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November 08, 2006

Election Observations 2006

Some early morning, off-the-cuff observations about the elections:

* What do I feel about the 2006 elections? Like my country has taken some kind of big goddamn sanity pill, that's what. I don't want to oversell the importance of this particular election, but at the moment I feel like it's probably the most important election in my voting life to date -- essentially, the one that was a referendum on just how important the Constitution really is. And we passed. Goodbye unitary executive. Goodbye rubber stamp. Goodbye Dubya's "mandate." Y'all really won't be missed. Yes, this election mattered. Quite a lot. We can quibble if it's the most important recent election, but anyone who tries to tell you it doesn't really matter much is either delusional or trying to screw with your head.

* Having said that, I understand to the large majority of voters, this election wasn't about the Constitution, but about Iraq and corruption, and the general disenchantment with the President and his policies. My response to this is: Hey, whatever works. If people were pissed off about the war and the Congressional leadership and the side effect is that separation of powers endures as more than some words on a parchment held under leaded glass at the US Archives, I'm okay with that. I can accept that many Americans don't have my own dorkmungous concerns as their own. This was a problem with one solution, but many different ways of getting to that solution.

* I certainly do hope that the new Democratic leadership in the House (and possibly the Senate, if the vote does but hold) gets it through its head that this election was about George Bush and the culture of incompetence and corruption, not about everyone turning blue as a pair of Levi's. This doesn't mean -- as Republican and conservative spin monkeys will start saying, oh, right about now-- that the Democrats will have to legislate and act like junior Republicans. It does mean that Democrats need to understand why they're in power now and what the electorate expects them to do first, which is to act as competent damage control for the excesses of the last several years.

The shorter version of this is that America did not go Blue overnight: It's still the same purplish place it always was. The big difference is that all those purple people lost their confidence in Bush and the GOP and went with the people who promised they'd act like grown-ups. If the Democrats can do that for the US, they'll probably be fine in the next election, too.

* As an aside to this, an headline I read on the National Review site last night that went something along the line of "The Real Voter Fraud: how Democrats are using moderates to usher in extreme leaders." Yes, well. The Democrats wouldn't be the first to do that, now, would they.

* I'm a petty enough human -- but an honest enough human -- to tell you that I'm going to enjoy the next several days of conservative and GOP commentators whining and mewling and gnashing their teeth and walking around like they've just taken a bat to the back of the smug, soft heads, and taking the position, per Ann Coulter, that since the Democrats didn't take 60 seats in the House they've clearly failed. Bitch, please. The Republicans gerrymander Congressional districts for eternal Republican majority and they still lose 27 seats? And they picked up no seats from Democratic incumbents? Wow, those guys must suck. The fact that Republicans lost the former seat of Tom DeLay, master of the Republican gerrymander effort, is just one of the sweet ironies whose flavor will suffuse in one's mouth for months, if not years. Yes, yes. Today I think I'll go down to the store, buy some ingredients and make one of these:

Then I'm going to fire up some conservative Web sites while I enjoy my pie. Mmmm... pie.

Even so, I don't expect to spend any substantial amount time in schadenfreude mode. Oddly enough, I don't actually see politics merely as touch football for doughy former high school treasurers. It's not about putting points on the board or talking trash, it's about making sure what we do as a country is good for us and reflects our ideals as a nation. In the last few years incompetence and corruption have done us a lot of damage; it might be nice to focus on correcting that.

* What does this all mean for the GOP, other than they're not in charge of the House and possibly not the Senate either? It means a lot of things, which I'll probably opine on at at length at a later time. For now, I hope it means that they realize they've come to the end of their current line of strategy, which is to milk the credulous extreme right for its votes. That cow's done dried up and it seems somewhat annoyed at all the tugging. Hopefully some Republican introspection will be in order, and I welcome it. I am not reflexively anti-GOP; I've told people before that what I suspect I really am is a "Rockefeller Republican." But it's also equally true that the GOP has some work to do before I can trust it in national elections. I'll be interested to see where it goes from there.

* Coming closer to home, holy crap, did the Democrats ever have a big night in Ohio. They pretty much ran the table on the major statewide offices; the only Republican who won was the one running for State Auditor, and whatever the importance of that office, it's not one from which springs a whole lot of critical policy. And it's worth noting that in the Governor's race, Kenneth Blackwell got stomped; he got just 37% of the vote, while Strickland got 60%. Hell, Blackwell barely won my county, which is so damn red that it voted 70% for Bush in 2004; Blackwell got 49% of the vote in Darke county, compared with 46% of the vote for Strickland (Mike DeWine, who lost to Sherrod Brown, did rather better in my county; he carried it 60 - 40). Blackwell deserves the stomping he got, not because he's GOP but because he's the very definition of a political hack who ran his campaign on sleaze and innuendo; hopefully he won't be back.

Democrats even won seats in Ohio's legislature, which is one of these GOP gerrymandering wonders, although they didn't get a majority there. That's fine. If I'm for divided government nationally, I'm not entirely sure why I wouldn't be for it on the state level.

* If rabid Democrats need a sign that just because Democrats won that night the US hasn't turned a deep blue, they should look at the fact that even more anti-same-sex marriage amendments passed last night, some more egregious than the others. There's good news in that South Dakota's unconstitutionally horrible abortion law was voted right off the books, however. Stunning news flash: Most Americans are somewhere in the middle when it comes to most social issues! I know, I can hardly believe it myself.

So, those are my early impressions. Thoughts?

Posted by john at November 8, 2006 07:59 AM

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Comments

Scott Mactavish | November 8, 2006 09:56 AM

Your 'vote' thread smoked 'bacon cat,' (without a Fark blast, mind you) and I find it encouraging that your readership is more concerned with the order of things, rather than esoteric comedy based on raw pork and reluctant felines.

Adam | November 8, 2006 10:00 AM

Bacon on a cat is still important, don't sleep on that.

Today is to be filled with nothing but celebration: someone break out a poster of dubya, smack some bacon on up there and take a pic.

John Scalzi | November 8, 2006 10:05 AM

Scott Mactavish:

"Your 'vote' thread smoked 'bacon cat,' (without a Fark blast, mind you) and I find it encouraging that your readership is more concerned with the order of things, rather than esoteric comedy based on raw pork and reluctant felines."

Well, the longest comment thread goes to the "Being Poor" entry, which racked up over 600 comments. So the Whatever audience being one that is capable of serious reflection and action is not something that is particularly surprising to me.

Steve Buchheit | November 8, 2006 10:06 AM

As an elected Democrat (no, not last night's election) I agree. The Dems now need to deliver and capitalize (Captitolize?!) on this opportunity to show what good people we are. And it's going to be like herding cats, but that's okay too.

dichroic | November 8, 2006 10:07 AM

The Democrats have here a golden opportunity to Fuck Up big time and lose all gains back in tweo years (see description of Republican class of 1946, in Smithsonian magazine's excellent article this month). I will be pleased as pie (non-Schadenfreude variety) if they pass up that opportunity and act like responsible and thoughtful people instead of zealots - at least, if enough f them do for us to see real change. It could happen, and it is, after this past year, enormously welcome to see Hope on the horizon.

Scott Mactavish | November 8, 2006 10:17 AM

John:

I was being cheeky, bro.

Of course your readership is above par and quite capable of gravitas. No argument there.

There's been plenty of gnashing and sniping over the past months...let's relax, have some maple syrup and play some putt putt.

Ron | November 8, 2006 10:19 AM

"Bitch, please."

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

John Scalzi | November 8, 2006 10:20 AM

Mmmm.... maple syrup. I made waffles this morning, too.

Steve Buchheit | November 8, 2006 10:21 AM

Hmm, putt putt and waffles with maple syrup. Puts me in the mood to play hooky. To bad I've got that "duty bone" still in me. Have to have that removed someday.

Stephen G | November 8, 2006 10:31 AM

There are a few things I'm going to be watching. One, how bad will the wrangling for the Senate be with the remaining seats in play, and are the Democrats ready for the ensuing fight? Two, how will both the White House and Congress handle the first two weeks of having to work together? Bush has been making noises about working together, but he's also talked about pushing his bold agenda forward. Given his previous actions, you can guess which approach I think he'll take.

Brandon | November 8, 2006 10:40 AM

The Dems need to show that they have a plan for this country that goes beyond not being Bush because you can guarantee that the next Republican candidate for president will be doing enough of that for both parties. This a golden opportunity for the Dems to show that they have a plan and an identity. Now they just need a) a plan and b) an identity. I'm not entirely optimistic for the next election, based on past Democratic incompetence but I'll be happy to be proven wrong.

Bobarino | November 8, 2006 10:41 AM

Megadittos there, John. Speaking of which, I hope that old gasbag Rushbo does his Hindenberg impression today.

Most important is the comment you made about the Democrats understanding why they won. If they do that, they--and we--should be OK.

John H | November 8, 2006 10:41 AM

To me, the overriding theme of this election was accountability, of which the quagmire in Iraq and Republican corruption were just two stark examples.

CoolBlue | November 8, 2006 10:53 AM

Democrats had to run to the right to win. Which is a good thing. The Left wing positions just weren't working for them which is what I've been saying all along.

That endangered species called the "Blue Dogs" seems to have been breeding in secret and were reintroduced into the wild in this election.

Which is another good thing and it gives me hope for Democrats.

James Webb, if he gets elected, will be the Zell Miller (dare I say Scoop Jackson?) we've been sorely missing.

In all of this, though, I don't see how the progressives or the netroots can consider this a win.

I am cautiously hopeful for the Democratic party. Time will tell.

KevinQ | November 8, 2006 10:59 AM

My favorite part of last night was going to the Ohio Secretary of State's website to check how badly Blackwell was losing, and seeing Kenny's smiling mug on the header image of the page.

In honor of that, I whipped up this quick graphic

K

Jemaleddin | November 8, 2006 11:24 AM

I agree with your comments above - and as much as I'd enjoy stretching the schadenfreude out with an investigation of the abuses of POTUS and his henchmen, I hope that the Dems will instead get to work - this list from Robert Reich is a nice place to start:

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/shows/2006/11/08/AM200611083.html

And a small nit: I think that the loss of DeLay's seat has less to do with politics or policies (or payoffs) and more to do with voters having a difficult time writing in "Shelley Sekula-Gibbs" on their e-voting machine's letter wheel.

Cassie, the masochist for coming in here | November 8, 2006 11:25 AM

Eat your pie, John. Here, have some ice cream with it - is French vanilla bean good for you?

What do you think about the new senator from NC who ran to the RIGHT of the incumbent Republican - saying he's opposed to abortion, believes in securing our borders and thinks we should stay in Iraq until we win?

Michelle K | November 8, 2006 11:25 AM

(ahem)

MY Rockefeller is a Democrat.

Just felt the need to point that out.

Michelle K, in West (by God) Virginia

John Scalzi | November 8, 2006 11:31 AM

Cassie:

"What do you think about the new senator from NC who ran to the RIGHT of the incumbent Republican - saying he's opposed to abortion, believes in securing our borders and thinks we should stay in Iraq until we win?"

I'd say it's wonderful that the Democrats have such diversity in their party.

Cassie | November 8, 2006 11:35 AM

Will you still like him if he votes the way he campaigned - and against other Democrats?

Scott Spiegelberg | November 8, 2006 11:37 AM

Indiana voted out three Republican congressmen and gave control of the State house back to Democrats. But the statewide races for State, treasury, etc. still went to the Republicans. The pundits are claiming that the three congressmen were victims of Mitch Daniels forcing daylight savings and toll road privatization on us, but that doesn't make any sense, as the candidates who work closely with him were returned. I think the local pundits just can't bring themselves to admit that there is an impression of Republican corruption, or at least the lack of accountability that Jon H mentioned above.

As to Coolblue's claim that the Democrats shifted to the right, I don't think so. Yes, there are some conservative Democrats who were elected, including my new Representative, Ellsworth. But there were also plenty of liberal Democrats elected, and one Socialist. It isn't that the Democrats purposely shifted to the right, it is that the moderate Republicans shifted to the left to avoid the tarnish of "Republican."

Ian Randal Strock | November 8, 2006 11:39 AM

Picking up on what you said about the Democratic "win" (or is it a Republican loss), I keep looking at Connecticut. I like the idea of different parties controlling the executive and legislative branches, but I don't think the Dems won so much as the Reps lost. To wit: the Dems said "Joe Lieberman, you're not a Democrat anymore" (a scant two years after they nominated him for vice president), and then he went on the beat the Dem they put up against him. Definitely a non-Republican election, rather than a pro-Democrat election.

Scott Spiegelberg | November 8, 2006 11:41 AM

Cassie's question really is whether the Democrats will have the tight party control that the Republicans evinced in the last six years. I would rather that they didn't. Individual opinions should be expressed, that is the true way that issues are treated on their merits rather than on party platforms. But then, I'm more experienced in the chaos that is faculty politics.

Cassie | November 8, 2006 11:46 AM

That's not my real question, but I agree that issues need to be examined on a personal level, not on a party platform. Let's see what Shuler does with it.

Adam Rakunas | November 8, 2006 11:48 AM

Hand me a slice of that pie, John. I'm looking forward to John Conyers serving up a fat stack of investigative subpoenas, even when it's followed by screams of "Obstruction!" by the chatterati.

Locally, the city councilman who'd been targeted by local developers has been overwhelmingly reelected, even though the two incumbents who are in the developers' pockets kept their jobs; more gridlock in government means Santa Monica keeps on churning as is. Statewise, California's dirty eminent domain initiative got squished, and, with any luck, Tom McClintock will be exiled back to Thousand Oaks. And maybe the state Dem party will get its act together and get a gubernatorial candidate who doesn't suck.

John H | November 8, 2006 11:53 AM

"Joe Lieberman, you're not a Democrat anymore" (a scant two years after they nominated him for vice president)

It was actually six years ago. And his selection was Al Gore's more than it was the party's selection - he was looking for a way to counteract the negative impact of having been Bill Clinton's veep. And you can see how much good that selection did him.

Joe got into trouble with the party by being too much of a cheerleader for the war, and so a cheerleader for Bush.

Adam Rakunas | November 8, 2006 11:59 AM

In all of this, though, I don't see how the progressives or the netroots can consider this a win.

From Rick Perlstein at The New Republic (lifted behind the paywall from Atrios):

In two competitive House races in the Bluegrass State, Emanuel's first choices lost by 9 and 12 points. In the 2nd District it was Colonel Mike Weaver, the cofounder of Commonwealth Democrats, a group of conservative Democratic state legislators. In the 4th, it was Ken Lucas, a former congressman whom Robert Novak recently called "moderate conservative" in a column Emanuel's "recruiting coup" in coaxing Lucas out of retirement. Both were the kind of candidates Emanuel has favored in his famous nationwide recruiting drive. Yarmuth, meanwhile, was founder of the state's first alternative newspaper, said things on the campaign trail things like "the No Child Left Behind Act ... is a plan deliberately constructed to create 'failing' schools," and called for "a universal health care system in which every citizen has health insurance independent of his or her employment."

It was a pattern repeated across the country. New Hampshire's 1st District delivered Carol Shea-Porter, a former social worker who got kicked out of a 2005 Presidential appearance for wearing a T-shirt that said turn your back on bush. That might have been her fifteen minutes of fame--if, last night, she hadn't defeated two-term Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley. For the chance to face him, however, she had to win a primary against the DCCC's preferred candidate, Jim Craig--whom Rahm Emanuel liked to much he had the unusual move of contributing $5000 to his primary campaign. Shea-Porter dominated Craig by 20 points--and then was shut out by the DCCC for general election funds.

Not all Emanuel's losing recruits were beaten in primaries. Some were beaten in the general election. Christine Jennings, a banker and former Republican gunning for Katherine Harris's former House seat lost in a squeaker to conservative Republican Vern Buchanan. Dan Seals, a black moderate in the Barack Obama mold who criticized the Democratic Party even in speeches to Democratic crowds, lost to the Republican incumbent in Emanuel's backyard, Illinois's 10th District--as did the DCCC's most talked-about recruit, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois's 6th. Emanuel poured as astonishing $3 million into her campaign. It bought her a four-point defeat. Activists say the money would have been better spent on all the promising candidates to whom Rahm wouldn't give the time of day.

CJ-in-Weld | November 8, 2006 12:00 PM

I'm a moderately loyal Republican; I was elated when the Republicans swept Congress in 1994, but I don't feel an equivalent level of disappointment now they've squandered it. I'm not looking forward to Democratic glee, and I'm apprehensive about liberal excess - but really:

The current crop of national Republicans have abandoned most of their conservative positions. They've spent like college students with their first credit card; they've fought a war by sheer Jacobin idealism instead of overwhelming force on the ground and realpolitik; they've quit paying lip service to federalism; their approach to immigration has been incoherent. True, they've cut taxes - but even there, they've favored "targeted" tax cuts instead of overall tax simplification.

And I have to admit, the two recent great periods of conservative success have been under divided government - Reagon's tax reform and foreign policy overhaul, and Clinton's welfare reform and balanced budget.

Throw in the obvious Republican self-serving power-for-its-own-sake corruption...pfaugh. These guys need two years in the wilderness to lose some fat and think on priorities.

robert l | November 8, 2006 12:02 PM

I'm glad for the national result, but here in TN, I'm terribly disappointed. Not only did that hate in form of amendment get passed(and aren't constitutions about securing rights, not limiting them?) but the Bob Corker 'Vote for me - I'm the white guy!" message seemed to carry the day.

Bah.

But some sanity, at least, for the country as a whole, and it's interesting to note that of the republicans that DID win, a good number won by listening to their constituents and acting like individuals, rather than part of a political machine.

Steve Buchheit | November 8, 2006 12:04 PM

Cassie, strange, I also don't like abortion, but I don't think my opinion should be forced on other people or used to judge others. I think we should secure our borders more, but I think building a wall is a really dumb idea and won't help, also a guest worker program isn't going to work, just look at what it's done for Europe. And I also think we should win in Iraq, I just don't want to wait for the osmosis process that the civilian leadership think is going to happen to work. Does that make a Republican?

Also, CoolBlue is correct that Dems are more to the right than they were, but I think the cause is different than he believes. I think the far right wing of the Republican Party slewed the whole country to the right back in the 80s. That means what were once moderate Republicans now find themselves square in the middle. Dems are a populist party and include views from what is now the far left (was middle to moderate left) and from the middle of the country (which were the moderate rights).

CoolBlue | November 8, 2006 12:10 PM

CJ-in-Weld

Can't argue with you there.

What I am going to find interesting is what will happen in '08 when a Democratic Controlled congress can't produce these results either? I mean none of the positions you enumerate are part of the Democratic platform.

And also it is important for Democrats to realize that Clinton was not a leftist, he was very much a centrist. Center-right even.

To the extent that Democrats won because of protesting Republicans, it is unlikely these Republicans will be satisfied by the next Congress with regards to issues like taxes, immigration, spending and Federalism.

And, most important, while Americans may not like the situation in Iraq, they most certainly do not want to lose there. And I simply can not see how they can make the situation better.

What can they do? Really?

Gwen | November 8, 2006 12:16 PM

My favorite part was finding out that my state, the red, Republican, I-know-college-students-who-support-torture state, Arizona, became the first ever state to reject the Destroy Common-Law Marriage Amendment (er, I mean "protect marriage"). Not the "first ever" part so much as the "reject" part. Very, very good.
Not that we'd've had exactly the same problem Ohio did/does, since domestic violence laws cover anyone in the place of residence rather than living as in a marriage, but there's still hospital visitation and living wills and wills and so on.
I think the best argument against it is that same-sex marriage is already illegal/unrecognized in Arizona. Laws are easier to change than Constitutions, and restrictions of individual rights, freedoms, and priveleges *do not* belong in the Constitution. Expansion of liberty; safety is better put in laws, and no one would have been made safer by this law anyway.
Three cheers for an opposition Congress!

Tor | November 8, 2006 12:18 PM

The Dems appear to be more to the right than in the past, because of the Republican majority. There's no point in talking about tax cuts for the poor and middle class, raising the minimum wage, universal health care, actually improving education (rather than just testing more often), or any of the other typically liberal causes, because they didn't have a chance in hell. Now we'll find out if Bush has the sack to veto an increase in the minimum wage, or a tax cut for the poor/middle class (while raising taxes for the rich). Universal health care won't get done in the next two years, but if the Dems can pass a bunch of simple (no amendments or pork) bills for typically liberal issues, I think people will be surprised at the contrast.

Seriously, if the Dems let Bush continue to screw up Iraq (while passing bills which benefit veterans and their families), they can carry this result through to the next election. Pelosi should remind people constantly that a Republican is CinC, and that's his job. Her job is to secure benefits for all Americans, while being fiscally responsible. If she can do that, there will be a real landslide in '08.

Adam Rakunas | November 8, 2006 12:21 PM

...and I meant John Dingell, not John Conyers. With the subpoenas. For the investigating. Of the corruption. And things. Flavin.

John Remy | November 8, 2006 12:32 PM

I was inspired by your recipe and actually
baked and ate one with the family as the election results were reported.

I figured if the Dems didn't win, I wouldn't at least have a pie as consolation.

John Remy | November 8, 2006 12:34 PM

Note to self: proofread comments before submitting them...

*sheepish grin*

Eirik Newth | November 8, 2006 12:34 PM

Congrats on the result from a regular reader in Oslo, Norway. The US elections have been headline news for days now, and judging from media comments and people I've talked to today, most of us are heaving a collective sigh of relief. Not just on your behalf, mind you - who governs the world's only superpower affects all of us.

Me, I'm thinking of the "coalitions of the willing" we could have been pressured into if Dubya had gotten a clear mandate. So thanks for voting Democratic, people - you did it for all of us...

Ian Randal Strock | November 8, 2006 12:34 PM

"Joe Lieberman, you're not a Democrat anymore" (a scant two years after they nominated him for vice president)

It was actually six years ago.


Oops. My mistake. Sorry.


Joe got into trouble with the party by being too much of a cheerleader for the war, and so a cheerleader for Bush.


That's my point: he may have been in trouble with his party, but his re-election tells me his party is in more trouble than he is.

Steve Buchheit | November 8, 2006 12:55 PM

*Rumor Alert*, Bush will announce D. Rumsfeld resignation at his press conference. Gee.

John H | November 8, 2006 12:56 PM

'The Democrats that won last night are conservative.' Expect they really aren't.

The one Democrat that comes closest to being a true conservative - Harold Ford - lost his Senate bid in Tennessee...

A.R.Yngve | November 8, 2006 01:03 PM

I just heard it on CNN: Rumsfeld will "step back." Watching Bush's announcement now.

He starts with the quip, "Say, why's all the glum faces?"
(No one laughs.)

Cassie | November 8, 2006 01:05 PM

John H: re your link

Sherrod Brown is about as conservative as Hillary Clinton or Al Gore. Brown will be in lockstep with the extreme-left Democratic leadership.

Cassie | November 8, 2006 01:07 PM

There goes Rumsfield. Bush is announcing his resignation now.

Rayyy | November 8, 2006 01:09 PM

I'm watching Bush's announcement too. Seems surprised with the way it went.

Talk about 'out of touch'.

Wakboth | November 8, 2006 01:27 PM

From the perspective of an Otherplacian, a Democratic victory in the elections can only be a Good Thing (I can't really see how they could do a *worse* job than Bush and his Republican enablers); Rumsfeld's resignation is a nice bonus on top of that.

John Scalzi | November 8, 2006 01:27 PM

Cassie:

"Will you still like him if he votes the way he campaigned - and against other Democrats?"

One point of order: Assuming you're talking about Heath Shuler, he's a Congressman-elect, not a Senator-elect.

Since I feel that our elected officials should vote their conscience and in line with the expectations of those who elected them as representatives, I would be perfectly fine with him voting however he saw fit.

Eddie | November 8, 2006 01:35 PM

I'm glad the Republicans got their asses handed to them.But:

The Democrats can't save us from the mess in the middle east.

There is no great exit strategy from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Our civil liberties are already compromised.

Thus I don't look for any quick upside here.

Christian | November 8, 2006 01:38 PM

Bacon taped to a loser...

You know you can't resist clicking on this.

Gloating is so much fun!

Jacob | November 8, 2006 01:40 PM

They pretty much ran the table on the major statewide offices; the only Republican who won was the one running for State Auditor
So basically every candidate you voted for won. Scalzi... you have the power.

Also it's a more left-wing Congress. You had progressive democrats replacing pseudo-moderate Republicans in the Northeast. A lot of the Dems coming in from the more right-wing areas are more populist than lefty per se (like Talent in Montana and Webb in Virginia).

Ted | November 8, 2006 01:45 PM

It's also far from true to say that all the Democrats who won were Blue Dog types. In fact, in many cases, more liberal Democrats won while Blue Dogs who were predicted to do well didn't. For an example, just look at Kentucky, where the 2 of 3 Democratic challengers in tight races who lost were extremely conservative, while the one who won, John Yarmuth, is a legitimate progressive. If you look closely at the results, you'll find that although there were a ton of conservative democrats running and getting a lot of press, a lot of the ones who won are not at all in the right wing of the party.

Steve Buchheit | November 8, 2006 01:47 PM

Montana's senate seat up for grabs is now being called for the Dem. So 50-50, almost there. Not it's up to Allen vs Webb.

Cassie | November 8, 2006 01:51 PM

Mea Culpa - I thought he was running for a Senate seat, not House.

CJ-in-Weld | November 8, 2006 01:54 PM

CoolBlue writes: "What can they do? Really?"

I certainly don't expect the Dems to enact a conservative agenda. What they can do is what Republicans should have done: ethics and budgetary process reform—pay-as-you-go and earmark restrictions, for instance. (Earmarks exploded under Republicans - that ain't right!)

If that kind of reform happens, it's worth putting up with two years of attempted leftist silliness, which (unless the President is an utter sell-out), they cannot achieve, because they cannot override a veto.

CoolBlue | November 8, 2006 02:01 PM

Ted

It's also far from true to say that all the Democrats who won were Blue Dog types.

Well, it's a darn good thing I didn't say that then.

If you look closely at the results, you'll find that although there were a ton of conservative democrats running and getting a lot of press, a lot of the ones who won are not at all in the right wing of the party.

All I said was that "Blue Dogs" were making a comeback which is true. As a result, Democrats were compentative and even won in areas they were not competative in before. Which gives me hope for the future of Democrats. All districts and States are different and have different constituents. Harold Ford's positions would not have won him any votes here in Vermont, for instance. But he got damn close in Tennessee.

In many many cases, Republicans who were existing in blue states and districts were thrown out, and some Blue Dog picked up seats in traditionally Red areas. That's how you get a winning party.

Conversely, Republicans needed a Linc Chafee to win in Rhode Island. Until recently that is.

The fact is, though, for Democrats to be a representative national party, they are going to need conservative candidates.

It is also a fact that a "progressive" will not win the White House anytime soon. Nor will they be a majority in Congress anytime soon. As a result, you can forget socialized medicine anytime soon.

None of this is bad; but the fact is American politics is indeed played between the 35 yard lines.

Bruce Arthurs | November 8, 2006 02:03 PM

As Gwen noted up above, Arizona voted against the "Protect Marriage" act on the ballot here. I was surprised, but pleased.

Before assuming that Arizona has become a left-wing hotbed of Frenchified liberalness, though, a number of anti-illegal-immigrant measures on the ballot DID pass, by nearly 3-1 margins. These included measures to deny bail to illegal immigrants charged with crimes, deny punitive damages in lawsuits filed by illegal immigrants, to deny state educational programs, grants, tuition waivers, and child-care assistance to illegal immigrants.

And of course, as always, a new ('cause the ones passed previously were declared unconstitutional) "Official English" amendment. Or, as I tend to call it, the "We White People Are Too Dumb And Lazy To Learn A Second Language, But You Brown People Shouldn't Have A Problem With That" amendment.

(One bright spot is that State Representative Russell Pearce -- he who sent out links to a White Supremacist website in email to his supporters, and who authored or supported all of the anti-immigrant measures -- was defeated in his reelection bid.)

Jon | November 8, 2006 02:07 PM

I'm interested to see how the lame duck Congress performs. Before their terms in office end, they have a final chance to take action on some of the issues they were elected on. My money's on making the 2001 & 2003 tax cuts permanent.,,

Anne KG Murphy | November 8, 2006 02:10 PM

Now I turn my hopes to the lame duck session of congress to actually vote on approval for a National Women's History Museum in the House. Please write to your congressperson on this topic!

CoolBlue | November 8, 2006 02:13 PM

My money's on making the 2001 & 2003 tax cuts permanent.

That would be good

I turn my hopes to the lame duck session of congress to actually vote on approval for a National Women's History Museum

Um.....

Cassie | November 8, 2006 02:13 PM

Jon: My money's on making the 2001 & 2003 tax cuts permanent.

From your mouth to God's ears.

Josh Jasper | November 8, 2006 02:29 PM

I'd like to point out that we *don't* have a fillibuster proof majority... yet.

Nathan | November 8, 2006 02:42 PM

I heard an interesting stat on ABC last night. They apparently polled Rhode Island voters on the way into the poll and found that Chafee (republican incumbent) had a 62% approval rating. Then he lost by 7 points scoring around 46% of the vote.

Pure Bush/Cheney/Rummy backlash.

SaraS | November 8, 2006 02:46 PM

A lot of the Dems coming in from the more right-wing areas are more populist than lefty per se (like Talent in Montana and Webb in Virginia).

I think you mean Tester in Montana, not Talent. I think Talent was the repub candidate from Missouri who lost.

I am thrilled that Tester won in MT (I actually donated to his campaign, which was a first for me), although it is true that he isn't a party-line voter kind of guy. As an example, his rating from the NRA was almost identical to his Republican opponent Conrad Burns. Of course, it would be political suicide to advocate for gun control in a state like MT, so this is hardly surprising.

Of course, I'm not sure what to conclude from the fact that the republican candidate for our ONE house seat managed to hang on to his seat. So some of the same people who voted for Tester also voted for Rehburg. Of course, this is a state that, in 2004, went for Bush, but elected a Dem governor and and Repub Lt governor. So who knows.

Chris Kraft | November 8, 2006 03:34 PM

John,

I believe that the Republicans lost because they became arrogant and lost the backing of the Republicans in the center. It was the centrist Republicans, in my opinion, that gave them the edge that got them into power. As they moved towards the religious right, started trying to legislate morality, they started to scare off those people in the center.

I am sure there are a lot of other reasons but that was a big one for me. I am a libertarian but I often find I am voting Republican. This was harder and harder every year. One thing that does not make sense to me is what happened with the two amendments here in Wisconsin. The state traditionally leans Democratic and this election was no different. On the issue of gay marriage and the death penalty they went solidly to what you would consider a far right position. That just seems odd to me.

That said there is one thing, call it a wacky conspiracy theory, that I thought of this morning. When I saw how accepting and broken all the republicans sounded. Even Bush today sounded in his speech as if he was saying "This is what the people want, we will give it to them"

Well, consider this, what if they purposely decided to not fight as hard as they could, they allowed themselves to be beaten so that they would be in the minority. Then they leave all the problems in the laps of the Democrats.

If there is another terrorist attack, or Iraq falls apart, or the economy ends up messed up, in two years they can blame it on the Democrats and say they had two years to fix everything and failed. Then they would have a stronger position in the next presidential election.

As I said, its just a conspiracy theory and I do not actually believe it myself, but thought it was something interesting to think about.

Chris Kraft

Matt | November 8, 2006 03:58 PM

I was pondering the events of the last twenty four hours and I came to the conclusion that one man's vote really makes a difference. Looking back as to how the campaign and election proceeded, there are some individuals who made the tilt possible. The guy you referred to as "man-whore", if he is to be believed, made a difference . This is what happens when someone's conscience is "pricked" (pun intended). Those who have ridden on the high horse of morality and values tend to fall harder and break their necks.

If we believe that "vox populi, vox dei" then the almighty has spoken and told them not to use his name in ramming their agenda.

We still have two years of pain and agony ahead (and possibly more with Iraq). Let the healing begin and let's hope that light is shone on the dark recesses of this government. They have to be reminded that they are public servants and not the masters of the universe they think they are.

CoolBlue | November 8, 2006 03:59 PM

Chris Kraft

As I said, its just a conspiracy theory and I do not actually believe it myself, but thought it was something interesting to think about.

I think you got it right in the first part.

And it's something Democrats as well as Republicans need to understand:

The thirst for limited and open government has not gone away. Republicans simply turned their backs on what brought them to power 12 years ago.

But it is also true, that if you make the bid for power, you had better have an idea on how you intend to use it. I have not abandoned my position that our enemies will take this transition of power as a signal that they are winning. They will, in my opinion, redouble their efforts against us. The new Democratic leadership had better be ready for this possibility or their majority will be short lived.

I am of the opinion that what happened yesterday was a good thing. Politicians need to know that we will fire them if they get out of line. That we will clean house.

Despite this, I think we are in a more dangerous position than we were yesterday with respect to our enemies.

And that is the fault of both political parties.

Matt | November 8, 2006 04:00 PM

I was pondering the events of the last twenty four hours and I came to the conclusion that one man's vote really makes a difference. Looking back as to how the campaign and election proceeded, there are some individuals who made the tilt possible. The guy you referred to as "man-whore", if he is to be believed, made a difference . This is what happens when someone's conscience is "pricked" (pun intended). Those who have ridden on the high horse of morality and values tend to fall harder and break their necks.

If we believe that "vox populi, vox dei" then the almighty has spoken and told them not to use his name in ramming their agenda.

We still have two years of pain and agony ahead (and possibly more with Iraq). Let the healing begin and let's hope that light is shone on the dark recesses of this government. They have to be reminded that they are public servants and not the masters of the universe they think they are.

Tripp | November 8, 2006 04:06 PM

As a result, you can forget socialized medicine anytime soon.

We will get what you call 'socialized medicine' when US businesses demand it in order to remain globally competetive. This will happen sooner than you think.

I'd like to know why there is such strong support for making the elimination of the estate tax permanent? The tax probably pertains to none of us posting on this board, and I cannot see how the elimination improves the economy in any way.

Go ahead and call it a 'death tax' if it makes you feel better but I still support the tax and not the repeal.

Tor | November 8, 2006 04:19 PM

CoolBlue - Our enemies could look at what happened and say, 'They changed horses in midstream! Look how weak! Our people would never dare vote us out of office, because they would be killed if they tried.'

Or they could say, 'Damn, they're probably going to do something intelligent, like really strengthen their ports and borders instead of security theater, fully fund law enforcement, increase funding for humint, and regain the moral high ground by disclaiming torture. Shit.'

I know which one I think they will say. I can't imagine that they will be happy about the fact that sooner rather than later, we will cease to needlessly spend money and lives in Iraq in a war we cannot win. That was a softball right up the middle for them, and helped more than anything else with their recruiting efforts.

If some terrorist chooses to take this as a sign that he's winning, fine. Because however he chooses to see it, the fact is that terrorism is going to be a lot harder to carry out with more security happening, and less security theater...

John H | November 8, 2006 04:20 PM

We will get what you call 'socialized medicine' when US businesses demand it in order to remain globally competitive. This will happen sooner than you think.

It's also worth noting that Howard Dean has been talking about universal health care for children for some time - expect that to be high on the agenda next year.

Tor | November 8, 2006 04:35 PM

Pelosi would be an idiot to go for universal healthcare of any kind at this time. For one thing, it brings up the spector of Hillary's biggest failure, and whatever they offer now will be compared to what was discussed back with Bill was president. For another, Dems don't have the numbers to get it done - too many take money from the big Pharmas and it will be a failure. Get the low hanging fruit now (there's so much of it! Campaign finance! Corruption! War Profiteering! Minimum wage! Tax cuts for the middle class! Fiscal responsibility! Tax cuts for small businesses! Reduce corporate welfare!) Build momentum, let Bush sqander whatever goodwill he has left in Iraq and get the House, Senate AND Executive branches. THEN you do universal health care for children - which paves the way for uiversal health care for everyone.

Cassie | November 8, 2006 04:42 PM

Nathan said I heard an interesting stat on ABC last night. They apparently polled Rhode Island voters on the way into the poll and found that Chafee (republican incumbent) had a 62% approval rating. Then he lost by 7 points scoring around 46% of the vote.

So why isn't anyone screaming voter fraud?

John Scalzi | November 8, 2006 04:44 PM

Because an approval rating isn't an exit poll.

MikeB | November 8, 2006 05:06 PM

Well, the next few days (and weeks) will be fun as fingers are pointed, blame apportioned and always the need to justify, justify, justify. The three-ring circus of government just gets better and better. Now, if we could just get on with real life it would be nice...

John H | November 8, 2006 05:11 PM

Chafee got caught being a Republican when being a Republican wasn't cool (to paraphrase Barbara Mandrell). Considering his political bent he would have been better off pulling a Jim Jeffords. He stuck with the party that brung him and got left out in the cold...

Chang who is inkredduloose! | November 8, 2006 05:27 PM

I feel great about it all. We got TABOR knocked out here in MAine which is awesome and we didn't get the Dildo in as governor.

I keep thinking of the Killing Joke song "Democracy" which is just about the peppiest song of change I can imagine.

Nathan | November 8, 2006 05:43 PM

Cassie,

Nothing fraud about it. R.I. wanted to bitch-slap Bush, and Chafee's face was in the way.

CoolBlue | November 8, 2006 05:44 PM

Tripp

I'd like to know why there is such strong support for making the elimination of the estate tax permanent?

If you lived in a rural state like I do, you'd know the answer. Around here there are many family farms that have lots of property. That property is worth lots of money. But the business of farming is not so lucrative. If a farmer wants to pass the farm on, and the farm is taxed as if its income, the children simply can't afford to pay that so they have to sell.

Happens all the time. Though less these days.

Tor

If some terrorist chooses to take this as a sign that he's winning, fine. Because however he chooses to see it, the fact is that terrorism is going to be a lot harder to carry out with more security happening, and less security theater...

Well that goes a long way towards proving my point. Which really doesn't need proving, just recognition.

which paves the way for uiversal health care for everyone.

So much for fiscal responsibility. Next...

Cassie

So why isn't anyone screaming voter fraud?

That's sooooo 2000. And it sounded stupid then (not to mention every election year since.) Won't sound any better now. (Another benefit to having Democrats win this time is we won't have to suffer through that for once)

It's refrain best left to people who want to blame others for their own failures.

Greg | November 8, 2006 06:04 PM

As a conservative who voted Democrat this time around, I had my own reasons for "sending a message" to Bush. My main gripes with the current administration are:

-He is squandering American blood and treasure for an un-winnable for an ungrateful Iraqi populace. If the Iraqis really want to kill each other over religion, I would say, let's pull out and let 'em shoot. We can send in Exxon to pump the oil when they're done.

-Secondly, Bush has failed to secure our nation's borders, under the sham pretense of "immigration reform." (Clinton did a much better job of cracking down on illegal immigration.)

As for gay marriage: I really don't care one or the other. I am not sure why gay issues have suddenly become the most important thing in the world to both the Right and the Left. Whenever I hear the word "gay marriage" in the news these days, my most common response is to yawn. While my spin on the issue is a bit different, on balance I agree with you that the Religious Right's obsession with it is a bit neurotic.

My big concern is: how are the Dems going to turn the economy around and kill the rest of the wacko Islamist terrorists? If they can get the job done on these two fronts, I may just paste a "Barrack Obama in '08" bumper sticker on my car.

PeterP | November 8, 2006 06:04 PM

Wouldn't the solution to the Estate Tax be a limited exemption for privately held farmland, vs a blanket removal of the tax? It's been some time since I crunched the numbers, but my memory is that it hurts very few small farmers anymore (they are a dwindling breed) and mildly inconveniences the heirs of the extremely wealthy, who by all accounts should be set for life anyway. Most taxation has a dual social and economic purpose, and in this case the inheritance tax serves to weed out the pseudo royalty by forcing them to actually become productive members of society. I don't see that as a bad goal, myself.

CoolBlue | November 8, 2006 06:28 PM

PeterP

Wouldn't the solution to the Estate Tax be a limited exemption for privately held farmland, vs a blanket removal of the tax?

Perhaps, but that just, makes taxes more complex when what people want is to simplify. It's already too damn complex.

Besides, it's a fairness thing: there is no good reason to tax again something that has already been taxed. Who does that benefit?

Most taxation has a dual social and economic purpose, and in this case the inheritance tax serves to weed out the pseudo royalty by forcing them to actually become productive members of society. I don't see that as a bad goal, myself.

That's the old "using the tax code to rectify some perceived social injustice" argument. While it may seem reasonable, and even useful, I don't think it's the government's business to be performing "life lessons". The government shouldn't put in the role of parent.

Taxes should be raised for specific purposes and in a reasonable, easy to understand way. Not "just 'cause". They should also go away if the purpose does.

Look at it for what it is: double taxation pure and simple where the windfall goes to the State treasury.

PeterP | November 8, 2006 07:32 PM

I tend to agree that the government generally shouldnt try to achieve through taxation what they cannot coerce through law (see: Drinking Age/Highway Funding)

However, after reading a lot on the subject (Adam Smith specifically) I have come to the conclusion that inheritance taxes are a net benefit to society. As they say, reasonable people can disagree.

Steve Buchheit | November 8, 2006 09:01 PM

Gee CoolBlue, I live I a rural area of my state and I don't see support for the elimination of the Estate Tax from the locals, because most small farmers resent being used like that and most of their farms, because they are "argicultural" are valued at that lower rate, fall below the threshold. Those few that have higher value already have mechanisms to transfer their property before probate.

As for the double-taxation, that's fine, we can always define estate transfers as income for those that receive the property and tax it that way, which would be higher anyway. That way the inheritors would be taxed appropriately and the estate, those "taxed" the first time (shall we discuss deductions etc for property and loans) wouldn't be taxed again, even though they're dead and can't use the money anyway.

mythago | November 8, 2006 10:02 PM

Whenever I hear the word "gay marriage" in the news these days, my most common response is to yawn.

After all, you've got yours. Discrimination? Boring, d00d. Pass the beer.

Before assuming that Arizona has become a left-wing hotbed of Frenchified liberalness, though, a number of anti-illegal-immigrant measures on the ballot DID pass, by nearly 3-1 margins

May I be the first to offer congratulations to my colleagues in the Arizona bar who practice in civil-rights, municipal, criminal and education law? The fat years are here again, my friends, with Arizona's Lawyer Full Employment Acts!

Q | November 9, 2006 06:56 AM

That's just repeating GOP talking points re: the Estate Tax... look at the published numbers, given the thresholds involved family farms are a VERY small percentage of the estates taxed. And don't tell me it's a fairness issue... you think its fair that the ultra rich family can't pass down a multimillion dollar estate to a child who does not work for that money in any way, and will never work and pay standard income taxes and that is perfectly fair ad infinitum? I'm stunned to see two people all gung ho about the prospect of making the "tax cuts" permanent... They've sure done squat for me and everyone I know...

Steve Buchheit | November 9, 2006 08:32 AM

Q, somebody has to mix the kool-aid, some people drink it, some gargle with it, some chugg it down, while others try to sell it as fine wine.

Tripp | November 9, 2006 10:06 AM

CoolBlue,

Actually I do live in a relatively rural state, MN, and especially a rural area.

I can see you've brought out all the old chestnuts and people have debunked them.

To summarize:

Family farms - umm, no. Around here these are incorporated businesses that don't go through private inheritance.

Taxed twice - very vague. I buy a car today and pay the sales tax. I sell it tommorow and the buyer pays sales tax again. Is that double taxation?

"Fairness" - yeah, it is fair that Paris Hilton gets what she gets. Not. If anything, the estate tax tries to make the world a little 'fairer' for those starting out, but then you say taxes shouldn't be used for social purposes such as 'fairness.'

Are you aware that even the big L libertarians (and as pointed out above the God Adam Smith) saw the need for the estate tax and supported it?

Here is my take - upward mobility is very good for a society and having an entitled upper class is bad. Also, we should all pay back to government in proportion to how we benefit from government.

The rich get the biggest benefit from our government so they should pay the most back.

For a current example Paris Hilton has the ability to live as a hedonistic whore consuming the very best of everything this world has to offer while producing nothing in return. Without government and laws she'd be shorn of her luxeries in the blink of an eye. Her millions would be worth nothing without the ability to travel safely and spend it safely.

Nate Von J | November 9, 2006 03:21 PM

There's good news in that South Dakota's unconstitutionally horrible abortion law was voted right off the books, however.

Yay and thank God (although I'm not entirely sure he's happy about it). I was glad I could do my part against all odds (my parents and sister, pretty big Democrats, voted to yay it *shudders*) to metaphorically punch out my Republican Govenor and tuck his dick back in his pants before he could get any yellow water on the parchment we hold so dear.

Jon | November 9, 2006 03:57 PM

To clarify, I was talking about the income tax cuts. 2001 was the year when the bottom rate was cut from 15% to 10%, and the child tax credit was doubled and made refundable. 2003 saw the top capital gains rate cut to 25% and the top individual tax rate on dividends from 38.6% to 15%. The estate tax is a separate issue.

GSLamb | November 9, 2006 04:22 PM

It seems that both Burns and Allen have conceded today. Dems have officiallywon the Senate.

Say goodnight, Gracie.

Greg | November 9, 2006 06:28 PM

Mythago writes:

"After all, you've got yours. Discrimination? Boring, d00d. Pass the beer."

As usual, Mythago is blinded by her narrow ideological focus.

If you read some of my previous posts, you'll see that I am not exactly hostile to gay marriage. However, in light of the much larger problems we have brewing right now (the war in Iraq, terrorism, health care, etc.) whether or not two men can get married isn't exactly the most urgent matter before us.

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