Sunday, January 07, 2007

Thoughts on the Midterms

Written 11/10/06

Leading up to the midterm elections, I must admit I was getting a little nervous that the Democrats would find some way to blow it. I was nearly certain that they would take a majority in the House, but a slim majority and not taking the Senate would have been disappointing.

Watching the early returns only added to my apprehension. Since there are so many House races, I focused my attention on the Senate and perceived those results as potentially predictive of the general trend in the House as well. Bad news…Ford was down almost double digits in Tennessee, Webb was down to Allen in Virginia, McCaskill was down in Missouri and Lieberman had held off the more progressive anti-war democrat Ned Lamont in Connecticut. While I was glad to see Rick Santorum, a cultural reactionary, get the boot, the expected dramatic Democratic wave didn't seem to be building.

In the end, all but Ford among the aforementioned Democrats surged ahead late in the evening and by the next day the Democrats had seized a majority in the Senate in addition to a strong majority in the House. I was happy to see it and, if nothing else, there will be some check on the Executive branch for the next 2 years. I was especially glad that Rove's "metrics" were way off and that the electorate wasn't so easily scared into submission as they had been in 2002 and 2004. It was validating that liberal and moderate voters came out in opposition to the Iraq war and basically forced a change. Rumsfeld's forced resignation after the election is evidence that Bush felt the pressure of the anti-war sentiment.

Of course, the mainstream political coverage was conventionally horse-race oriented and the talking heads played up the election as a "revolution." From where I sit, Bush and his administration still controls the Executive, the Supreme Court still over represents a culturally conservative worldview and the Republicans still have the numbers in the Congress to prevent overriding a presidential veto. Hardly a revolution. Chomsky would argue that this is a prime example of those who hold power restricting and managing political discourse. The general public feels like there has been major change even when little has actually shifted in terms of political power and policy. We have to avoid that trap and push the politicians to actually change policy and set the tone for a progressive president in 2008.