The November elections were hailed as a great GOP victory long before the votes were cast, much less counted. For Mr. Clinton, the Republicans’ victory came as a shock. The economy seems in good shape, employment figures are up, and even the Haitian fiasco turned out better than could have been expected. So what is the problem? And this is what none of Mr. Clinton’s friends will tell him: the problem is you, Mr. President, you and that wife of yours and that set of Cabinet secretaries you promised would look like America but turned out to have been created by Todd Browning.

Between now and 1996, the President has only one option, if he wishes to seek reelection. First, he has to shake up his Cabinet and get rid of, at the very least, the more flagrant lesbians, the Don Juan being blackmailed by a former mistress, and the dwarf—Janet Reno is no Snow White and Robert Reich, for all his academic pretensions, is no Doc, unless you count honorary degrees. Second, and I think the President will have already reached this conclusion by himself, the First Lady has to be sent on an extended “good will” tour to check out the condition of tropical rain forests in Africa and Asia—South America may be too close. Finally, the President has to pull the plug on his own television coverage. This means no press conferences, no town meetings, no appearances on America’s Most Wanted. Let him be filmed once a month, preferably in black and white, with a mountain of paper work on his desk, saying, “I’m sorry fellows, but Ross Perot was right. The United States is no chicken franchise; it’s a big country, and I’ve got work to do.”

Mr. Clinton is probably smart enough to figure out some of this, but he and his party are the captives of special interests that will not allow them to learn from their mistakes. The same is true of the GOP. What was at issue in the election? First there is the matter of the famous “Contract with America.” Most Americans do not actually know what the contract’s provisions are, but they do believe that it has something to do with cutting expenditures, reducing the deficit, and decreasing the federal government’s power to work mischief. Other more interesting provisions include a S^OO per child tax credit, a strengthening of parents’ rights, and a restoration of national security by taking American troops out from under U.N. command.

Some of the terms of the contract are naive; others are stupid, but what matters is the underlying attitude: a restoration of American sovereignty in foreign affairs and within the country a recovery of the little sovereignties of home, community, and state. But even more important than this fundamental shift in emphasis is the odd idea that parties should keep their promises.

Apart from Bill Clinton and the Republican Contract, the biggest issue was immigration. Lawton Chiles stole the election from Jeb Bush by portraying himself as tough on immigration, and apparently 80 percent of Florida voters for whom immigration is important voted for Chiles. In California, Governor Pete Wilson—whom the experts had counted out long ago—tied his entire campaign to Proposition 187. In an act of incredible arrogance, Jack Kemp and William Bennett went all the way to California to campaign against the governor’s campaign, and when both Wilson and Prop. 187 won handily, Kemp and Bennett were given their first taste of what life in the real United States is all about. Their reckless behavior was not only nasty, which is no news to their admirers, but stupid and politically naive. Score it Chronicles 2, Neocons 0. As I predicted a year ago, if Governor Wilson could be reelected on immigration reform, he would be positioned for a try at the White House.

The immigration issue is just one part of a populist agenda. Some of the diverse elements are: conservative Christians worried about abortion and homosexuality (Bennett and his former assistant Bill Kristol were also dead wrong on these issues), the Second Amendment, and the Tenth Amendment rebellion simmering in the West, primarily over federal resource policies and unfunded mandates. As Human Events pointed out, GOP candidates in Montana and Wyoming pledged “to fight Bruce Babbitt’s restrictive land-use policies.”

The Republicans do have a grand opportunity, and if they are willing to listen to Pete Wilson and Pat Buchanan and give up on their dream of an “Empower America” rainbow coalition, then they have a chance of establishing something like a new regime, which is what the Democrats did in the 30’s and 40’s under Roosevelt and Truman and again in the 60’s under Kennedy and Johnson. But if they are deluded into thinking that the American people have fallen in love with the party of multinational business—the party that is gung-ho for GATT and the cultural enrichment provided by Third World immigrants— then they are in for as sober a disillusioning as Mr. Clinton received in November.