Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Off-year rout hints doom for 2006 GOP chances

Virginia seceded from Jesus-land on Tuesday by electing its second straight reality community politician to head the state. New Jersey also opted for reason over rhyme. Democrats also took city halls in Boston, Atlanta and elsewhere. These Democratic victories will cause puppet-headed pundits across the spectrum to do some searching for the soul the Republican Party. My advice, check hell.

7 Thoughts:

Blogger A.T. said...

If you were a Virginian, you'd know that your noxious "Jesus-land" comment is presumptuous and, well, incorrect. The only candidate who talked (a LOT) about their faith was governor-elect Tim Kaine, former missionary and (apparently) devout Catholic.

Oops.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 7:42:00 AM  
Blogger Demotiki said...

I was speaking generally about "Red States" being Jesus-land, a la the Economist cartoon of the same name.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 8:51:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Virginia's always been ripe for the "blueing," silly as those labels are, as they reflect usually only marginal differences in voting.

Anyway, California voters rejected every single GOP-backed ballot initiative, too.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 9:17:00 AM  
Blogger Demotiki said...

Doug,

Virginia is similar to Penn. in that large sections of both are quite blue (mostly in urban areas) while the countryside remains Red. One could generalize and say that this urban rural devide is actually a national phenomenon. In facts, the racially based campaign tactics Republicans have used since Willie Horton are designed to cash-in on the relative intolerance of rural voters.

Demo

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger A.T. said...

James Taranto will now rain on your parade (what follows is from today's Best of the Web):

Yes, Santa Claus, There Is a Virginia http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/09/politics/09assess.html?ex=1289192400&en=8735a4ea8c14f081&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

Democrats won races for governor in New Jersey and Virginia yesterday, and the New York Times is eager to see these victories as portentous:

*** QUOTE ***

After months of sagging poll ratings, scandal and general political unrest, the Republicans badly needed some good news in Tuesday's elections for governor. What they got instead was a clear-cut loss in a red state, and an expected but still painful defeat in a blue one.

The Republican loss in Virginia, which President Bush carried with 54 percent just a year ago, came after an 11th-hour campaign stop by Mr. Bush and the kind of all-out Republican effort to mobilize the vote that reaped rich rewards last year.

*** END QUOTE ***

The New York Post's John Podhoretz http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/57065.htm , in a proper opinion column, anticipates the Times' "news" spin and points out something of which Times readers have no inkling unless they slog through to paragraph 7 (second ellipsis in original):

*** QUOTE ***

In each case the incumbent party retained the seat in contention. . . . Two governorships were up for grabs, one in Virginia and one in New Jersey. Both are now occupied by Democrats. And in yesterday's election, voters in those states decided that those Democratic governors will be succeeded by . . . Democrats.

Now, it's true that George W. Bush won Virginia by 8 percentage points in 2004, while Republican candidate Jerry Kilgore appears to have lost by 5 points. But if you think Kilgore's loss reflects Bush's weakness and a nightmare for the GOP in 2006, consider this:

Bush won Virginia by eight points in 2000, too--and the following year Democrat Mark Warner became governor with a 5-point margin of victory. The next year, in 2002, Republicans won a stunning midterm victory, taking four Senate seats[*] and expanding their majority in the House of Representatives. . . .

[Losing New Jersey Republican Doug Forrester] was the Republican candidate for Senate who lost by 10 points after Bob Torricelli quit in 2002. Last night he lost to Corzine by 11 points. New Jersey Republicans should consider giving a different candidate a shot next time.

*** END QUOTE ***

It's normal for the New Jersey and Virginia governor's races to be subject to overinterpretation by political junkies, who go through withdrawal every odd-numbered year and are desperate for a fix. But in truth, they have not been reliable bellwethers, as evidenced by the preceding four:
-1989. Democrats won open seats in both races. In 1990 Democrats made modest gains: one Senate and eight House seats.
-1993. Republicans won both races, with incumbent Jim Florio going down to defeat in New Jersey. (Virginia governor's races are always open, as the governor is limited to a single term.) In 1994 Republicans won a victory that actually was stunning, taking control of the Senate for the first time in eight years and the House for the first time in two generations.
-1997. New Jersey re-elected Republican Christine Whitman, and Virginia also elected a Republican. In 1988 the Democrats gained a handful of House seats, while the Senate was a wash.
-2001. Democrats reclaimed both governorships, at a time when President Bush's approval ratings were in the stratosphere. In 2002 Republicans made modest gains, which were sufficient to retake the Senate from Jim Jeffords.

Only in 1993 were the New Jersey and Virginia races a precursor of major change. In 1997 and 2001 the parties that lost the two governorships went on to make gains in the following year's midterm elections. The only pattern we can see here is that in every election for the past 20 years, the president's party has lost both the New Jersey and Virginia governorships.

At the risk of being frightfully boring, our prediction is that the 2006 election, like the 2005 election, is likely to be a reaffirmation of the status quo. As we've argued http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110007110#senate , in the Senate the trend has been toward alignment with a state's presidential preferences in 2000 and 2004--but this trend is self-limiting. In 2002 Democrats made big gains in Democratic states and Republicans made smaller gains in Republican ones, which means both parties' targets of opportunity are limited this time around.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hi, Allen: Overconfidence in reading these tea leaves on either side is definitely unwarranted, I agree.

I think better evidence can be found in the opinion polls -- but those same polls show low ratings for Congressional Democrats (last time I looked). I think that this is due to two things: 1. corporate MSM, but far more importantly, 2., the Democrats' inability to truly embrace the erratic populism of their past (from Bryan to FDR to LBJ). "Liberal" has been made into such a dirty word, post-Reagan, that most, especially with Wellstone gone, flee from it. This works into GOP hands in two simultaneous ways: 1. it plays into the "flip-flop/weakness" notion; 2. it actually limits options for the Democrats. Why vote for a DLC-Republican-lite when you can vote, happily, for McCain or Hagel or fill-in-the-blank?

There will be no way for the Democrats to rebuild their dominance without embracing the economic issues of the middle class (what's left of it) and the increasingly large underclass. Constant hand-wringing about "moral issues" does nothing but play into GOP and Christian-right hands.

It's not bullshit PR to say that 40m uninsured Americans is immoral, without getting all moralistic about it. Ditto Iraq. Ditto rampant privatization. Ditto rising poverty. Ditto homophobia -- you don't have to approve of someone's behavior to agree that its existence is none of anyone's business. That's pure Burkean conservatism to me.

If and when the Dems get a Dean-like populist who's truly tough (unlike faux-tough Bush) and truly brilliant (like Clinton, Gore, and Kerry) who can explain the six or seven things Democrats stand for and will fight for nonstop, we will win.

We almost won in 2004 -- with a sitting president in two wars three years after 9/11. Frankly, and I know you'll disagree, we did win. As we did in 2000. So, in my book, we're 4 for 4 since Bush, Sr., and I see no reason for that to change. The problem is a lack of media reform, electoral fraud of all kinds, as well as the above-mentioned inability of the Democrats to kick the corporate money habit. Dean proved that it is not necessary to have corporate money. So did the Christian right, by the way, which Dean studied well.

Anyway, that's my ramble.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger A.T. said...

You've got pretty fair points, it seems to me, Doug, even if I don't agree with all of it.

I think the Democrats do have an opportunity to win the WH with a smart triangulator who can communicate and who has (or appears to have) moral groundings. You know, Tim Kaine just won, and he responded to Kilgore's capital punishment hammering with a "Hey, that's just my religious belief" position, and - probably most importantly for a Democrat - he had the apparent bona fide "sincerity factor" demonstrated by having been a missionary in Central America for a year. If you get that kind of a candidate at the national level, and if the GOP trots out some pedestrian candidate that would seem to reflect the general GOP status quo, I could definitely see a Democratic victory for president.

This is all politics, and I'm really more interested in just policy and courageous leadership, but ... for what it's worth, them's my thoughts.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005 1:20:00 PM  

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