After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

American 2006 Midterm Results: What does this mean?

Last night we have seen something significant happen in the USA. We have seen the House of Representatives clearly flip despite all the gerrymandering, despite all the barriers the GOP had spent 12 years putting into place to make their seats as secure as possible, and flip with what looks to end up with at least the same amount or maybe even a couple seats more than the GOP went into this midterm with. We have seen the Senate appear to at the minimum end up with the Dems holding a tie of 50-50 (including Lieberman caucusing with the Dems as he repeatedly promised he would along with the elected independent from Vermont the sole self described socialist being the other vote bringing things to 50 seats) and what could well be a Dem 51-49 Senate if Allen loses the recount he is almost certainly going to be calling for. As I write this Webb is up roughly 7000 votes, and I doubt Allen in the end will be able to make up that much of a difference. If it was under 2000 I would be far less comfortable with such a belief, but unless Allen can get that close or closer in the canvassing that is currently going on any recount is likely to end up with his defeat. We have seen the majority of Governorships shift from GOP to Dem hands with a gain of six giving the Dems 28 governors to 22, including places like Ohio (One of my personal joys of last night was watching Blackwell go down in crashing/flaming defeat, I really held him in contempt after the way he tilted the elections of 2004 in Ohio for the Bush-Cheney team as their re-elect chair while simultaneously being responsible for the fairness and integrity of the election, the very definition of conflict of interest only superseded by his being that sec of State while running for the Governorship). This was a real tsunami in American politics, do not let anyone try to tell you otherwise, and it was not because the Dems only put up conservative candidates as several of those candidates failed and more populist and centrist candidates one from the assessments I have seen to date.

There is one last piece of data that shows this was not an anti-incumbent mood but an anti-GOP mood, and that being I have not seen any reports of a Dem incumbent losing any race at the federal level nor at the Governor's level, something so highly unusual and possibly unprecedented that it cannot be read any other way. This was a clear repudiation of Bushco's policies and the GOP Congress that was content to give the Bush WH a free hand with limited to no oversight. Indeed, we still have never seen the several year promised Senate report of the Administration use of intelligence in the runup to the 2003 Iraq invasion, we have not seen the full picture of what really went on at Abu Ghraib, we have not seen whether for all the claims of good intelligence gained from "coercive" interrogations actually is proven out by the facts since the GOP Congress at every turn helped the Bush WH hide this information from the public and from the Dems, which is one reason why the Dems will almost certainly have to do intensive oversight operations during the next two years to see the real state of affairs as opposed to the fanciful fairy tales the Bush WH and GOP Congress have been selling the last several years.

This was an election driven by a desire for significant change, so the idea that the Dems must act in a conservative manner and be the ones compromising more to Bush than the other way around is GOP spin IMHO, not an accurate assessment/reading of the vote. This was clearly a "throw the bums out" election for the GOP, which means what they stood for, how they acted, and what they claimed Americans found to be the most important issues of the day were *rejected*. The Dems agenda was accepted, and while this was like the Canadian election last time out where the CPC were given a limited ability to prove themselves to a skeptical public the Dems are better positioned to make significant gains over the next election cycle, unlike the CPC in my view. They hold more power with the House and probably the Senate than the CPC does with their minority, and the Dems are clearly a broad based coalition party unlike the Harper CPC which more resembles the GOP in terms of how narrow the thinking/ideological framework they all agree to work with is. There is also a lot more anger at the GOP shown in this election than was shown at the federal Liberals last time out, and there is likely far less tolerance/patience for any more "my way or the highway" approach to governing.

We see now that Bush has dumped Rumsfeld and is ready to appoint former CIA Chief Gates (edited to replace Casey with Gates, my mistake since I knew better, I don't know why I made this mistake 4:42 PM Atlantic) to the SecDef position, this after going out of his way very recently prior to the election that Rumsfeld would stay for the last two years regardless of the results of the midterm elections, yet another Bush flip-flop say one thing before an election do the exact opposite after the election. If anyone needed a clearer sign that Bush has been severely weakened it is this decision. Whatever else Rumsfeld was doing he was providing a powerful lightening rod for Bush on the conduct of the Iraq war and to lose that rod places Bush's own legacy and Iraq's failures being tied to him and that legacy that much closer, not something Bush can have wanted.

This also shows the Rovian strategy of playing first to the base and that there was no longer a centrist vote in America proven wrong. Both sides turned out their votes, it was the independents that decided this election splitting nearly 2-1 for the Dems instead of splitting evenly as Rove had come to believe was the new norm. I suspect there are many GOP strategists that are livid with Rove and company over this loss and in particular the decision to nationalize the race with Bush campaigning on Iraq in the last weeks after the GOP had spent so much effort trying to localize the election as their only hope of holding onto Congressional power. It will be very interesting to watch the blame game in the GOP go on over the next several weeks to months.

Bottom line, I think this election signifies the beginnings of a generational shift back to the Dems from the GOP. I think with the loss of so many GOP moderates leaving mostly the more extremist element elected while the Dems have a very broad based party will help the Dems be seen as the true representatives of the average American and the middle ground. Indeed, the Rove strategy may end up having as it's legacy the empowerment of the Dem majority long term and not the GOP one he was trying so hard to create over the past six years. I think Bush and the GOP are beginning the long dark nightmare of their souls with this result, this was not a blip, this was a trend. The only way I see this not happening is if the Dems in Congress are too cocky and significantly overreach from where the American public is at the time, and I think Pelosi and Reid are smart enough to avoid that given they appear to have taken control of both chambers of Congress this time out. We shall see.

This was a major wave election in America, and a wave I do not think has fully run it's course, and the undertow in the 2008 elections could make the ones we saw this time out look weak by comparison depending on what the oversight investigations turns up. If they turn up the degree of criminal and extra-Constitutional actions taken by the Bush WH that I believe are there the GOP is going to come out of the last two years of Bush with a very tarnished and blackened reputation at least as poorly positioned as the Dems were after the 60s-70s for the last three decades until now.

This is my read on the meaning of what we saw in the 2006 midterm elections, so what is your read?

Additional at 5:33 Atlantic:

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent post here regarding the reason why I say oversight and confrontation over how the Bush Administration has usurped the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches is needed. There has been an ongoing Constitutional crisis going on ever since the Bush Presidency started making powergrabs and dismissing Congress as irrelevant as it has done in its pursuit of the Imperial Presidency. I recommend the link to all.