The Republican leaders won twice last night. They won a majority in the House of Representatives and a big gain in the Senate.
Those leaders also won an important psychological contest inside the Republican party: Three ridiculously winnable Senate seats have been thrown away by incompetent Tea Party radicals: Delaware, Nevada, and possibly Colorado.
Meanwhile two tough seats have been won by level-headed Republican moderates: Illinois and Ohio.
The ultra-radical Rand Paul won his race in Kentucky and will be coming to Washington to make trouble for his arch-enemy. That's not President Obama, but Republican Majority Leader and fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell.
But if Rand Paul arrives unreinforced by other Tea Party radicals, it's not only Paul who will be contained.
The Tea Party radicals were supported by all the weight and noise of talk radio and Fox News. They were supported by an alternative power structure within the GOP: The fundraising power of South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund. Their defeat raises important questions about the whole Tea Party project. It also weakens the alternative power structure in the GOP and strengthens the power of party's formal leaders against its informal ones. That's all good news.
It's good news, for instance, for the United States and world economy. The Tea Party Republicans were often depicted as protectionists, which is not exactly right. But they did share a cranky conviction that the deflationary United States had more to fear from inflation -- and an idiosyncratic mistrust of the central banking powers of the Federal Reserve. A chastened Tea Party enables traditional Republican leaders to defend the independence of the Fed. With Congress likely to be gridlocked, the Fed matters more than ever: Monetary stimulus will be the only stimulus in town.
But the first order of business is accountability.
The Tea Party radicals had previously defeated better and more electable candidates: Mike Castle in Delaware, Sue Lowden in Nevada, Jane Norton in Colorado. Somehow the notion took hold that it was unprincipled and contemptible to support smarter candidates over stupid candidates, inclusive candidates over divisive candidates, experienced candidates over inexperienced, goverance-minded candidates over protest-vote candidates.
That notion may have cost Republicans the Senate Tuesday night. It may cost much more in future, if Sarah Palin makes the run for the presidential nomination.
So it needs to be pounded home: The radicals must not be allowed to claim the title of the real Republicans. They must not be allowed to dismiss the true electable, governing core of the party as "Republicans in Name Only." If anything, it's the Tea Party radicals with their incessant threats to bolt and form a third party who deserve that name.
National Republican organizations poured resources into Nevada to win the state for Sharron Angle. But she could not be troubled to answer questions from reporters. Mere non-answering was an improvement over Alaska's Joe Miller, who actually had a reporter (illegally) arrested by his private security detail. The candidates who campaigned to save the country from President Obama's "Afro-Marxist-fascist tyranny" proved themselves thoroughly contemptuous of the rights of others.
Goodbye and good riddance.