"May you live in interesting times."
Ancient Chinese curse
In a few days, the political silly-season will come to an end, to be immediately followed by the autopsy/blame/jubilation period. That’s when all the political almost-made-its, their supporters, the pundits, the victors, talking heads, pol-junkies (like me), the losers, and everyone else under the sun will once again – as at the end of every political campaign period – offer their wisdom and analysis of what went right or wrong in the then-defunct campaign. They’ll offer pearls of hind-sighted wisdom, blindly project the impact on future campaigns, and generally make fools of themselves.
How can I pass up the opportunity to do the same? After all, who can ever forget that memorable picture of the jubilant Harry Truman, the day after his election to the Presidency, holding up the newspaper with the bold headline “Dewey Wins” on page 1 above the fold?
I predict the Republicans maintaining control of both houses of Congress, probably with slimmer margins. At worst, they lose one house, but I don’t think so. The main reason? The Democrats are even more inept than the Republicans. Exhibit A: John Kerry’s “humor-malfunction” (remember Janet Jackson?). Trying to disguise an actual gross misjudgment – using the old 60s rhetoric of “leave college, end up in Nam” in the modern era -- as simply happenstance, and trying to shift the blame to others, coupled with his refusal to apologize. The American people see right through that kind of thing, have contempt for it, and react strongly to it. Ask Dan Rather. Further, as with Rather, Kerry’s timing couldn’t have been worse. Trying to spring an “October Surprise”, it’s backfiring badly, happening too close to the election to allow the issue to cool down. In addition (as if more is needed) he’s also again badly misjudged the mood of the country toward the military; we’re no longer in the era of the popular perception of soldiers as “baby-killers”. They are now very admired. Kerry, of course, as well as a large portion of the Democrat party, is still mired in the Vietnam era, and simply doesn’t get it. To them, adding the phrase “… but we support the troops” forgives all sins.
Further, in spite of the scandals on both sides of the aisle, and the teeter-tottering poll results, we must bear in mind two things. First, the only poll that counts takes place on the first Tuesday in November. Second, in spite of the disdain of the electorate for Congress and the parties, as Tip O’Neill said, “all politics is local”. People may deplore the institution or party, and give it very bad ratings in polls, and yet still really feel motivated to support their local Representative, “Good Old Jim”, because they know him and like him on a local and individual level.
Let’s suppose I’m wrong (I think that may have actually happened once…. I have to think about that) and the Democrats take one or both chambers. They’ll be put in the position of having to perform, and be judged by the electorate based on that performance. In two short years, they’ll have to have some kind of record to which they can point as the 2008 elections loom; more on that later. If they don’t achieve a majority this time around after all their own hysteria this election season, what they'll do over the next couple of years should be highly amusing and most destructive to their own party. I'd pay money to see that.
Further, there's always the outside possibility that the Dems take a real drubbing on Tuesday. Then, with an even smaller minority, they see the handwriting on the wall and start shifting Right, pushing the Reps ahead of them. I’d pay even MORE money to see that.
The earlier-mentioned possibility of the Dems taking both houses actually poses more of a problem for them, in my estimation, than losing. Because, at that point, the reins will be in their hands. Which way will they guide the horse of policy? Will they promote programs supported by Middle America, and in a fashion that can withstand the filibuster or the veto while gaining popular support? Or will they prove themselves to be simply empty suits, masters of rhetoric who, when given the chance, find themselves holding an empty bag of tricks, with nothing better to offer than a hatred of George Bush? If so, the Democrat party will quickly find itself scrambling around on the discard pile of history, wondering what went wrong.
However, let’s assume I’m right and the result is favorable to the Republicans. They will then be looking forward to 2008, when EVERYTHING’S on the table, as the next election is the Big Leagues, the election for President as well as the Congressional elections, with no incumbent coattails for anybody to ride. That will be the tipping point for the R party: they can either continue pandering Left, in which case they are in REAL trouble in 2 years, or they can start moving back in the Right direction, which will behoove them as a party as well as the country as a whole. If they are successful this time, regardless of how large or slim the margin is, they should consider it a gift; and use the next two years as a period of rehabilitation.