I have finally decided to issue a few thoughts on the election last week. I’ve been exceedingly busy these last few days, and up until the election I spent considerable time looking at some of the local issues. So you might wonder what I thought of the age we live in now that the Democrats have taken not only both Federal houses, but also both houses and the Governorship of Oregon. It’s getting increasingly difficult for a Republican to win in this state, although Gordon Smith is still pretty popular as an incumbent.
First the Senate/House races. So the Democrats took back over from a pitiable Republican contingent. When the Republicans took over 12 years ago, they were replacing a ages old Democrat led institution because moderate America was looking for a slightly more conservative congress in the fiscal area. There were some other reasons too, but the Contract with America was all about the moral and core values of conservatism, and people believed that they had a shot at changing what up until that point had been a basically stagnant Democratically
So they get elected and for the next 6 years fight with Bill Clinton to get stuff passed. Some of which they did, due to Clinton’s smart move to the center of politics. Some they also didn’t get through, due to the fact that Clinton is in the opposing party as much as anything. In the same hour, the economy churned
forward with the added productivity that the internet fashioned. And so we had limited spending, due to all the vetoes and budget battles, and we had extra tax revenue due to the burgeoning economy. And so you get a budget surplus.
Now, after 12 years, the last 6 of which were spent under a Republican President, with the exception of support for Bush during the War on Terror, we have a congress who have ramped up federal spending to heights that congresses back from antiquity couldn’t imagine. Definitely backing out of a few of those promises from the Contract with America, me thinks.
They’ve also spent some time doing terrible damage control from events that they never had much control over, like the Foley incident, or Hurricane Katrina. Truly these events could not be blamed on the Republicans as a whole, and yet that’s what American has just done. They’ve sunk the Republicans not because they’re wrong on foreign politics and the war, but because they abandoned conservative ideals and pushed the pork.
And yet that’s not what the Democrats are about. They are going to be emboldened with the knowledge that America voted them into power because Bush is wrong on the war and we need to cut our losses and get troops out of Iraq. They tried to look tough, but the leadership has been making cut and run
noises for some time now, so I guess we have to live in hope that Bush can control congress and finally reach out across the aisle in order to maintain what is the correct course of action (by which I mean continuing toughness in the greater war, not specific operations in Iraq).
However, from what I’ve been reading about the committee that was set up to study the effort in Iraq and make recommendations (like deployment or some such), it sounds like Democrats have an out here. Except for those in the Senate who are vehemently opposed to us being there, the rest of the Democrats can wait until this committee has finished and then decide if staying the course is the right thing to do, or whatever the recommendation is. Now that Democrats are in power, they have a bit more responsibility to conduct foreign affairs sanely instead of just criticize everything the Republicans were doing. So perhaps saner heads will rule. Here’s hoping.
But I reject the notion that the Democrats have a “mandate” to do anything. I’ve read several stories about how the election was a mandate for larger government (not in a positive way), or a mandate to get our troops out of Iraq, or a mandate for minimum wage and universal health care. Just read a bit on the politics of the change in majority and you’ll see this type of talk.
However, considering that the Democrats had no over-reaching vision in this last election, and that the Republican losses appear to have more to do with general dissatisfaction with many Republican congressmen straying from core conservative values, I’m wondering if you can pull anything substantial from the voting public in this last election. The Democrats didn’t really push anything hard this year, except for nailing Republicans on ethics and economic issues, where they were weak. They spent a particular amount of time on Iraq as well, but Bush’s numbers are up in that arena in the last couple of months, and the “cut and run” philosophy of the Democratic base can hardly be the carrot that enticed moderate voters.
I think this was more Republican voters straying elsewhere or staying home.
If I had one message for the Democrats who are wanton to ad lib the “mandate” talk, it would be thus: Be Statesmen and women, not political myna birds. Don’t govern by polls, do what you think is right, not what you think will get you elected, or what your party is forcing you to do. That would be a nice piece of advice for any politician, but I think Dems need to stop focusing on what they think the public put them in office for.
I look forward to a two year period where either Bush and Congress are held static, dug in their trenches, or Bush and the Democrats learn to work together unlike the two have done for the past 6 years. If the former happens, at least spending will be held in check for a couple of years. However if a Democrat wins the Presidency we’ll have a situation we haven’t in a while, which is full Democratic control of the federal government, and won’t it be interesting to see how they react in that mode. Will it be any different than what we just had for 6 years?
By the by, normally I link to the stuff I've been reading which contributed to the thoughts you see on this page. However, this is a collection of thoughts over a week, and the links inherent would be difficult to amass, and so if you want to find out where all this is coming from, just look at any paper or blog over the last week or so.