Tomorrow's elections in Virginia, New Jersey and New York's 23rd congressional district are being watched for signs that might foretell elections in 2012 and 2012. These elections produce both a challenge and an opportunity for Republicans.
For the sake of argument, let's say a GOP fantasy comes true and Republicans win the governors races in Virginia (likely) and New Jersey (tight) and that the conservative wins in New York.
What will that tell us?
It will show that the Republican base has turned out in sufficient numbers because they are hungry to undo the harm they believe President Obama and congressional Democrats are doing to the country.
What it will not prove is that Republicans have an agenda and a set of core beliefs that is likely to convince a majority of voters to undo what they did in the last election. Discontent with those in power does not necessarily translate into contentment for those out of power, especially when Republicans so recently controlled all three branches of government and blew it by behaving in many ways like Democrats.
What Republicans must demonstrate -- by blood oath if necessary -- is not how much they disagree with the policies of the administration and Congressional Democrats (though they must do that), but how their ideas are better and work effectively to produce the best results for the greatest number of people. Democrats say, "We will take care of you." Republicans say, "You can take care of yourself." The one sounds compassionate; the other harsh. Republicans must show how taking care of yourself before turning to government produces a better and happier life, as well as a stronger nation.
If Republicans do well tomorrow -- or even win it all -- a little humility and a lot of new thinking will be required. Forget those who claim only "moderates" can open up the party to electoral victory. We have again seen the folly of that argument in NY-23 as the "Republican" (in name only), Dede Scozzafava, defected to the Democrat after withdrawing and at first throwing her support to the conservative. A politician without principles is not worth voting for.
Frank Rich was correct in his New York Times column on Sunday when he said Republicans are in denial if they think they can be victorious with an all-white party. The country is changing demographically. Republicans need to go after new voters who are not white, do not speak English as their first language and may not worship in the same ways Baptists do. They should not compromise their principles, but they do need to cast a wider net, or they risk being cast aside.
Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated newspaper columnist and a Fox News contributor.