In every big election, conventional wisdom that forms before the election often becomes the accepted truth for what happened even after the election is over -- even when the facts prove otherwise. Let's examine the developed conventional wisdom in the media and among those who want to take credit or give blame for what might happen in the next few hours as results come in. Consider this as you watch coverage in the mainstream media and in the blogs (both of whom have opinion trends that often move in packs), and remember it when you see everyone handing out blame or taking credit for what happens.
THIS IS A NATIONAL ELECTION. Wrong. Only about 10% of Americans even have the chance to have a say in who controls the House of Representatives. Because of gerrymandering in the 435-member House, there are really competitive races in 40-50 seats. That's a tiny number! On the other hand, according to CNN exit polling, this is a national election in most voters' minds, even those who aren't among the lucky 10% whose vote for control of the House really matters.
THE NUMBER ONE ISSUE IS IRAQ. Wrong. Also according to CNN exit polling, Iraq is ranking fourth (37%) among issues identified by voters, coming in behind corruption (42%), terrorism (40%), and the economy (39%).
LIBERAL POWER IS THE REASON FOR DEMOCRATIC VICTORIES. Not Completely True. Let's take Democratic candidates in key swing races for both the Senate and House. There are more moderate to conservative Democrats running than true-blue liberals in key districts, so those who are claiming the "left" or the "base" or the "real Democrats" deserve the most (or only) credit for delivering this election are demanding a false choice between swing voters and the most loyal voters that has failed Democrats for so long. It is the loss or victory of these moderate Democrats that will determine the control of the Congress: Jim Webb for Virginia Senate (former Reagan official), Harold Ford for Tennessee Senate (an unapologetic member of the conservative Democratic Leadership Council), Ken Lucas for Kentucky House (has not committed to supporting Nancy Pelosi for Speaker), Heath Shuler for N.Carolina House (not pro-choice). There are many others, both liberal and moderate, who will provide Democratic gains. And those gains will be because of high turnout and activism among the most loyal Democrats AND because independent/moderate voters overwhelmingly supported the Democrats this year. TO BE CLEAR, it is absolutely true that the liberal activists and the base in the Democratic Party (not always the same thing) deserve tremendous credit for the successes that Democrats will enjoy.
REPUBLICANS LOST THIS ELECTION. DEMOCRATS DID NOT WIN IT. Wrong. Republicans have certainly screwed up, no doubt. They have really opened the door for Democrats to walk through, but they haven't picked the Democrats up and carried them across the threshold. Senator Chuck Schumer, who runs the Democrats' Senate campaign committee, has outraised the Republican Senate committee. Nancy Pelosi has unified and guided her caucus for the last two years and no one -- no one -- in the Democratic Party would have been better for the job chairman of the House Democrats' campaign committee than Congressman Rahm Emanuel. The Democrats recruited stronger candidates, demanded that they meet regular organizational and fundraising benchmarks, exploited Republican mistakes by jumping on them quickly, and competed at least dollar-for-dollar on fundraising.
Some conventional wisdom is right. For example, this election is about change nationally, not about local issues only. Also, many believed that the Republicans had the ability to close the differences in polling as Election Day approached because most undecided Republicans would come home. All this is true. It just goes to prove, though, that conventional is right only half the time -- and nobody knows which half.