The Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives by searching out and recruiting a strong team of moderate and conservative candidates who steered clear of hot-button cultural issues like abortion, homosexual marriage, and affirmative action. These candidates hammered their Republican opponents on scandal, excessive spending, economic anxiety, and the need to resolve our involvement in Iraq. If anyone thinks the results constitute a mandate for big government, higher taxes, gay marriage, late-term abortions, or a new regime of racial preferences, please feel free to make your case. Ultra-conservative Rick Santorum went down in Pennsylvania — but to an anti-abortion Democrat. I will be surprised if proponents of same-sex marriage will cheer the results of the various state referenda on that issue, and I'm guess that Michigan will join California and Washington in saying no to racial preferences in state policy. In 2004, white evangelical voters broke for Bush at 78 percent, Kerry at 21 percent. This year, fully one-third of those voters chose Democrat candidates. "Corruption" is the main issue they cited for turning away from the GOP. Not surprising, for voters who say values are predominant in their minds when they go to the polls. If Democrats had run their usual anti-gun, anti-mainstream-values candidates, the GOP base would have been more motivated to support Republicans. Iraq? The Democrats are too savvy to follow through on their cut-and-run agenda, because that would mean surrender to an enemy that is bent on destroying this country. Dems will wait to see what the James Baker task force says, and for that matter, Bush is waiting for that as well. I believe Baker's findings will provide the basis for a bipartisan consensus on Iraq. Look to Joe Lieberman to show real leadership here. Here's the main message about this election. On cultural issues like gay marriage and affirmative action, Americans affirmed conservative values. Democrats were smart enough to avoid the cultural issues this time, focusing instead on corruption and the war, sounding themes of economic populism, a la Lou Dobbs at CNN. If anything, these newly elected Democrats are not part of the Bill Clinton/George W. Bush NAFTA mindset. But that's very different from saying America embraced the left by electing these Democrats. Americans did no such thing, and these newly elected Democrats aren't radicals. But of course there are more than a few fire-breathing Democrat leftists in the House, most of them well over 70 years old and bitter from their congressional minority status these past twelve years. Nancy Pelosi knows that she can't govern with the radical values of San Francisco liberalism. So she says she looking ahead, not looking to the past. That's her way of telling extreme partisan Democrats like Conyers, Rangel, and Kucinich not to get crazy about issuing subpoenas to the Bush administration, not to start down the road to impeaching the president. These guys, however, ain't in a moderate mood. They hate Bush as much as Democrats hated Nixon three decades ago, and they mean to make the last two years of his term absolutely miserable. Oh, and by the way. Republicans need to do some serious soul-searching. If they want to keep governing like Democrats-lite, conservatives will continue leaving the bus. They didn't ride this time, and they don't want to get on board with the Democratic Party. But they need a reason to get excited about being a Republican, in the way that Reagan got them excited. Here's a first step. Lose Dennis Hastert as your House leader. Get serious about fighting for secure borders, which of course means Republicans of principle must stand against a likely pro-amnesty approach not only from the Democrats but from the White House. Depressing, but true. This final note, actually a confession. I predicted that Republicans would hold both houses. So far I'm mistaken by half. No, make that fifty percent accurate. Virginia is hanging by a thread; Missouri and Montana are far from settled. I'll chime in again Wednesday.