David Frum

05.16.13

Scandal Won't Win GOP Seats in 2014

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This should be fairly obvious, but can we not spend the next year so filled with rage that we forget to offer the public an agenda of our own? Kudos to National Review for urging caution among the conservative ranks:

[T]hough the AP story has angered some progressives, and the IRS story some vulnerable Democrats, it will fall on the Republicans to lead the way.

We urge them to do so with vigor, but also with a keen sense of the limits of political scandal. Republicans must guard against the temptation to count on scandal to deliver election victories in 2014 and 2016.

It is a lesson they should have learned in 1998.
 Republicans expected to make large gains in Congress that year but ended up losing five House seats and standing pat in the Senate. The problem was not so much that Republicans “overreached” in pursuing the impeachment of President Clinton, as the conventional wisdom has it. The Republicans that year did not really run on a promise to remove Clinton from office — or on any other agenda. Their strategy was to assume that the scandal would redound to their benefit, and that they merely had to sit back and let victory rain o’er them. It didn’t.