November 2006 Archives

Demos Pass Mid-terms. What Does It Mean?

Thomas Schaller makes some mighty good points and provides some interesting info in questioning the Democrats' need for a "southern strategy." He asks whether it is finally time for them to quit wasting their time, with apologies to old Barry G., "hunting where the ducks aren't" and concentrate on expanding their bi-coastal base inland by turning the already "purple" Midwest totally "blue." Citing Democratic congressional gains outside the South since 2004, Schaller sees an oppotunity for the Dems to "build a national majority" that would enable them to call off their courtship of "an encircled and no longer triumphant Southern minority." Here Schaller seems largely to overlook southern blacks,who are consistently the nation's most ardently Democratic voters, but under his strategy of writing off the South, would become a truly "encircled minority." No matter how you slice it, having a sympathetic congressional ear in Indiana isn't the same as having one who knows firsthand what going on in Georgia or Alabama. Not only has Schaller's perception of newfound Democratic strength yet to be tested in a presidential race, but two years of Democratic control on Captiol Hill will give us a much better idea of how permanent the party's congressional gains really are.

On the national scene, the Democrats’ confirmed takeover of twenty-eight seats in the House and six in the Senate hardly amounts to a seismic power shift. In previous midterm elections of relatively recent memory, the Democrats picked up forty-eight House and four Senate seats in the post-Watergate midterms of 1974. Twenty years later, in the “Republican Revolution” of 1994, the GOP gained fifty-four House seats and five in the Senate.
However, the most instructive examples for the Dems may lie in what happened to the Republicans back in 1946 and then again in 1948. Sequestered safely behind the all-but impregnable popularity of FDR, the Democrats had controlled Congress for fourteen years when the Republicans managed finally to capitalize on postwar anxieties, including those about Roosevelt’s unimposing successor, Harry S. Truman, to reinstall themselves as the majority party by picking up fifty-four seats in the House and eighteen in the Senate. Settling in for what they anticipated would be an extended patronage- and pork-feast, they resolved to make Truman’s life a living hell, giving little thought to the prospect that the politically crippled incumbent might be able to save his own skin, much less that of his party, in 1948. Thus did the Republicans who controlled the Eightieth, “Do-Nothing,” Congress hoist themselves on the proverbial petard of deadlock, paving the way for the feisty Truman to shock the pundits by giving a pretty good dusting to the all-but-inaugurated Thomas E. Dewey. Often lost in this classic political comeback story is the fact that the Democrats also sent the Republican rulers of Congress packing almost before they had even finished unpacking, hauling in a whopping seventy-five seats in the House and nine in the Senate.
There’s a pretty good message here, especially if we look at preliminary analyses of Democratic gains from Tuesday’s balloting. Overall, it doesn’t take much of a political pulse-taker to tell us that the vote was less “for” the Demos than “agin’” the Repubs, especially the Head Repub (regardless of whether this refers most accurately to Bush or Cheney). Moreover, it’s for dang sure that the outcome was no liberal mandate. The core candidates responsible for the Democratic gains were decidedly middle-roaders, more like Mr.Willie Jeff Clinton than Ms. Nancy Pelosi. Accordingly, the Democrats fared well in the same key places that the aforementioned Mr. Clinton gave the GOP fits. A New York Times analysis shows that 23 of the 28 districts currently confirmed as switching to the Democrats were either suburban (11) or partially so (13) and almost half (13) were at least 90 percent white.
Such districts are where the Democrats need to be competitive in 2008 if they hope to hold on to Congress and put one of their own back in the White House. They won’t do that simply by sniping at Bush and using their power to obstruct rather than to lead. There is talk of immediate full-blown hearings on the how and why of the Iraq war. Done correctly, and within reason, these might help to reassure those who voted the rascals out that they did the right thing, but a protracted orgy of professed outrage staged by people who largely enabled Bush themselves just ain’t going to cut it with the voters. At this point, they care a lot less about how we got there than about how we can or should get out. As the nation looks to Capitol Hill for some means to extricate ourselves from Iraq, the Democrats should be acutely aware that, where Washington is concerned, anything approaching another “Do–Nothing Congress” is a sure-fire “exit strategy” for them.


Even as losers, northeastern Democrats managed to come through as feeling superior to the red-state louts who, for some inexplicable reason, kept kicking their butts at the ballot box. It’s foolish to think they will be any more humble as winners, of course, as New York Congressman Charles Rangel demonstrated last week. It’s fair enough for Rangel to vow to correct what he sees as an imbalance between the amount of federal taxes collected in New York and the amount of federal revenue disbursed. Exactly why was it necessary, however, for Rangel to add that “Mississippi gets more than their (sic) fair share back in federal money, but who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?” Nice work, Charlie. Southern Republicans are really indebted to you for some additional incendiary ammo to fire at their Democratic opponents in 2008.

Further evidence, if we needed any, that bias against white southerners remains an entirely respectable prejudice comes from, of all places, Nevada, where in explaining why Democratic State Senator Dina Titus failed in her bid for the governorship, pundits uniformly cite her pronounced southern accent as a decided negative. Noting widespread complaint about Titus’s accent, one commentator concluded: “Her unfavorables were high not because of tax votes or her support for "programs," but because people didn't like how she sounded….” To be sure, it didn’t help much that how Titus ‘”sounded” to many folks was brash and loud rather than soft and syrupy like a true “southern belle,” Still it is truly revealing to find the Nevada blogosphere rife with blatantly negative comments about the southernness not only of Titus, but of her fellow Georgia native, Jack Carter, the son of ol’ “Jimmy Who?” who ran, rather quixotically, it seems, for one of state’s seats in the U. S. Senate. Complaining about Carter’s “yokel accent,” one blogger suggested, “Jack Carter and Dina Titus have to be pals because I know when they are talking together they don’t perceive the chalkboard scratching accents that they both have.”
If such comments seem all too familiar to southern whites, there is a new twist here. Carter was also condemned as a liberal “carpetbagger,” and he and Titus were characterized as “liberal birds of a feather.” Southern accents have been inaccurately and unfairly associated with many things, but liberalism? Do they really expect us to stand for that?


Although I was raised a Baptist, I backslid into the Episcopal faith twenty years ago and haven’t looked back. Imagine my surprise, then, to return home and find my answering machine blinking away with not one but two messages from none other than the Rev. Jerry Falwell. As it turns out, Rev. Falwell was not calling to beckon me back to the Baptist fold but to urge me to vote for state Senator Nancy Schaefer, his longtime “Christian friend” and one of the strongest “Christian official[s] serving the people of Georgia today.”
As a strident opponent of abortion Ms. Schaefer definitely meets the Rev.’s definition of “Christian,” but I wonder if Jesus would buy into her argument that Roe v. Wade should be overturned because legalized abortions are cutting into our supply of cheap labor, which, in turn, forces employers to hire illegal aliens. From what I’ve heard, Jesus just didn’t seem to think along these lines or make these kinds of connections. Perhaps he simply wasn’t as advanced in his Christian thinking as Sen. Schaefer.
Here’s something else that would never occur to Jesus, I bet. Sources tell me that in keeping with his party's commitment to "family values" Karl Rove is already negotiating with the Iraqis to have Saddam hung at halftime of the Super Bowl. Rumor is, before he decided to go this route, Rove asked himself, "What Would Janet Do?"

But Can he Tell A Joke?

The tumult over John Kerry's most recent awkward, obtuse attempt at humor epitomizes the Democratic Party's current persona as the political equivalent of the guy who couldn't get satisfaction in a brothel with a fist full of fifty dollar bills. Kerry, of all people, should know that his trying to be funny is the equivalent of his kindred spirit, Ozone Al, trying to do the funky chicken. The real point here, however, is not only did he try to be funny about the Iraq war, a subject few find chucklesome right now, but, though he was speaking to a group of students, he tried to be funny in a cute, clubby way that only people he deemed sophisticated and thoughtful (i.e.,liberal Democrats) would understand. The butt of his joke was supposed to be George W., the quintessential indifferent, uncritical, intellectually lazy student who got our troops "stuck" in Iraq, and the guy who should actually be apologizing to them non-stop for his lying, flip-flopping, manipulative and ultimately, deadly, handling of this tragic affair. With critics like Kerry, however, who needs to worry about supporters?
In the long run, Democrats desperate to see a silver lining in the cloud of feigned patriotic outrage that the Republicans are pumping out, may take some heart in the prospect that this latest gaffe-and-a half might at least keep John Kerry off the stage in 2008. In the meantime, however, this incident simply stokes my skepticism that next week's media hyper-hyped midterm elections are going to show the kind of Democratic gains that some polls would indicate. Charles Krauthammer points out that since World War II the average sixth-year midterm gains for the out-of-power party are twenty-nine seats in the House and six in the Senate. Even with the Iraq nightmare and a veritable GOP orgy of stealing, swindling and seducing, if the Demos do much better than that next week, I'll be mildly surprised. The very fact that a sizable number of voters still somehow believe that the Democrats could be worse than more of the same should tell us all we need to know about why so many of the victory-starved party's faithful are experiencing a severe "Barack Attack." He may not have much of a record, but at least he seems like a guy who knows how to tell a joke.

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