November 8th, 2006

Regime Change Begins at Home

Hey old man, get those reindeer off my roof!

If my friends saw me now, nobody would recognize me. The Doonesbury eyes are gone. My eyes have been saucer-sized for so long, tonight, that my face is getting cramps. McCaskill won, which I would privately have bet money against. The Stem Cell initiative won ... by almost exactly, and not coincidentally, identical numbers. The minimum wage increase passed by a huge margin, 3 to 1. Not only did Democrats win a majority in the House, they won a huge majority in the House, one big enough that we could lose every RINO in the party and still win a vote, plus a clear majority of the governors' seats, and ... it sure looks like, at least, as of when I post this, the unbelievable, nobody planned for it, I doubt even Howard Dean really secretly thought it was possible, majority in the Senate. Oh, and how did I forget? Both Ken Blackwell and Kathleen Harris were humiliated. And so many things went right down to the wire. I've never seen an upset so prolonged, so agonizing, so intense in my life. I was literally on the edge of my seat for hours.

By 11pm, I already had this story written in my mind, and was just waiting for McCaskill's concession speech. I was baffled why the AP and NBC were being so hesitant to call the race for Jim Talent. Huge percentages of precincts were in, and Talent had been 5% to 6% ahead all night long. And I spent over an hour banging my head on the desk asking myself, "what in the heck do they know that I don't?" (Ask xkcd, who was in chat with me at the time.) What I didn't know was that because of electronic voting, the election returns came in in almost exactly the opposite order of what I'm used to. I'm used to it taking forever for the rural counties to trickle their results in. So when I saw 75%, 80% returns in and Talent was ahead, and when I assumed that most of the uncounted precincts were deep in Talent country, I figured it was all over. What I was missing was the county-by-county results, which were missing from the Secretary of State website and which weren't working on the MSNBC web site until fairly late. Then, at almost 1:00 am, the St. Louis and Kansas City suburbs dumped their results in, and the whole election turned upside down. McCaskill went from 15k votes behind to 15k votes ahead, and so did the Stem Cell initiative. And around the same time, virtually the same thing happened in xkcd's home state of Virginia. The whole mood flipped in minutes. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to would be a bases loaded grand slam in the 12th inning.

That being said, I think that nobody in the Democratic Party is going to treat this as a mandate for our policies. We know that we won this one not because of our brilliance, not because of anything we did, but because almost literally everything that could possibly go wrong for the Republicans went wrong in the same year. And, for what it's worth, let me quote the second funniest thing I heard all night. MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough won a brief Congressional term as a Gingrich Republican, one of the Contract on for America crowd. And what he said about last night was, "Democrats in the House aren't going to be over-confident, because they saw what jackasses we were in 1995 and 1996."

(What was the funniest thing? The Governator began his victory speech by saying, "A sequel! I love doing sequels!")

By the way, I'm taking some of the county-by-county numbers as vindication for something I've been saying for 6 years now. Talent won by only the tiniest margin in St. Charles County, and lost St. Louis County by a hefty margin. With the right candidate and a unified party, we could win the Missouri 2nd district. That district is not as "safe Republican" as they claim it is.
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Brad @ Burning Man

Follow-Up: What Next?

In response to my last post, my old right-wing friend ponsdorf asked me, "What next?" My answer went way too long for a reply, so here it is:

Democratic majorities are not veto-proof in either house. Nothing is going to happen without Bush's signature, unless we can get substantial Republican defections. And Bush still controls at least five seats on the Supreme Court. Those are the indisputable facts; the rest is speculation and wishes. Nor will we know, for as much as another two to three weeks, if we even get to pick the committee chairs in the Senate, although I'm assuming at this point that we will. So, on to the speculation:

Bush's judicial and diplomatic picks are toast. We had 100% agreement among Democrats already that none of these people are even vaguely qualified, that they were picked either because they were Bush family friends, because of hefty bribes to Republicans, or as sops to the religious right, all of which count as disqualifiers to us, not credentials. But Bush has never shown the slightest interest in negotiating on any of those points, so we're in for two contentious years, no permanent appointments, and only highly controversial and short-lived interim appointments on those two fronts.

I wouldn't even bet good money that Bob Gates is going to be ratified. He might be -- but "past CIA director at the tail end of Iran/Contra" and "close Bush family friend" are not credentials he might want to be waving around right now. Even if Gates passes, it'll be after much bashing around by the punditocracy from both sides about Bush's habitual cronyism.

I don't expect a full scale inquiry into the Downing Street Memos, since that was so long ago and the American people would probably backlash against dragging in subpoena power on something both irreversible and five years old. I could be wrong about that. The one thing that would make it likely I'd be wrong would be if the Baker Commission recommends increased troop strengths or "stay the course," in which case I would expect a full fledged Democratic revolt. I would also expect not a few Republicans to join that revolt, now that Bush looks hyper-vulnerable on the subject, especially from any of them facing tough re-election races in '08.

I have said since before the Iraq War began that the only possible outcome, the only possible outcome, was a Shiite Hezbollah pro-terrorist state in Iraq taking over whenever we leave. That's just as true whether we leave this year, leave in October of '08, or leave in 2013. Or even 2106. The only remaining question is how many dead Americans first. I am far from confident of this next prediction, but my hunch is that we will withdraw completely by May of year after next, that the Shiites will sweep to power, and "who lost Iraq" will be one of the hot issues of the '08 election.

Pelosi has said that one of the first bills introduced will be an increase in the federal minimum wage, and Bush said this afternoon that he can live with that as long as small businesses get tax breaks or credits to offset the increased cost. Given how well minimum wage hikes did on yesterday's ballots, a minimum wage increase to at least $6.25/hr is inevitable, Bush is not going to get his tax credits, and even if he vetoes it that probably will get enough Republican defections to pass over his objection.

There will be a ton of more money spent on port and airport cargo screening, and other recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Unfortunately however, unless McCaskill gets her second Truman Commission, much of the money will go to the same Republican-backing corrupt defense contractors who've already stolen billions of dollars in Iraq War and Iraq reconstruction money, so much of that money will be stolen and we'll end up with a screening system that works as well as the Denver airport luggage system. And as much as I'd love to see the Democrats succeed in using their subpoena power to go after war profiteers, I put the odds of a second Truman Commission at no better than 3 to 2 against, no better than 40%. But then, I didn't think we'd win the Senate, either.

There will not be any major federal legislation on health care; the Democratic majority is not veto-proof enough to eliminate the doughnut hole or force price negotiations into Medicare Part D, and we are still several years away from a national consensus on single-payer. I believe that we'll get there eventually, for the same reason that we eventually approved public vaccinations, public drinking water systems, private health insurance, and everything else that has been denounced as "socialist health care" -- because nothing else works. But not in the next two years, more's the pity. Nor will any new federal restrictions on abortion pass, for reasons intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.

The estate tax cuts are not getting renewed. At least some of Bush's other tax cuts will also be cut, but I can't tell which or how many.

In '08, Republicans, probably lead by McCain/Giuliani (or maybe McCain/Liebermann in a "unity" ticket, if McCain's smart), will campaign on calling the Democrats a do-nothing Congress, will blame Democrats for losing Iraq, and will blame Democrats for the collapse of the housing bubble by raising taxes. Democrats, probably (gods help us) run by Clinton/Obama (although I'd rather see Spitzer/Obama or Richardson/Obama), will blame Republicans for starting the war in Iraq, for losing the war in Iraq, and will blame the war in Iraq for the collapse of the housing bubble by wrecking the economy with the Iraq War.

They'll both be lying about the housing bubble, of course, which is going to pop no matter what we do, but voters will be looking too eagerly for someone to blame for politicians to pass; blaming the voters' own economic activities for the bubble popping is not an option. If we go Richardson/Obama, we probably beat McCain; if we go Clinton/Obama, McCain probably beats us.

If we do get really good war profiteering investigations and succeed in keeping Republican financial corruption a top-five issue all the way to November '08, we might slot Spitzer into the 1st or (more likely) second slot on the Democratic side, or our candidate might well promise to make Spitzer attorney general, and win in a huge landslide.

Edit: I made a mental arithmetic error on withdrawal from Iraq. My gut instinct is that both parties will want us out before the November elections in '08, and that we won't want to go through another Iraqi summer just to leave right after the worst of it. So I meant "May of '08" when I said "May of next year." I edited it above to now read, "May of year after next," which is what I meant to say. Apologies.