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being responsible for the fairness and integrity of the election, the very definition of conflict of interest only superseded by his being that sec of State while running for the Governorship).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.


Blogger counter-coulter said...

Excellent post, very thoughtful. Its nice to read a Canadian post that understands more of the American dynamic than I have been reading in other Canadian blogs.

One little qualm: "Dems holding a tie of 50-50" isn't quite accurate. Since the VP gets to cast tie-breaking votes, this would still be considered a Republican controlled Senate. This is why the Allen race is so important, it gives the Dems a "true" majority.

Wed Nov 08, 04:17:00 PM 2006  
Blogger counter-coulter said...

...ready to appoint former CIA Chief Casey to the SecDef position

FYI: It's Robert Gates, the CIA Director under Bush 41, that will replace Rummy.

Wed Nov 08, 04:38:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Scotian said...


I know that Cheney would hold the tie and would give the control to the GOP, but since the precedent of the last time of a even split (Cheney was also the tie vote then too) left the Dems with equal representation on committees and equal division of funds and resources it would be hard for them to run the Senate in such circumstances as a majority, especially after these results. I should have been a bit clearer in my post that I understood this, but seeing the results as they are it does not look like it will matter as it is more and more looking like 51-49 GOP down.

Thank you for the props regarding my working understanding of American political dynamics and environment. I have paid close attention to how the American political system works for almost as long as I have our own, both since before I hit puberty. Thanks, I knew it was Gates and not Casey, I don't know what I was thinking, I'll update that now, thanks.

Wed Nov 08, 04:55:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Red Tory said...

A very thoughtful analysis (as if I would expect anything but) and I don’t fundamentally disagree with any of it, although my take is a little different, in that I think it was more of a repudiation of the Bush administration than an affirmation of the Democratic agenda. While some might want to use this opportunity to bludgeon and excoriate the Republicans for their failures and abuses of power through a series of investigations I don’t think there’s a huge appetite for this, as justifiable as it may be. Americans are tired. Tired of the war, tired of the corruption, tired of jobs being shipped oversees, tired of being exploited, tired of feeling economically insecure… Clearly, they wanted a change in direction and wanted to see an effective government acting on their behalf for a change, which has certainly not been the case for the last several years of fear-mongering and chest-thumping jingoism. I know that sounds like a lot of populist clap-trap, but I think it reflects the mood of the electorate. It’s heartening in a sense that there seems to be a move towards the moderate middle-ground and a rejection of the right-wing extremism and polarizing wedge-issues that have characterized the political landscape for a long time now. Karl Rove’s act has gotten a little tired and people are fed up with being bullied and intimidated.

Well, that’s my two cents. I might have some more spare change regarding the subject as the implications sink in.

Wed Nov 08, 05:02:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Scotian said...


If corruption had not shown up as the single largest extremely important issue in the exit polls I would be far more cautious about stating there is a real desire for oversight investigations. I think part of the massive repudiation was not just the GOP agenda but also the GOP way of operating government. Americans are big on divided government and on the idea of the coequal branches of government, and the GOP Congress has let that slide for four years straight while a GOP President went on what may be the single largest power grab in American history.

That is why I think there is such an appetite for such in the wider public. I also agree this was more a throw the bums out, but it does speak volumes that no Dem incumbent federally or at the level of the governor's races lost, I do not know if that is totally unprecedented but if it is not it is extraordinarily rare. This shows that the GOP agenda is strongly repudiated and the message the Dems were laying out as their agenda does have support, especially things like the minimum wage increase and attention on health care. The Dems are in my mind better positioned to make long term gains with what they won then I think the CPC is in this country for the reasons I laid out, this should not be taken as my thinking the Dems have a mandate for more than oversight and restoring the balance of powers between the Legislative and Executive branch, but there I really do think the Dems got a mandate.

Wed Nov 08, 05:29:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Red Tory said...

I totally agree that the Dems can use this as an opportunity to build their support looking ahead to 2008 and leverage this to their advantage, but as you cautioned, they have to be careful not to overreach or be excessively arrogant about the repudiation that has been rendered on the Bush administration. The Democrat victories have all been quite narrow for the most part indicating a still highly polarized electorate. Perhaps it’s my conservative nature, but I would be cautious about determining this to be a firm “mandate” keeping in mind Bush’s premature braggadocio about having earned “political capital” in the last election and look how awfully and rapidly that was squandered.

Wed Nov 08, 06:36:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Scotian said...


I well understand your reservations on this point, and it is certainly reasonable. It is just my observation from watching the American political dynamic as closely as I have for the last several years that in the past year since Katrina and after the Terri Schiavo fiasco that the broader American public is very upset at the rather radical realignment of powers between Executive and Legislative branches. Especially considering when Bushco has used those unchallenged by the Legislative branch power grabs for such unsavoury and un-American things as torture and spying on Americans without warrant nor judicial oversight. We shall see.

Wed Nov 08, 06:56:00 PM 2006  
Blogger counter-coulter said...

Red Tory said...
...excoriate the Republicans for their failures and abuses of power through a series of investigations I don’t think there’s a huge appetite for this, as justifiable as it may be.

This is where I part ways with RT. I think that Dems have a great opportunity, and even an imperative, to investigate WH and Repub wrong-doing. I don't believe the Dems will even pay much of a price for doing so, as a long as other things are being worked on (i.e. minimum wage, health care, etc). One need look no further than recent Repub history with their Clinton investigations. They (Repubs) held investigations in to the most nonsensical of things, nothing on the scale of which the WH will be investigated, against a very popular persident and paid virtually no price at all. It didn't hurt them in 2000, 2002 or 2004.

The only ones that put out the "the American public doesn't want it" or "it makes the Dems look petty and vindictive" are the sycophants that really don't want the President's misdeeds out in the open for all to see. I'm sure that they're will be all kinds of howling coming from neo-cons and the like but I don't think, in the final analysis, that the Dems would be any worse for wear.

Wed Nov 08, 07:33:00 PM 2006  
Blogger counter-coulter said...

counter-coulter said...
The only ones that put out the "the American public doesn't want it" or "it makes the Dems look petty and vindictive" are the sycophants that really don't want the President's misdeeds out in the open for all to see.

Minor Correction: I do not believe that RT falls in the "sycophant" category. :-)

Wed Nov 08, 07:41:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Red Tory said...

CC -- Thanks for the correction. It’s my feeling, and really it’s just that, nothing more than a personal feeling, that the vindictive aspect isn’t really what folks were looking for. I think they want a new direction moving forward in a positive direction rather than getting mired in the craptacular details of what went wrong in the past. It’s sort of like a bad nightmare that you just want to forget about, put out of your mind and not relive all over again.

Wed Nov 08, 09:14:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Jacques Beau Vert said...

I have very little to add here.

I think this more anti-GOP than pro-Democrats, but - it does give the Democrats a huge opportunity to make a good, lasting showing of themselves.

Pelosi and Reid stunned me with their victory - I expected a loss. However, they should step aside, I feel (they won't). They have no ideas and no vision for the nation.

And I fully agree that this could potentially be the beginning of the end for the GOP for a long time - I believe their reputation and image could sustain very serious tarnishing and scarring during the next two years.

All of which you guys have already covered, in greater detail than I. Terrific post, Scotian.

Thu Nov 09, 12:33:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Jacques Beau Vert said...

PS Was stunned at Rumsfeld's departure. For a party known for ruthless calculation, this seems crazy - the time to dump him was summer, or keep him on til the end. Less than 12 hours after the election, they panic and crumble??

Don't get me wrong - I'm thrilled that they did so.

Thu Nov 09, 12:34:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scotian, hope all is well.
I'm thankfull that you are posting again for mnay reasons.

My comments have a bit of relevance to the post.

I am so tired of labels. I want my taxes to be spent wisely on the issues that confront all my fellow Canadians,but feel strongly about this tendency to push one Canadian against another. Witness the abominable situation regarding the Aboriginals.
We are all Canadians. We all deserve the same regard from our elected officials.
I'm sick to death with the crap about the American way - that is not how the people that I know feel. Most of my friends recognize that the problems that we encounter on a daily basis are because we do not take care of our people. If a youngster had a choice, do you really think he would become a gang menber and kill someone?
In addition, follow the money! Who profits from all this sh@t? Politicans? Electorate?
Advertisers/Marketers? YES. Time to look at the profits and integrity of the major marketing firms, because they are the ones who come up with the scummy crap and arrange for television/radio/press coverage;.
Sorry, I'm off kilter lately, so please forgive me.

Sat Nov 11, 01:27:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Nicole said...

Hey Scotian!

Hope things are well, and you had a nice weekend watching your parents home.

Just thought I would drop in as I have missed you and left a reply to our last exchange a week ago and am curious as to what your take on it is.

Take care, Nicole

Thu Nov 16, 11:31:00 AM 2006  
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