Some early morning, off-the-cuff observations about the elections:
* What do I feel about the 2006 elections? Like my country has taken some kind of big goddamn sanity pill, that’s what. I don’t want to oversell the importance of this particular election, but at the moment I feel like it’s probably the most important election in my voting life to date — essentially, the one that was a referendum on just how important the Constitution really is. And we passed. Goodbye unitary executive. Goodbye rubber stamp. Goodbye Dubya’s “mandate.” Y’all really won’t be missed. Yes, this election mattered. Quite a lot. We can quibble if it’s the most important recent election, but anyone who tries to tell you it doesn’t really matter much is either delusional or trying to screw with your head.
* Having said that, I understand to the large majority of voters, this election wasn’t about the Constitution, but about Iraq and corruption, and the general disenchantment with the President and his policies. My response to this is: Hey, whatever works. If people were pissed off about the war and the Congressional leadership and the side effect is that separation of powers endures as more than some words on a parchment held under leaded glass at the US Archives, I’m okay with that. I can accept that many Americans don’t have my own dorkmungous concerns as their own. This was a problem with one solution, but many different ways of getting to that solution.
* I certainly do hope that the new Democratic leadership in the House (and possibly the Senate, if the vote does but hold) gets it through its head that this election was about George Bush and the culture of incompetence and corruption, not about everyone turning blue as a pair of Levi’s. This doesn’t mean — as Republican and conservative spin monkeys will start saying, oh, right about now— that the Democrats will have to legislate and act like junior Republicans. It does mean that Democrats need to understand why they’re in power now and what the electorate expects them to do first, which is to act as competent damage control for the excesses of the last several years.
The shorter version of this is that America did not go Blue overnight: It’s still the same purplish place it always was. The big difference is that all those purple people lost their confidence in Bush and the GOP and went with the people who promised they’d act like grown-ups. If the Democrats can do that for the US, they’ll probably be fine in the next election, too.
* As an aside to this, an headline I read on the National Review site last night that went something along the line of “The Real Voter Fraud: how Democrats are using moderates to usher in extreme leaders.” Yes, well. The Democrats wouldn’t be the first to do that, now, would they.
* I’m a petty enough human — but an honest enough human — to tell you that I’m going to enjoy the next several days of conservative and GOP commentators whining and mewling and gnashing their teeth and walking around like they’ve just taken a bat to the back of the smug, soft heads, and taking the position, per Ann Coulter, that since the Democrats didn’t take 60 seats in the House they’ve clearly failed. Bitch, please. The Republicans gerrymander Congressional districts for eternal Republican majority and they still lose 27 seats? And they picked up no seats from Democratic incumbents? Wow, those guys must suck. The fact that Republicans lost the former seat of Tom DeLay, master of the Republican gerrymander effort, is just one of the sweet ironies whose flavor will suffuse in one’s mouth for months, if not years. Yes, yes. Today I think I’ll go down to the store, buy some ingredients and make one of these:
Then I’m going to fire up some conservative Web sites while I enjoy my pie. Mmmm… pie.
Even so, I don’t expect to spend any substantial amount time in schadenfreude mode. Oddly enough, I don’t actually see politics merely as touch football for doughy former high school treasurers. It’s not about putting points on the board or talking trash, it’s about making sure what we do as a country is good for us and reflects our ideals as a nation. In the last few years incompetence and corruption have done us a lot of damage; it might be nice to focus on correcting that.
* What does this all mean for the GOP, other than they’re not in charge of the House and possibly not the Senate either? It means a lot of things, which I’ll probably opine on at at length at a later time. For now, I hope it means that they realize they’ve come to the end of their current line of strategy, which is to milk the credulous extreme right for its votes. That cow’s done dried up and it seems somewhat annoyed at all the tugging. Hopefully some Republican introspection will be in order, and I welcome it. I am not reflexively anti-GOP; I’ve told people before that what I suspect I really am is a “Rockefeller Republican.” But it’s also equally true that the GOP has some work to do before I can trust it in national elections. I’ll be interested to see where it goes from there.
* Coming closer to home, holy crap, did the Democrats ever have a big night in Ohio. They pretty much ran the table on the major statewide offices; the only Republican who won was the one running for State Auditor, and whatever the importance of that office, it’s not one from which springs a whole lot of critical policy. And it’s worth noting that in the Governor’s race, Kenneth Blackwell got stomped; he got just 37% of the vote, while Strickland got 60%. Hell, Blackwell barely won my county, which is so damn red that it voted 70% for Bush in 2004; Blackwell got 49% of the vote in Darke county, compared with 46% of the vote for Strickland (Mike DeWine, who lost to Sherrod Brown, did rather better in my county; he carried it 60 – 40). Blackwell deserves the stomping he got, not because he’s GOP but because he’s the very definition of a political hack who ran his campaign on sleaze and innuendo; hopefully he won’t be back.
Democrats even won seats in Ohio’s legislature, which is one of these GOP gerrymandering wonders, although they didn’t get a majority there. That’s fine. If I’m for divided government nationally, I’m not entirely sure why I wouldn’t be for it on the state level.
* If rabid Democrats need a sign that just because Democrats won that night the US hasn’t turned a deep blue, they should look at the fact that even more anti-same-sex marriage amendments passed last night, some more egregious than the others. There’s good news in that South Dakota’s unconstitutionally horrible abortion law was voted right off the books, however. Stunning news flash: Most Americans are somewhere in the middle when it comes to most social issues! I know, I can hardly believe it myself.
So, those are my early impressions. Thoughts?