Don't Make Me...!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Welcome back, voice of the rational middle.
If yesterday's election results tell us one thing it's that the voice of the rational American middle still remains intact and will occasionally show up at the polls to course correct the sometimes irrational leanings of our "two-party system".
Any sober observation of these results shows the sum of this election to be a landslide for Democrats. A quick look at these results as well as some of the exit polling data points to a group of causes: Iraq, Scandal, the President. Add to this each party's contribution. The Republican failure was best summed up last night by Sen. John McCain who scrambled to get in front of a camera, look Presidential, and wrest control of a flailing party all at the same time: " I think that republicans came to change Washington but let Washington Change them". No shit. Even though they controlled ALL branches of federal Government and most of the State governments, this party did nothing and was known for that when their day of reckoning came. More on that later. The Democrats, to their credit, were able to grasp the baton as "the Party of change" and ran a crop of decent candidates who were increasingly espousing Populist rather than Left-leaning views- the middle ground. More on that later too.
For now, here's a summary of observations on the last 24 hours:
1. The Senate: Conventional wisdom prior to the election would have lead observers to believe that Republicans were due to loose a few seats, maybe 2-4. Only the most adventurous of election speculators predicted the six seat pickup necessary for a Democratic takeover of the Senate. With Montana being called and all signs pointing to the likelihood of a Democratic win in Virginia, there's little doubt that the Democrats will now take the Senate and thereby exceed most expectations. This is an important part of the post-election autopsy. No less than six sitting Republican Senators have lost their seats (again, pending last rites being administered on the Virginia race). No Democratic Senator lost his or her seat and, as important for the purpose of dissecting the overall meaning of this election, none of their races were really that close. Very telling are the results from the few states where Republicans thought they had a good chance to gain a seat. Most notable among these were New Jersey and Maryland. Both of these races tipped to Democrats by about a 10 point margin each. That's definitely nowhere near as close as most watchers had been predicting prior to the election and not remotely as close as Republican operatives had portrayed even deep into last night. Of the seats retained by the Republicans, the race in Tennessee came down to the wire and was won by only about 3%, by far the closest race to keep a seat by either party. Even a couple of seats considered "safe" for Republican re-election in Arizona (won by about 10%) and Nevada (won by about 15%). Race by race, Republican victories were, by and large, tighter than most Democratic victories. This too is very telling. More Democratic seats were up for re-election this year (the opposite will be true in 2008). These results clearly point to one direction: a landslide victory for the Democrats. Generally, this is great news to someone like myself in search of change in government. On the negative side, I find two items. One, it's hard to believe that Katherine Harris received almost 40% of the vote in Florida. Sure, she was soundly beat by Bill Nelson (20+ points), but the very fact that almost 1.8 million Floridians voted for this absolute kook leaves one scathing their head once again regarding the state of our Republic in Florida. If at all possible, Florida just became more scary to me than it was in 2000. The other disappointment is the sense of empowerment Joe Leiberman seems to feel after loosing the Democratic primary but coming back into the race and winning the General Election as an Independent (albeit one who has promised to vote with the Democratic Caucus). Joe and his Republican allies looking to hang on to some scrap of validation for their blind support of the Iraq War point to his victory as a sign that this election wasn't necessarily a referendum on this failed war. The very fact that his own campaign messaging centered on his "experience" rather than his pro-war stand and desire not to have "fellow" Democrats further their "protest votes" for Lamont in the general Election clearly signaled that this guy couldn't stand up to defend his views on Iraq policy and needed to reach elsewhere to produce support. Lieberman won by attracting "lesser of two evils" Republican votes, handcuffing himself to Union support (read: liberal), and successfully pulling back Democratic votes cast against him in the Primary on one bended knee pleading that only his experience and seniority in the Senate could continue to bring home the pork. Lamont was a great backdrop for this plea: inexperienced, somewhat inarticulate, "unconnected" (even in his own party), and only a fair candidate. Democratic voters forgave the man but NOT the policy. Leiberman's victory speech seemed to take that for granted. Yet another flub by a guy who never seems to get it. I wonder if the republican party would have ever tolerated the loosing primary candidate re-entering the General Election as Leiberman did. Lamont would have never existed without the sole issue of Lieberman's support of the Iraq war. The failure of the Democratic Party to reign in this Senator has delivered them this awkward series of events.
The House: Like the Senate, the individual house races seem to have exceeded expectation, although not quite to the same level. It looks like the Democrats will pick up at least 29 seats. Again, this sits at the top end of most pre-election predictions and is a sound defeat for Republicans beyond just loosing control of this body. It also appears that no seats were lost, which is amazing considering the number of seats in play- a clear and overwhelming victory. Looking past the winnings, the margins here too were very telling. So many races in stalwart Republican strongholds, even if lost, were closer than most observers would have predicted. Someone with more time to do this than I needs to add up the number of the total number house votes for each party in each district. I bet that this number is staggering and much more damaging to Republicans than loosing the majority. Unlike the Senate, every State took part in the House elections. It will be instructive to look at the total votes cast in each State to see what they tell us about how many people voted for each party. My bet is that far more people voted for Democrats in these elections than expected by either party. Having pulled the lever for a Democrat in 2006 gives the Democrats a great starting point to further that trend towards 2008 Presidential votes. I would guess that, if you added up all House votes in all races and called this the "popular vote", Democrats would probably control 65% percent of it. Again, staggering. On the downside of House races, the following: The loss of Tammy Duckworth, the veteran amputee running in Illinois Dist. 6 was a heartbreaker, albeit a close race. The fact that William "Refrigerator" Jefferson received the majority of votes in the split election in Louisiana Dist. 2 is extremely troubling considering the dark cloud of scandal hanging over his head and his refusal to explain why the FBI found $90,000 in unaccounted for cash in his fridge. Bullshit. Along those same lines, the voters of Western New York let us down by not ousting Tom Reynolds following his clear complicity in the Foley scandal. Shame on both Districts.
Governor's Races: Another big election for the Democrats where they added six governors without loosing one. Like the House and Senate, this gives the majority to the Democrats and speaks to the overall national impact of this election in general. Gaining Ohio will certainly help better position Democrats for the 2008 Presidential race while retaining Florida similarly positions Republicans in that other "battleground" state. Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Nevada- while wins for the Republicans- were won by much slimmer margins than expected.
All tolled, a massive victory across the board that will certainly change the direction of government over the coming months.