There’s spin and then there’s spin. Larry Kudlow is playing dirty pool: “Look at blue dog conservative Dem victories, and look at Northeast liberal GOP defeats. The changeover in the House may well be a conservative victory, not a liberal one.”
This is blatantly self-contradictory. Who, after all, defeated the northeastern liberal Republicans? Not conservative blue dogs. And who did the relatively conservative Democrats beat? Not moderate northeastern Republicans. The exit polls clearly show a broad-based trend in favor of Democrats among essentially all demographic sub-groups. That played out in specific House races in roughly two ways. In some cases, relatively conservative Democrats booted extremely conservative Republicans who’d fallen into some sort of idiosyncratic political troubles. In a larger number of cases, basically standard progressive Democrats defeated Republicans who’d been holding moderate or liberal-leaning districts but done nothing to halt the GOP’s determination to march the country off the cliff.
I’m not really a believer in “mandates” per se, but the overall impact is clearly to shift the composition of the House to the left without having any particularly dramatic impact on the balance within the Democratic caucus. That’s a victory for liberalism and a victory for progressive politics. Given a measure of power, the task is now to wield it. People on the other side are naturally disposed to try to undermine Democratic self-confidence in the wake of a disaster for their team, but liberals would be fools to fall for it. In this past elections boldness has, as a rule, tended to pay off in a way the politics of timidity did not in 2002 and 2004.
UPDATE: Now I see John McCain on Larry King trying to argue that Iraq wasn’t such a big deal in this election the real problem was “overspending.” Sure. As Noam Scheiber points out he more-or-less needs to do that. A somewhat thoughtless CW has held that OP setbacks are good for McCain because he’s a reformist. He is, but he’s also a super-hawk and Iraq is obviously a huge drag on the GOP.