E.J. Dionne says the country became a lot more liberal this week:
Republicans took a big step back from the tea party. An ebullient progressive was elected mayor of New York City. And a Democrat was elected governor of Virginia after campaigning unapologetically as a supporter of gun control and a liberal on social issues
The one bright spot for Republicans, Chris Christie’s landslide reelection in New Jersey, was won precisely because Christie ran briskly away from the party’s right wing….And in the one direct intraparty fight over the GOP’s future, a tea party candidate lost a primary in Alabama to a more traditional conservative.
That’s….plausible. The number of data points is small enough that I’m reluctant to draw any broad conclusions here, but at the very least, it’s true that the tea party wing of the GOP had very little to celebrate on Tuesday. There are now a growing numbers of signs that Republicans have finally bumped up against a wall on their right flank and have to pull back a bit if they want to stay electorally relevant. If that’s true—a big if—it would be a fairly historic development for a party that’s moved steadily to the right for more than 40 years and has prospered the entire time.
I might add that they’ve prospered despite persistent warnings from us lefties, who have spent virtually this entire period convinced that Republicans couldn’t possibly get any more conservative than they already were. We’ve been wrong every single time so far, so I’d take this time with a grain of salt too.
Still, there has to be a limit somewhere. Maybe 2010 really did represent peak conservatism after all, and 2013 is yet another tidbit of evidence that moderation is the only strategy left to the Republican Party if it wants to keep winning elections. Wait and see.