04 November 2006

U.S. Mid-Term Elections Predictions

The House will go Democratic for the first time since the early years of the Clinton Administration, maybe by a comfortable margin. Americans are always wary of power becoming too entrenched by either political party. The Republicans have had 12 uninterrupted years, so it is due. There are also several significant issues that the Republicans have not handled well since 2004, and they will be held to account for that. The House fairly significantly represents the idea that "all politics is local," with a measure of national and international issues thrown in as well. Given the stakes both domestically and around the world at this time, there may be some reluctance to hand the reins of power to a party that hasn't been particularly coherent in finding a way forward and seems to only offer up scathing criticisms of what is happening. Criticizing is easy, governing is hard. The big question, which Charles Krauthammer raises and I second, is: should they wrest control of the House from the Republicans, which Democratic Party will govern? The sane, sound leadership or the loopy left that has all sorts of bright ideas from an immediate Iraq withdrawal to impeaching Bush.

The Senate will be a more difficult battle. Will American voters slap the Republicans on the wrist by handing over the House but allow them to retain the Senate, creating the first divided government in quite some time? Or will it be an all-out shift to the Democrats as a rebuke of Bush and the Republican Party? The Senate has a heavy focus on foreign policy, and there has been a lot of discontent with the handling of the Iraq, Iran, and North Korea files by both the government and the administration. But there is also that wariness of giving too much control to the Democrats. That being said, I think that the Senate will either go Democrat by a very slim margin or it will end up divided, creating mass potential for political deadlock.

The 2002 elections marked a critical realignment (a favoured phrase of my old professor, Dr. Carl Hodge) in the American political landscape, or so it seemed at the time. With 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, and the brewing war in Iraq, national security issues dominated the scene, and Americans flowed to the Republican Party. Democrats have wrestled with the label of being "soft" on national security since they abandoned it in the 1972 elections, and they were trounced on it in 2002. It was a very rare occurrence to have the White House party actually gain seats in both the House and Senate in off-year elections, and the consensus was that Americans had internalized the War on Terror (as it was strictly limited to at the time) as a fact of life and thus placed their faith in the Republican Party to guide the way. But in an expanded War on Terror & Tyranny, they've faltered and stumbled. Combine this seeming incompetence with natural American instincts about government, and it's a recipe for change. If, and it is still an if, control of government goes back to the Democrats, it will not be a critical realignment, signifying that a broad spectrum of Americans look to the Democrats to solve their issues; rather, it will be a tepid embrace after being let down by the Republicans.


C. LaRoche said...

This is interesting, Richard. As much as we poli types like to look at the big picture, though, I think a certain amount of what goes on on Tuesday will be a function of individual races with individual candidates. Although Bush's record as a President is certainly in the pipe, as is the "macro" behaviour of Republicans in both houses, there's probably a lot of play in who's running for what where, and what their individual record is regarding what they've done for their constituents. The Massachusetts races, for example, which I can watch on my TV because our NBC feeder goes through Boston, is mostly devoid of references to Bush or larger agendas, and is focussed almost entirely on what the various candidates have done in the Boston/MA region.

This is of course annoying for people like you and me since we simply cannot be familiar with the ins-and-outs of so many individual elections.

RGM said...

I certainly agree with you. I've watched a few minutes here and there of the stuff happening in Massachusetts, and it does reinforce the idiom "all politics is local." That could just be a result of watching gubernatorial debates and excerpts from candidates for the House.

CNN does more to "nationalize" certain issues and do that big picture stuff, even when it's not entirely appropriate (can you imagine 50 years ago the Mark Foley stuff being something that affected the national voter conscience?), but in these types of elections there is a greater emphasis on domestic and local issues than the larger context of America in and of the world. It may get the occasional piece in a Senate race but not much more. And yes, that can be annoying, but since we're Canucks our desires are probably pretty low in their considerations.