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2006 Election Thoughts

Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Keywords: Politics

Before I talk about the national elections, the races that interested me the most this election were a number of races in my former home state.

  1. Kansas Governor: In a heavily Republican state like Kansas, not only did Kathleen Sebelius get re-elected in 2006, she cruised to an easy victory, winning, according to CNN, many of the rural counties of Kansas (instead of just winning the big cities). She even managed to get the former chairman of the Kansas GOP to switch parties. She's the sort of politician the this country needs more of. Solidly moderate, clean campaign ads, and the ability to genuinely reach out to the opposition party instead of resorting to partisan rhetoric (that both the soon-to-be-Speaker Pelosi and Bush are very guilty of). She was rightfully named by TIME as one of the best governors in the country. Unfortunately, she's pretty much unknown outside of the state, but wouldn't it be nice if she ran of President? A Democrat with broad rural support in the midwest is rare and would be good for this divided country.
  2. Kansas #2: I remember how remarkable it was back in 1998 when one of the four Kansas seats went Democratic. And now, another Kansas seat has gone Democratic? The Third District with Kansas City and few rural residents is one thing, but the Second District is mostly rural, and while Lawrence is very liberal, it is tiny compared to Kansas City.
  3. Kansas #3: Speaking of the Third District, CNN is reporting that Dennis Moore is holding onto his seat there by a 30-point margin, 65-35. Considering how he barely won his seat in '98 and barely defended it in '00 (I left Kansas after '00), it's interesting to see a victory margin as large as this.

As I write this (around midnight EST), the Democrats, as expected, are projected to win the House but not the Senate. The numbers don't look good for the Democrats in Missouri and Tennessee, so it looks like that we'll have a GOP Senate for the remainder of the Bush Presidency. I think I am pleased with the outcome.

  1. After six years of one-party rule, a divided government is exactly what we need to tamp down on government spending and abuses. House control will accomplish that.
  2. The Democrats not winning the Senate may be a good thing; it will reduce the likelihood of them shooting themselves in the foot, which they have a great tendency to do.
  3. The House can now investigate the Administration and hopefully tease some truth out of a very secretive and shadowy White House.
  4. People wanted a referendum on Bush, and they got it.

However, if one compares tonight's election to the one held 12 years ago, it'll become apparent that this was a lukewarm victory for the Democrats. The approval rating of Congress was much lower in 2006 than in 1994. Likewise for the Presidential approval rating. There wasn't an unpopular and costly war in 1994. There haven't been gross abuses of government power and encroachments on the Constitution (issues that have not only angered Democrats, but also the libertarian wing of the Republican party). In that respect, I think that the Republicans have been victorious tonight because despite all of those things, their loss in 2006 is nothing like the Democratic loss in 1994.

The problem is that the Democrats are disorganized and incoherent. This is not to say that the Republicans are marching in lock-step (they aren't), but they do a much better job of exuding confidence and displaying unity. For starters, the Democrats have moved further to the left. Clinton signed the NAFTA free trade agreement, and Democrats are now back to toying with protectionism. They also fail to stand for something aside from "we're not Republicans". Gingrich was successful in 1994 because the Democrats were imploding and because the Contract With America was a brilliantly crafted piece of coherent marketing that defined what the Republicans stood for and what their vision is. In contrast, Democrats are successful today only because of a Republican implosion; they lack a coherent vision to let them further capitalize on the moment. The Democrats will stand little chance of winning in 2008 if they continue to allow the Republicans to dictate for them what their vision is (since the Democratic vision is reactionary).

The Democratic victories in 2006 would not have been possible without the many libertarian-leaning people who jumped ship from the Republican Party and voted for the Democrats in protest (after all, a country with economic liberty but no social liberty is really no better than China, where the "communist" regime is hoping that free-market capitalism will serve as the bread-and-circuses that make their citizens forget about political rights), and the Democrats would be wise to cater to this group in hopes of making them new members of the party's constituency. If anything, these new additions to the party could very well offer the seductive Big Idea that Democrats have lacked for so long.

Update: Hmm. Guess I was wrong about the Senate prospects looking dim. Apparently, a lot changed in the Missouri count over the course of two hours.

This entry was edited on 2006/11/08 at 02:15:38 GMT -0500.

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