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Of the Great Repudiation

November 19, 2006

No, not the repudiation of Nancy Pelosi’s support for Murtha. That other repudiation- the one of the Republicans in the mid-term elections.

I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings regarding the election for almost two weeks- in between other major life-changing events. The initial reaction was of course dejection and the sting of being rebuffed (i.e. humiliation) regarding the war in Iraq. The long-lasting feeling is a mixture of dread and despair for the fate that awaits the people of Iraq if Democrats like Pelosi and Carl Levin get their way and we withdraw from Iraq in the next few months. Other than that, I feel OK.

But then, listening to their rhetoric, I was heartened. It became crystal clear to me: the Republicans weren’t defeated- they merely redeployed from Washington! I mean, you can define victory however you want, right? Defeat is victory, if you look at it a certain way. Prizes for everybody!

But seriously, now I’m back to my basic question: what the hell is happening? The American People have spoken and all of that; but what did they say? And here is where I’m quite confused.

I’ve read that this was a victory for the left, for the center, and for the right. I’ve read that the Republicans have been too Conservative, and that they have not been Conservative enough. That the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group will give political cover for Bush to withdraw from Iraq, and for Democrats to get on board and try to win it. I’ve read that Joe Liberman is now an official loser , and that he is now one of the most powerful Senators. More troops, pull out now, what’s the answer?

Interestingly, the analysis seemed often to be correlated to the pundit: each saw some reason to claim some kind of victory for their own group. Not necessarily in votes or races won, but in the realm of ideas and philosophy. I haven’t really followed mid-term elections (or any elections) very closely, but this one seems particularly full of contradictions. Perhaps that’s the nature of mid-terms: they’re all local elections and reading too much into them on a national scale is not feasible. Personally, I declare that the American political system has prevailed again. We are a 50/50 nation, and now our government more closely reflects that reality, at least in theory. I welcome the Democrats back to the business of government and not dissent in the hopes that the actual responsibilities inherent in the realities we face will make them a more sober and  responsible partner in guiding our nation. Republicans need no longer be worst enemies. I hope, I hope.

Rummy

However, it’s undeniable that the American people are not happy with Bush’s Iraq policy, and that some changes need to be made. Or at least the perception of change. So, Rummy had to go. That was the thought going through my head as I drove to work the next day. I didn’t expect the exit to be just moments away, but it didn’t really bother me too much. Right or wrong, he was going to be an impediment to the political process of the next couple of years. Bush got a lot of criticism on the Right for not doing it before the election; he also got a lot of criticism for being "small and graceless" in sending Rumsfeld packing so soon afterward. I think the President was right in both cases (surprise). This is why: Rumsfeld has tried to resign twice before. The President refused to accept it. To make the election a referendum on Misfield later would have been cowardly and unfair on the part of the President. Better to keep the elections about their respective candidates, the war generally, and frankly Bush himself.  Better to admit defeat and willingness to change immediately in the aftermath. Or appear to.

Analysis

My take is that this election was more a loss for Republicans than a victory for Democrats. If it was a victory for anything, it was for the center- but the center has moved right a bit. That’s enough for me to start trumpeting the virtues of the center again! Not as an end in itself of course- but only because it can serve my own interests, which is of course what most centrism is about. If folks don’t vote your way, start talking about moderation and centrism!

So I predict a fair amount of buyer’s remorse among those center-right undecided types as they see the far-left leadership of their party take control of congress. Unless there are more blue-dog Pelosi smack-downs in the future, the Democrats will find themselves out of touch with too many Americans. Fortunately for all us partisans here, there will likely be lots and lots of gridlock. I’m fine with that. Contrary to popular sentiment, I’m more and more of the opinion that Change Is Bad.

I’m not sure what other messages were encoded in this election. The President (and Hugh Hewitt) were right to support a comprehensive immigration policy and go easy on anti-immigration rhetoric. Hispanics defected in huge numbers to the Democrats. The majority status for the Democrats hinged on a few elections that where decided by just a few thousand votes. It could have easily turned out to be not such a shift to the left. But it didn’t.

What’s fascinating to me is the confusing message regarding "centrist" candidates and their stance on the war. Of course Joe Liberman is the prime example: pro-war, yet won handily. Yet anti-war Lincoln Chafee lost. In fact it seems that most "moderate" or  "centrist" type Republicans lost, while many more of their Democrat challengers won. I take that to mean that people are tired of the war, but they don’t necessarily want to just leave the Iraqis precipitously. I find hope in that.

Then again, I could be in denial. This election could be the beginning of an era where America decides to give up on one of it’s most enduring ideals, the defence of freedom, and just party until the big one goes off. Time will tell.

A big change in me over the past decade is the repudiation of cynicism and it’s mother elitism. Even when the Democrats are in charge. In that I feel a genuine sense of being consistent to my values and character. We’ll see how sorely they are tested. But if I can withstand this war, I can probably withstand Pelosi and Co.

So welcome back to the realm of governance Democrats! Be true to the people who voted for you, and to all of the American people. Remember all of the unfair things you railed about when you were in the minority- and don’t start doing them yourselves.

Well, one can hope.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Tim C. permalink
    November 21, 2006 8:59 am

    So I could understand your confusion at trying to understand the “Great Thumpin'” as it were…

    And I agree with you, it wasn’t about Democrats as much as it was a reaction to Republican governance.

    It wasn’t an ELECTION, so much as it was actually a nation-wide INTERVENTION.

    What did the people say? That Republicans didn’t deserve to keep their one party rule of the Federal government. Top to bottom. Evidence?

    * The Dems didn’t loose a single incumbent in the House, Senate or Governors races. I don’t think that has ever happened before ever in the US by any party. Ever.

    * The Dems DID pick up at about 30 formerly Republican seats in the House, 7 formerly Republican Governorships, and 6 formerly Republican senatorial seats.

    * Dems thus were given the majority in the House, Senate and Governors for the first time in over a decade for each case.

    * Dems also moved into the majority of state legislatures last week… Democrats now control both houses of the legislature in 23 states; Republicans in 15 and nine are split. This was a Dem gain of full control of both chambers in 4 states. And overall in State legislatures levels Dems won a net 275 more state legislative seats, adding up to new majorities in nine formerly Republican chambers across the nation. This is as important as any of the other gains.

    * And though some races were VERY tight, nationally it wasn’t even close. Democrats won the popular vote for the Senate by a strong 11.6% margin.

    This is every bit as historic as the Republican “Revolution” of 1994 (which was more about Clinton and the Dems than the Repubs) and maybe more of a feat, as gerrymandering is so much worse now trying to prevent incumbents loosing power.

    And the Dems who are often rightfully accused of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, played the political equivalent of a perfect game.

    This intervention said:

    You still don’t get Reality on multiple levels. We can’t “stay this particular course in Iraq” it leads off a cliff for US and for them. You don’t get it: You can’t handle our money, we cannot trust you to keep our books balanced. We can’t trust you to stay honest and legal in your managing power. We can’t trust you to handle hurricanes we see coming for days, we can’t trust you to even keep a known (or should have known) child sexual predator from leading the Child Protection Committees.”

    One blogger wrote what I think many voters felt: “I Miss Republicans”…

    “No, seriously. Remember Republicans? Sober men in suits, pipes, who’d nod thoughtfully over their latest tract on market-driven fiscal conservatism while grinding out the numbers on rocket science. Remember those serious-looking 1950’s-1960’s science guys in the movies — Republican to a one. They were the grown-ups. They were the realists. Sure they were a bummer, maaaaan, but on the way to La Revolution you need somebody to remember where you parked the car. I was never one (nor a Democrat, really, more an agnostic libertarian big on the social contract, but we don’t have a party …), but I genuinely liked them.

    How did they become the party of fairy dust and make believe? How did they become the anti-science guys? The anti-fact guys? The anti-logic guys?

    Stem cell research? Agin’ it.
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …”– Why not?
    Biggest Surplus to biggest debt, even not counting the war? More tax cuts!
    Post-war planning in one of the most divisive Arab communities in the world? Don’t need it.
    Global warming? No, no it’s not.
    No WMD’s? So what? … “So what?” SO WHAT?
    Conservation? Bigger tax breaks for Hummers than hybrids.
    Soldiers need more armor! No, no they don’t. Nonny-nonny-nonny …

    Republicans used to be the guys who put the brakes on this sh*t. A sad chuckle, a little head shake. “Who’s going to pay for this?” they’d say, frowning over national budgets. “Where are the facts? The research?” They’d take out their little red pens and buzzkill our little dreams of nationalized health care or solar-powered windmills or maglev trains …But you know what? A lot of times, they were right. We needed those guys. They were a dull but crucial part of the national dialogue.”

    You wrote: “So I predict a fair amount of buyer’s remorse among those center-right undecided types as they see the far-left leadership of their party take control of congress.”

    Huh? Like new leaders such as pro-life Senator-elect Casey in Penn? Former Republican Sec.of the Navy Senator-elect Webb in Virginia? That crazy liberal Senator-elect Tester in Montana?

    You wrote before about a possible Dem win: “But I have a feeling if they do return to power soon, they will try to impeach Bush for getting is into this war…”

    I’m glad Pelosi seems to have bucked your opinion of her saying that a Bush impeachment is “off the table” and she put the kabosh on Rangel’s talk of re-instituting the draft… (Rangel was trying to make a point about shared sacrifice for the war — such crazy talk — but she made sure it was a rhetorical point that would not make it to the democratic agenda)… So far so good.

    And her loyalty to Murtha was just that, loyalty to a trusted friend. And Murtha himself is a pretty moderate Dem, outside of his pro-withdrawl of Iraq stance, he is pretty much a hawk, and on social issues such as abortion, prochoice group NARAL gives him a 0 ranking, and on gun control the NRA gives him an A and he was the co-author of the Flag Desecration Amendment with Republican Duke Cunningham. So even though I don’t agree with him on a number of these stances, Pelosi’s loyalty and support of Murtha is hardly an example of the Dems choosing leadership from their “far left.”

    One additional point on the meaning of the election: Some think – me included – this was the “last election of the 20th Century.”

    One Democratic strategist I respect wrote:

    “So like two heavy weight boxers stumbling into the 15th round of a championship fight, the two great ideologies of the 20th century stumble, exhausted, tattered and weakened, into a very dynamic and challenging 21st century.

    My own belief is that this next American era will not be one dominated by these two exhausted ideologies of the past, but will be a battle for the mastery of a new, yet unarticulated 21st century governing approach suited to the challenges we face today and built around the media and people of our time.

    The core direction of this battle is not the left-right one fought at the end of the last century, but will be more about forward and backward. Meaning that the way we will have to measure progress from now on is to look at how a party or ideological movement captures the main dimensions of this emergent, post-liberal/conservative politics of our day – a new governing agenda capable of tackling the challenges of our time, and new political arrangements built around the emergent media and people of the 21st century.

    I believe 2006 will become known as the year American conservatism reached its peak, and our 20th century politics fought one its very last battles. The future will belong to those who master this “new politics” of the 21st century.”

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