Thursday, November 9. 2006
A couple of thoughts about the election. It's worth noting again that I've paid very little attention to the gory details. I'm not one of those news junkie types. I take a look at the Wichita Eagle daily and a glance at the New York Times on Sunday. I check out a few blogs, but nothing on the right and nothing closer to the Democratic Party than Salon -- only after the polls closed did I pull up Salon's War Room. Occasionally see some TV news, but not much recently. The net effect of this is that I've managed to keep relatively free of preconceptions about the Democrats this time. But the results strike me thus:
The Democrats' pragmatic centrism doesn't bother me all that much. It's built on the idea of unifying popular opposition to the Republicans, and we've rarely if ever had more motivation to form a unified front. By contrast, the New Democrats were out to divide the party by routing the left -- Nader in 2000 was one of many results of that strategy. But the problems the right has ignored, accelerated, or outright created have penetrated the mainstream so thoroughly that that's where the battle lines are drawn. Democratic centrism still has one foot in reality, and the issues are increasingly what will demand our attention.
Still, the Democrats still have a lot to learn. The idea that by controlling Congress they'll be governing is certainly false. The presidency is still an extraordinary power base, even for presidents far less megalomaniacal than Bush. And unity will be harder to maintain as the Republicans push their wedge issues. But for the last six years the Democrats in Washington have been all but totally silenced, and that at least will start to change. The media follows what they regard as legitimate power centers, and control of Congress gives the Democrats one. That sets the stage for 2008, which will depend on two things: how badly Bush continues to fare, and how credible the Democrats become. In many ways, the election this one closely resembles is 1930. The Crash of 1929 turned a shocked nation against the Republicans, but the 1930 election was still razor thin: the Republicans held control of Congress by a margin so thin it evaporated before the 1932 election, which Roosevelt won in a landslide. I don't know who the Democrats have who could do that, but any signs of competency at all are good signs. Bush, on the other hand, is sure to do his part.
The Wichita Eagle today showed surprising love for the Democrats. In article after article, they celebrated how Kansans turned to MODERATION. Nowhere in the paper could you find the dreaded word LIBERAL. Admittedly, moderate is a label that still can cross party lines, as was the case for a couple of Republicans elected to take the state Board of Education back from the creationists. But the banner of moderation was mostly held up by Democrats. The real import of the election appears to be that the Democrats have gained legitimacy as the party of the sane center. That in itself is a remarkable comeback for a party that has been battered and reeling for most of the last 25 years. That should give them new confidence and resolve. And as branding it's a plus: much better to be viewed as a moderate than as a liberal, I'd say.
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