Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote Early, Vote Often: 2006

Welp, here we are again. Election day in the U.S.A. I'm sure every blog even remotely concerned with American politics is saying "go vote", so I won't worry about it.

What I will say is that it's a very different election than the last bunch. For the first time in a long while, it looks like the Democrats are poised to kick some ass and take the House at the very least. It's quite possible that they'll take the Senate as well, depending on how things shake out.

And yet. I can't help but feel a little unease about all of this. I feel like the Dems aren't in the great position that they think they're in.

The first and most easily apparent reason is Holy Joe, the quasi-Dem. To be blunt, he should have dropped out after the primary, even though I was pretty certain he wouldn't. He's putting his party in an impossible position if he wins. If he doesn't hold the balance of power, then no big deal; the Dems can caucus with him or not as they wish. Sucks, but they can always say "sorry, but you aren't actually a Dem."

It's quite possible that he will hold the balance of power, though, and that raises the question: where do the Democrats draw the line? I'm not talking about Joe's foreign policy positions, naive and untenable as they are. I'm talking about the impact on the party itself when it is made obvious that they can't say "boo" to Joe without handing votes to Cheney to tie-break. Joe will become incredibly powerful, and everybody will know it, and the Dems will be at the mercy of a man who has been about as loyal to his party as Guy Fawkes was to his country.

(To use a relatively topical non-American reference for this time of year.)

If they play ball with the man and let him play Democrat, it'll be a message to everybody in the party that says "we don't care about what you think, or who you pick. Primaries are a fiction, and you might as well not bother." The party is supposed to choose its own representatives, and the whole point of primaries is that you choose your own representatives directly. Letting Joe run the show will be a big neon sign to everybody watching saying that the Democrats are exactly as weak and unprincipled as everybody believes they are.

Yet, the other alternative is a Republican Senate propped up by the New Zell. That's also untenable. That's why Lieberman should have quit. Even if he hasn't, though, it's the reason why Lieberman can't have the "D" beside his name, and why the Dems need to make it clear that they're in the driver's seat, not Joe.

The other issue that bothers me is the reason why the Dems are poised to make these gains. To be blunt, they haven't been that inspiring. No, really, they haven't. Their campaigning has been competent, but the Republicans have demonstrated through both fair means and foul that they're still the better campaigners and still have the national discourse by the jugular. The only reason why the Republicans are slated to lose is because of their incompetence at governance and because of the perfect storm of the Foley scandal. The Dems haven't really sorted through their issues; the brewing storm between the "Democratic wing" and the "New Democrats" hasn't gone anywhere.

Even if they win, those divisions are going to loom large, especially with the large number of somewhat conservative newbie Dems likely to join the House. They'll be acutely aware that Iraq and Foley will not get them reelected. They'll also know that the gerrymandering and discourse control that kept the Republicans in power is going to work against them. They could easily do what Dems so often do, and freeze, hoping that the bad Republicans will just go away if they act really quiet and still, just like a little mouse.

Case in point: the investigation issue. Already the Republicans are setting the groundwork for loud exhortations for Democrats to leave the past alone, and that any attempt to investigate the Republicans' many and sundry sins of governance would be partisan witchhunts. The Democrats' first instinct is naturally to deny that any such thing will take place; that is also exactly the wrong thing to do. Far from being politically unwise, congressional investigations are the best tool the Dems have to hammer home just how bad the Republicans have been, why "bipartisanship" with such a crowd is a quixotic goal, and why they shouldn't be given the tiller again for a good long time.

Yes, the usual suspects will shout and rave, but they're not the ones that need to be convinced. Hell, they shouldn't even be listened to. No Democrat should ever base their decisionmaking on what people like Rush Limbaugh, Michael Ledeen, and Robert Novak think, no matter how big or influential an audience they seem to command.

What's important is that Americans will finally start hearing some truth, and the truth is the last thing the Republicans or their mouthpieces want to get out.

The Democrats have been lucky, and have known enough to exploit that. There's been little indication that they've grown that spine. If they haven't, if they don't, this will be a short-lived victory at best. We'll see, I suppose.

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