Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lincoln's Revenge and other Post-election Analyses

Pundits have been quick to frame last night's results in their analysis as being a shift rightward for the Democrats. In fact, what was more trenchant was the death of the so-called Rockefeller Republican wing, as moderate Republicans in the Northeast and Midwesst paid a dear price for the extremism of their party, while conservative Southerners survived unscathed. This represents the endgame for Richard Nixon's cynical Southern strategy which sought to build a Republican majority in the South from former Dixiecrats upset about civil rights in the 1960's. The bastions of the Republican party now are made entirely of the states Lincoln fought against, while the more moderate Republicans in the Rust Belt lost to the Democrats. In previously red districts and states like Montana and Virginia, underdog Democrats were swept in by narrow margins. Thus the growing Democratic majority has become more progressive while conversely the shrinking Republican minority becomes more conservative.

The GOP is collapsing into a regional party...the Dixiecons. Nine flipped seats came from CT, NY, PA and NH, while nine more from OH, IN, IA, KS, and MN. Of the 96 Republican-held seats in the Northeast/Midwest, these 18 were reclaimed. Apart from the outlying case of Heath Shuler in NC, the vast majority of winners yesterday were pro-choice, anti-war, anti-Bush progressives who all support embryonic stem cell research and increasing the minimum wage while opposing Social Security privatization. The nascent Senate majority will be 90% non-Southern senators. These Democrats are not 'Republican lite' centrists, despite this man-bites-dog contrarianism. Indeed the most conservative Democrat running in a Senate race, Harold Ford, lost.

The thought that this election was an endorsement of tepid bipartisan centrism can be seen as nothing more than an attempt to paper over the gaping wounds in the GOP coalition. There is a fear by both 'centrist' Democrats and right-wingers that Democrats may govern like, shockingly, Democrats. I say that they they need to realize the Democrats will be in power for at least the next two years and if the country had wanted a continuation of the conservative agenda, they would have voted for it.

Already the Republican spin machine has been revving up to try to find the silver lining in this massive repudiation of their corrupt rule. The most pernicious of these myths was telegraphed by Ann Coulter this week when she claimed there was a historical precedent in the current president's party losing double digit seats in the House in the sixth year of their presidency. We only need to look back eight years to Clinton's sixth year to see how wrong this is, where Democrats gained seats in the 1998 midterms. It has everything to do with representing the views of American voters and nothing to do with some farcical 'sixth year curse'.

A big winner last night was Howard Dean, the DNC chairman who defied political orthodoxy to promote a 50 state no-quarter strategy against the more cautious 'swing state' 'pick your battles' method of maintaining irrelevancy.

One last myth which should be laid to rest is that of the invincible Rove and his Diebold presidency. I'm not saying electronic voting machines are anything but untrustworthy and suspicious, merely that defeatism about American democracy needs to be re-evaluated. Results didn't come from Diebold software in Rove's office nor did Osama rear his head the day before the election. The zombified sheeple of the US didn't lurch to the right upon hearing the dog-whistle of 'San Francisco values' or the exploitation of the recent NJ same-sex marriage ruling or stupid Kerry gaffes. Yes, there are still institutional problems with democracy in America like the out-of-touch national media, voter apathy, policy as propaganda of the Bush Administration, microtargeted redistricting and fundraising shenanigans...but these are not so unsurmountable that we must all give up and move to Canada. The American people can be reached despite all of this and can make a difference.

This is also not to say that there isn't a mountain of work still to be done. Corruption was the number one concern of voters exiting the polls, giving a clear mandate to the Democrats to begin investigate. Who knows whether Bush is even capable of compromise at this point, today's lame duck quacking aside. Just today he announced the long-overdue retirement of Donald Rumsfeld, which both sides of the aisle took as a step in the right direction(the timing itself did not go unnoticed by anyone). It is well worth noting the contempt for the legislative branch inherent in those promoters of the unitary executive theory, which in their mind should be in thrall to the will of the Glorious Leader. The end of one-party rule is the beginning and not the end of the battle against authoritarianism in America.

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