by Dr. Michael Farris
November 3, 2010
As of Wednesday morning, there are 239 Republicans and 185 Democrats in the House of Representatives. This means that 11 races are still too close to call. In the last Congress there were 256 Democrats and 179 Republicans. Currently the count is a net gain of 58 seats for the GOP.
This is a huge number and should grow by at least a few more seats as the close races are resolved. In 1994, when Newt Gingrich led the Republicans to take the House for the first time in 40 years, the net gain was 54 GOP seats.
There is a huge Republican victory in the Senate that lurks beneath the bare fact that Democrats still hold a majority of seats. There were 37 Senate races. Of these, 22 were won by Republicans, 12 were won by Democrats, one was won by a Republican-leaning independent write-in candidate (Lisa Murkowski in Alaska), and two races are still too close to call. Republicans won almost twice as many Senate seats as the Democrats in last night’s election.
The Democrats have to be thrilled that the Constitution only allows one-third of the Senate to be up for election every two years—otherwise we might be looking at a Senate with more than 65 GOP members if all 100 seats had been up for grabs this year.
There were a couple of GOP losses that were particularly painful for me to watch. Christine O’Donnell—who was so bright and promising—self-destructed with her infamous “I am not a witch” television commercial. Sharon Angle in Nevada and Joe Miller in Alaska were quality candidates that were attacked for “extremist statements” that, at worst, amounted to nothing more than verbal gaffes.
America still has a bit of a double standard. If a conservative makes a verbal blunder, it is never forgotten, whereas if a liberal says something he or she regrets, it is never remembered.
The reason this is true is that the national media controls our memory. In fact, I have yet to see anything in the national media disclosing the basic facts that the GOP won 22 and lost 12 of the Senate seats that were up for grabs last night. If the Democrats had won by this margin do you think I would have had to construct my own Excel spreadsheet to figure out how many races went to each party?
All of this points to two important things for us to remember at Patrick Henry College.
First, our focus on journalism is significant. Though we are a small College, our journalism program attracts a significant number of talented students who can make a real difference in our future. We are not interested in training conservative propagandists, but journalists who are simply committed to getting the full truth out. The fact that we keep seeing that the Senate went 51 to 47 (rather than 22 to 12) is an example of how large the gulf is between telling the whole truth rather than partial truths.
Second, our emphasis on logic and speaking skills is incredibly important for the future of our country. The losses of some of our best conservative candidates due to unfortunate verbal blunders must be avoided in the future. Not only will our students be better prepared in this regard when they are ready to run for office, but House and Senate leaders would do well to encourage candidates to hire members of our moot court program to help prepare current candidates for debates and public appearances.
Eventually, every candidate has to come out from behind the teleprompter. The ability to speak logically and clearly is essential.
But the most important lesson of last night’s election is also the driving principle of Patrick Henry College: Sticking to convictions matters.
Republicans were tossed out in record numbers in 2008 because the GOP failed to stand up for the bedrock principles of the party. The voters picked real Democrats over the wannabe Democrats who were wearing neckties decorated with elephants. That was a bad year for “moderate” Republicans.
If the GOP uses the power it acquired on November 2nd to move America toward the center, 2012 will result in yet another backlash. Remain faithful to principles, and the opportunities will only grow.
Michael P. Farris served as founding president of Patrick Henry College (2000-2006) and is now Chancellor. In addition to teaching Constitutional Law and coaching the Moot Court team, he organizes a mentorship program for PHC students called Tyndale's Ploughmen. He serves as Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association.