a serious Congress.
It would also be wise for the party’s leaders to look at some of the close races that did not go the Republican way on election night. For instance, Washington, DC’s mayoral race was a lot closer than expected. There too, the Democratic candidate was not stellar.
One of the issues that Washingtonians, often strictly Democratic, are concerned with is school choice. If the Republicans want to include school choice legislation in their agenda, this is the time to do it.
It is going to be an interesting two years leading up to 2016. If Congress wants to get things done, it needs to have a small, unified plan. It needs to continue its effort to back candidates from all backgrounds. It needs to steer clear of scandal and not get lost in the weeds with congressional witchhunts aimed at Democrats.
For the people who charged that Speaker John Boehner was no longer calling the shots in the House, this election says otherwise. These are the types of representatives that Boehner can work with. This is the ball that the GOP cannot afford to fumble.