Monday, October 30, 2006

Poisoned Chalice?

The Democratic Party on November 8th?

Can it be a bad thing to win an election? Conventional wisdom and polling data suggests that the Democratic Party are poised to take back the House of Representatives and even possibly the Senate on November 7th, finally breaking the Republican trifecta of power enjoyed by the GOP since 2002. For many of us, exasperated by the shenanigans of the Republican Party since they took sole control of the House, Senate, and Presidency, at first blush the prospect of a shift to the Democrats looks like a welcome tonic. Alas, this might not be the case.

I lack access to a reliable crystal ball (or even "THE math" possessed by Karl Rove) but I can read polling data as well as anyone and it looks as if should everything that can be reasonably expected to go well on the night happens, the Democrats could have a 3 to 5 seat advantage in the House and a 1 seat advantage to only a 3 or 4 seat deficit in the Senate (of course now that I have written that down the GOP will squeak in with similar margins; note I did say only if everything goes well...). Not bad for a party facing down a mess of incumbents and a conscience-free opponent, to be at worst a few heart attacks away from other stabs at total control of Congress. The only problem is that after the victory banners come down and the confetti is swept up the voters will expect the Democratic Party to take that razor thin majority and try to legislate. That means:

1) Maintaining complete and total party discipline at such a time when a Representative's "vote premium" (i.e. how much their vote is worth to the leadership) could not be higher. Get ready for GOP style pork spending.

2) Having Representatives maintain a 100% voting record.

3) Hoping against hope that the GOP-held Senate will go along with legislation hostile to their party platform and their President two years out from an open vacancy in the White House (how better for a Senator to burnish his or her presidential chances than posing as a rock-ribbed conservative and leading the charge against the Democratic House?).

4) Realizing that the guy in the White House you have been calling a "warmongering doofus" is the one you need not to veto your legislation.

Do you think Karl Rove or his successors could make something of a Democratic-lead house that seemed to get nothing done in two years by the time the 2008 house and senate races are on us?

I'm torn. In my preferred senario the Dems take the Senate and can therefore provide insurance against the potential death of Justice John Paul Stevens (86 years old) in the next two years gifting Bush another easy Supreme Court appointment. They could also stand to gain more from the perceived gravitas of the Senate versus the cock-fighting pit that is the House. Short of a few brilliant surges in some margin-call races however, the House looks like the Dems best bet.

However, I'm going to keep hoping for a swing to the Democrats at any link in the legislative chain despite the risks of it being a mere blip in an ongoing Republican ascendancy. Not because I am a Democrat (I'm more a natural member of the Cynical Curmudgeon Party: Non-Aligned Wing [animal logo: a surly hippo) but because I am greatly peturbed by the idea of all power being concentrated in the hands of one party. If the Democratic Party is handed the House by the voters on the 7th, I hope they have enough sense to act as procrastinating blockers rather than advance doomed social legislation Don Quixote-like against the still-powerful and sly Republican windmill. Rove and Co. built a machine that was meant to last and there won't be a Jack Abramoff or Mark Foley every election cycle. This could be the crack the Democrats need to eventually lever the whole window open, but they need to play a canny game.

Depressing, ain't it?

Still, if you haven't had enough mid-term stuff already, the BBC's North America correspondents are maintaining a blog separate from their reporting that gives an outsider's view of the campaigns (you can even read melodrama villain Justin Webb and imagine him twirling his waxed moustache) and the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania is running a non-partisan website called Fact where you can see how well various candidate's claims stack up against the record and just who is being the most egregious bastard when it comes to negative advertising.


Rikki said...

Right. I say, let's not get ahead of ourselves quite yet.

Victor Latrine said...

Thanks for the link Weasel
This campaign is really picking up speed now
Come along to for policy updates, campaign news and more

Victor Latrine said...

oh and by the way, that should be "Le Prochain President..." nouns and adjectives agreeing and all that!

weasel said...

Ah yes, thanks Vic. Bit infra dig to correct someone out of the gate- smacks of arrogance and all that, not good in a candidate- but as I am not one of the restive Frogs and therefore can't vote for or against you I suppose it doesn't matter. My schoolboy French is a bit rusty, I must admit. About the only word I can remember with any frequency is "pampelmousse". Allons to victory pur Victor and all that.

Rikki; it's a quandry- I've been puzzling it over for weeks and I still come back to the leverage the current (temporary?) disgust with the GOP, get in, and then shut the hell up for a while.

Rikki said...

Are we paying witness to your worst predictions coming true in the form of the backlash to the John Kerry comments? What poignance is manifest in the fact that the vessel for Rove's handwringing is his old pal of the "I voted for it so I could vote against it" strains ....

Karl ... you are a very bad man. and not in a Superfly kinda way, either.

weasel said...

Rick, I could cheerfully strangle Kerry right now. There is a real case to be made about how the Democratic party's record actually reflects a mature and substantial effort to "support our troops" in meaningful ways (see my next post) which will be drowned out as the GOP gleefully siezes on his "joke" to hammer the Dems as effete elitists.

If I were the Dems I'd pull out all the stops and throw Major Tammy Duckworth and her fellow Dem combat vet candidates hard into the fight.