Thursday, November 09, 2006

An Overdue Victory

I will comment more extensively about Medellin in a later post (in short: totally awesome), but since there was an awfully important election the other day, my immediate reaction takes precedence.

Well, it goes without saying that I'm pleased with the Democrat victory. I'm also particularly pleased that George Allen lost. In my mind, he's one of the most typical politicians - willing to say or do anything to win, completely dishonest, and just not very nice. Hopefully, his loss will forever slay his presidential aspirations as I don't want to risk a demagogue like him ever getting their hands on the national seat of power.

Some people will try to spin this as a clear mandate for the Democratic Party. I'm not in agreement with that statement. Instead I see two trends:

1. This was a national repudiation of Iraq and GOP corruption. Face it, the general public doesn't know much or care much about the finer details of policy. Instead, they see broad strokes. And one thing is clear - the public is extremely disatisfied with a party that has more scandals than your average Hollywood star. It's tough to stomach a party that has multiple members indicted or resigning in disgrace. Couple that sentiment with a general feeling that Iraq is going badly (never mind that we were all lied to about WMDs) and change is in the offing. Exit polls confirm that these two issues were extremely significant in voter decisions. Therefore, to suggest that this was an endorsement of a Democratic platform is to ignore the larger national trends that trumped all other concerns.

2. Evidence of this can be found in the closeness of the races. While the Dems won big, they didn't win big in the vote. Many races have come down to a few hundred or thousand votes. This was an extremely close election, much like previous elections, but this time the Dems won out. If the Dem Agenda was so exceedingly popular, then this should have been a landslide, not a nail biter.

Further, there is a sentiment in some democratic/liberal corners that the Dems can now "change" the course of the Iraq war. Adrianna Huffington (who alternates between intelligent and a bit hysterical), in particular, pointedly criticized Howard Dean for an interview that he gave on CNN on Tuesday night. She labeled the interview "shocking". I disagree.

I happened to see the whole interview and the only "shocking" thing was that Dean actually spoke the truth (a rarity from political figures). Huffington was bent out of shape because Dean said, essentially, that a Dem win doesn't mean that they can change Iraq. She felt that this was not only incorrect, but also would discourage West Coast voters from going to the polls.

She was wrong on both counts. Not only did the West Coast vote at the national turnout average (about 40%), but the idea that the Dems can now "control" Iraq (policy) is a joke.

Let's face it. Iraq is a total disaster and no US governing body is likely to ever be in "control" of it. The idea that the Dems should have an Iraq plan (a common Republican talking point) strikes me as fundamentally ignorant of the nature of the US system of government, as well as irritating me to no end since they didn't get us into this mess.

Anyone who has taken a high school civics course should be aware that the Congress doesn't make or shape foreign policy. The idea that a new Congress could fundamentally alter US foreign policy in Iraq ignores that Bush has the wheel and the Congress will always be the backseat driver.

Now, that doesn't mean that the Congress can't use the "power of the purse" to challenge the Cowboy President. They certainly can. But at best, this will shape policy at the margins. Of course, funding or not funding the War on Terror will now be decided on its merits, not on knee jerk partisanship, but it's not likely that we're going to see fundamental changes in Iraq. The Dems don't want to be known as the "cut and run" party, so I can't imagine them defunding the war.

That being said, there can also be (and should be) investigations into a number of scandals, including the contract process leading up to the war in Iraq, the Vice President's Energy Policy, warrentless government spying, and Guantanamo Bay. There will also be some changes in the Congress, a new minimum wage is likely, along with various other domestic policy changes.

These are all good things. Also a good thing is that the Cowboy President is going to be frustrated when he tries to appoint conservative judges to the bench. The Dems now have the power to stymie those efforts.

One thing that will not occur is the rollback of the tax cut. This was a frequent GOP talking point before the election and it continues to smack of stupidity. Those tax cuts were already locked in until 2010 meaning the next president will make that decision.

Overall, I think the new Congress is going to be good for America. I hope that they actually act on their priorities. I hope that they start a new election reform process (we need to scrap those electronic voting machines once and for all, as well as institute some sort of "truth in advertising" law for political advertisements).

But at the end of the day, I don't expect a ton of things to go through. You still have the possibility of a presidential veto for hotly contested items and the Big Game of 2008 is already rearing its head. Instead, I expect the Dems to do things at the margin (many good things, I might add) and not rock the boat too much. Politically, there's too much risk in radical change, especially when they can watch the Cowboy President's International Doctrine continue to go down in flames.

Finally, even though I wasn't in the US for this election, it looks like this was the dirtiest election in recent history. American Democracy is being shoved into the gutter by the "Rove School of Politics" and it's disgusting. The fact that a candidate in Maryland "imported" homeless people from Philly to hand out misleading fliers outside of polling places is incredible. Also unbelievable is the number of "robo-calls" from GOP candidates doling out misinformation about their opponents and breaking the law to do so. And that doesn't even begin to breach the subject of dishonest ads and outright lies offered by both parties (although the majority this cycle seemed to stem from GOP candidates).

If there ever was a crisis in democracy, this is it. The United States can't credibly argue that it's the world's strongest democracy is every election is contested by investigations, corruption, dirty tricks, and outright illegal behavior by either party. We've got to fix this and it's up to the Dems to get the process going.


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