GOP should pause before it celebrates election ‘victory’

Almost exactly 30 years ago, in his debate with President Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan delivered his famous coup de grace, âÄúAre you better off than you were four years ago?âÄù
For Republicans after Election Day in 2010, the answer is no, and exuberance from the political right is not yet justified.
In the 2006 and 2008 elections combined, Democrats gained 52 seats in the House of Representatives and 14 seats in the Senate. This year, Republicans will gain approximately 60 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate. Put another way, since 2006, Republicans and Democrats have merely traded eight Senate seats for approximately eight House seats. On balance, this is still a net gain for Democrats, since Senate seats are of higher value.
The GOP must not yet celebrate that it almost finished mopping up the mess of the previous administration, which lost those seats in the first place. A return to Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, overblown defense spending, erosion of civil liberties, haziness over the church-state line, foreign adventurism and support for entitlement programs ought not to be on the table for the new Republican majority.
The real victors in this election are the Tea Party and (economic, not social) conservative principles. Had the âÄúDonâÄôt Tread On MeâÄù movement entered this election as a third, independent party, the Republicans would be far worse off. The support that libertarian-minded conservative independents have lent means the GOP will now have tough choices to make between courting big business and the wealthy or supporting small government and deficit reduction.