Of all the messages that were sent Tuesday night, one that has received insufficient attention is how wrong the left is about the Republican Party (and conservatives, broadly speaking) -- and how some of the Democrats' most traditionally loyal constituencies are starting to see it.
Pundits have been grousing for months about how the GOP ran more on an anti-Obama platform than on one that advanced their own ideas. Leaving aside for the moment that this strategy has always been enough in a climate in which the president's policies and practices are wildly unpopular, it also ignores other glaring realities exposed by Tuesday'sRepublican tsunami.
Far and away the most popular -- and historically successful -- tactic used against the GOP has been the epithet campaign. For years, Democrats have been able to avoid meaningful discussion of their own failed policies by lobbing verbal bombs -- "Racists!" "Sexists!" "Nativists!" "Party of aging white men!" -- at conservative opponents, confident that a reliably loyal electorate would join in the chant and not probe too deeply for details.
But while the left was smugly wielding little more than accusations, an interesting phenomenon was taking place; members of the core constituencies upon which Democrats depend for votes started to peel off, curious about conservative policies, or fed up with progressive ones. Tuesday's election was the most visible evidence of their welcome -- and success -- within the Republican Party.
This is all the more notable because it happened across the country, in federal and state government races.
Women are perhaps the most obvious example. Mark Udall lost to Cory Gardner in Colorado in part because it is obvious that there IS no GOP "war on women," and because intelligent women care about things other than their birth control.
It is even harder to make the case that Republicans hate women as woman after woman runs as a Republican -- and wins.
Republican Joni Ernst -- a twofer as a woman and a veteran -- easily defeated Bruce Braley in a pickup of a reliably Democratic senate seat in Iowa. As did Republican Shelley Moore Capito, becoming the first female senator from West Virginia. Indian immigrant Nikki Haley won her re-election campaign for governor of South Carolina handily, as did Susana Martinez in New Mexico. Haley's and Martinez' victories also put the lie to the claim that conservative calls for enforcement of our immigration laws are motivated by "anti-immigrant" or "nativist," animus, no matter how hard certain media personalities try to spin it that way. Even prior to Tuesday's rout, polls of Hispanic voters indicated that they were not concerned about a Republican takeover of the Senate. Is anyone asking why Hispanics feel this way?
Even the youth got into the act yesterday, when 30-year-old Elisa Stefanik became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress -- and the first Republican to hold the seat in New York's 21st Congressional District in over two decades.
Last but absolutely not least, African-Americans made history -- again -- with the Republican Party last night. Tim Scott was elected to the Senate seat he was originally appointed to in South Carolina in 2013, becoming the first black senator from that state since Reconstruction. Mia Love won a congressional seat from Utah; the first black woman elected to the House of Representatives as a Republican. The Twitterverse was buzzing last night with celebratory tweets from black conservatives across the country, delighted to see their candidates -- and their views -- getting some long-overdue attention.
The political ground is shifting. The Democrats can only cling so long to outdated legacies and debunked accusations about their opponents, assuming that their constituents will forever accept the claims that good intentions trump the disastrous results of failed policies.
More and more outspoken individuals are breaking away, choosing to lead in a party that values them for their ideas -- not their skin color, their country of origin, their age or their private parts. The presence of new blood in the Republican Party will no doubt change its dynamics, and that, too, is a good thing.
• 10/23/14: The Perils of a Compliant Media
• 10/23/14: 'Legal' Doesn't Equate to Moral Approval
• 10/20/14: Language in the Service of Life
• 10/09/14: Why does his administration refuse to protect us?
• 10/02/14: Toward a More Productive Policy Discourse
• 09/25/14: That burden called 'motherhood'
• 09/23/14: Obama's Johnny Bravo Moment