kolmapäev, november 08, 2006

Democrats win House, Senate

The media is being very careful in calling the senate races in Virginia and Montana, but as of now, the apparent winner in the Virginia Senate Race is Democrat Jim Webb, and the apparent winner in the Montana Senate Race is Democrat Jon Tester.

I was up until 2 am last night watching the results roll in, and it was a nail biter. At first things looked really bad in the senate for the Democrats - Claire McCaskill was down in Missouri, Webb was down by as much as 30,000 votes in Virginia, and only Tester had a commanding lead over Conrad Burns in Montana. But I stayed up late enough to see that Webb had eked out a tiny victory in Virginia over Allen, and that Tester was holding the lead over Burns. McGaskill really surprised me by trouncing Jim Talent in Missouri - I was sure that that one was over.

But what does this all mean? It means that we will have some new ideas in Washington. People talk about Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi as being the faces of the Democratic party - both of them in their mid60s and not exactly the most charismatic people. But they have shown - and even younger senators like my senator Chuck Schumer have shown, that they are more than willing to put junior senators out there if they think it will help them improve the image of the Democratic Party. And so guys like Barack Obama - a freshman senator from Illinois - is the guy they prefer to put forward compared to John Kerry, who is so 2004.

I think that the newer senators like Jon Tester and Jim Webb (and Bob Casey and Shel Whitehouse and ...) will have greater clout than is usually assigned to Democratic freshman senators because they will be seen as the face of the expanding party. Tester and Webb represent the strong desire among the Democratic base to have "no BS" candidates representing them.

Many people think that Howard Dean was elected chairman because he's so liberal, but it wasn't his politics, it was his attitude. Hopefully we'll see a little more attitude from the incoming Senate and House that will enable this country to have a real debate on an Iraq exit strategy. Republicans and Democrats alike should be glad that Conrad Burns and George Allen - who haven't really distinguished themselves nationally - are being replaced by energetic, individualist representatives.

10 kommentaari:

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Thanks for insight, it's different from our common media coverage here (Germany)

Anonüümne ütles ...

Actually it was not as difficult to gauge why the Virginia and Missou races went the way they did if you looked at which precincts didn't report. For Virginia, even with 95% reported and Allen up 50-49 to Webb, it was clear that what votes remain to be counted were from Richmond city and Fairfax county -- both heavily Democratic. Same with why Talent went down, as St Louis was still coming in. You could tell Harold Ford was going down in Tennessee due to the fact Chattanooga wasn't fully in yet at the 89% precincts report stage -- and that's Corker's "cork".

Anonüümne ütles ...

Oops, may I add...Bob Casey will be heading to Tallinn and Riga (and not Rummy, who is resigning at the moment).

Ma saan aru, et Donald Rumsfeld ei ole populaarne maailmas -- ära unusta, et tema oli suur osa NATO laienemise projektist. Kui USA kaitseminister oli, näiteks Senaator John Warner (tipp vabariiklane & kaitsekomittee esimees), Eesti täna asub väljaspool NATO'st.

Anonüümne ütles ...

God I'm bad today...I mean Robert Gates, not Bob Casey! Pennsylvania on my mind! :o

Sorry, J, for cluttering up your comment box!!!

oliver ütles ...

I was wondering if you could write a short overview (whole new post maybe?) on main differences between Democrats and Republicans. (I have an impression you aren't exactly a hardcore-democrat, so we can trust you to be relatively objective)
And what YOU (dis)like about them.

The media coverage on the subject has been more than inadequete (at least in Europe and in Estonia)...
And the interviews and speeches I have read over the past few weeks are totally pointless, nothing but BS (and I thought Estonian politicians were funny)
The main point of Democrats was that the Republicans are constantly screwing up and Republicans answer was that the Democrats talk about changes, but they have no idea how these changes would look like.
I feel that they are both right...

Giustino ütles ...

The main point of Democrats was that the Republicans are constantly screwing up and Republicans answer was that the Democrats talk about changes, but they have no idea how these changes would look like.
I feel that they are both right...


I believe that the differences between Republicans and Democrats are constantly in flux, each exploiting the weakness of another.

Right now I think what this means is that the debate on our future is now open.

Bush's congresses have been "rubber stamp" congresses - policy is formulated in the inner Bush circles, talking points are distributed to 'trustworthy' media (and from 2002 to 2006 this included outlets like CNN and MSNBC), and the Republican party worked from the top down. Think of the Center Party in Estonia. The Republicans ran things like Keskerakond.

Democratic party leaders don't have that kind of control. That means there will be a greater need for consensus building and actual debate. The Republican Party is controlled by a handful of figures leftover from the Nixon and Reagan-Bush administrations (Bush named Reagan-era official Gates to be the new Sec of Defense today).

The Democrats don't have a backbench of officials leftover from the Carter years or Clinton years to run things. So you will see more a 'organic' policy than before.

Many criticize the Democrats for not "having a plan" - ie. "we will get out of Iraq by this date and this way." But their victory means a few important things:

1) Long awaited and "no brainer" reforms will be carried out. The 9/11 commission recommendations will be enacted. The minimum wage will be raised. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy will not be renewed.

2) The culture wars are over. The Democrats that came into congress this year have no plans to enact federally-recognized gay marriage. Instead you see each one in his or her state running to meet the special needs of their state. You'll have real liberals like Shel Whitehouse in Rhode Island serving alongside conservative Democrats like Bob Casey in Pennsylvania. So you can stop worrying about the federal government trying to legislate culture.

3) There will be a real debate on Iraq. Many of these candidates ran on the war. Getting us out successfully is their main objective. The solution may not have manifested itself yet, but I expect many of the new senators, for example, to start coming up with solutions. I don't expect Jim Webb, for example, to sit on his hands.

Overall I don't think this is some magic fix for our problems, but one party government wasn't obviously working.

Politically I am open to new solutions. I'd welcome Bernie Sanders, our first socialist senator, as much as I'd welcome a libertarian candidate to the senate.

I do have social democratic values - I believe in all the good stuff - a clean environment, quality health care, education, tolerance - but I don't believe that one size fits all or that the state has all the solutions.

For example, I think the new conservative government in Sweden is a good thing. The same in Germany with the rise of Merkel. Change is good. New blood is needed for a healthy democracy.

helsinkian ütles ...

C'mon, are the culture wars really over? The Senate's perhaps most socially liberal (or maybe after Ted Kennedy) and one of the strongest advocates of gay rights, Lincoln Chafee, was just voted out of office. It could be Whitehouse is equally liberal, but losing a liberal voice in the Republican Senate group can influence some Republicans that there's no point in being liberal, since the blue state Republicans will any way be trounced by Dems and in red states being socially conservative is the only option to get elected.

What was a huge upset is the defeat of the religious conservative Jim Talent in Missouri. That's perhaps of greatest significance since Missouri is a key battleground state in the culture wars. Ashcroft's defeat in 2000 was already significant, but Talent won that seat back in the 2002 special election. McCaskill's victory is really important and too bad you seemed to downplay her role among the new Dem senators. I didn't exactly expect her to win, either, but her doing so is that much more crucial, after all Talent wasn't vilified the same way Santorum, Burns and Allen were.

Bob Casey, aka "Santorum lite", is an interesting choice, since he could very well be on the side of the religious right in culture wars. Still, Santorum was so hardcore that having him replaced with a Democratic lite version has a huge impact on the culture wars. Had Santorum been a Senator in Oklahoma or Mississippi, he would've been re-elected by a huge margin.

The culture wars are still there and the religious right didn't disappear. Absolutely the loss of Republican control of the Congress is important and it means a more socially liberal America. Bush perhaps buries the federal marriage amendment.

I don't really know when leaders of the Senate and the House were that charismatic. Hastert and Frist aren't that much more charismatic than Pelosi or Reid. Yet I'm not sure why Pelosi would be so uncharismatic. Reid is pretty bland but Pelosi certainly has a certain reputation of toughness and people talk about her. Her speakership will be noticed, unlike Hastert's. The outgoing speaker will only be remembered for not acting so fast in the Foley scandal.

Tester and Webb were very much advertised in advance as strong candidates. They won very narrowly against weak senators, who were easy targets. They do deserve the clout they'll get, winning against incumbents in red states wasn't easy. But if they'll get clout it will be in the spirit of bipartisanship, those two will get along famously with their Republican colleagues and probably even with President Bush, who will change his attitude toward the Democrats very quickly. Sacking Rumsfeld is a gesture of good will of greatest importance and it was done to achieve the smoothest possible two last years of his presidency. Rumsfeld was never going to convince a hostile congress, where even the Republicans distrusted him.

Kaur ütles ...

Please translate and publish 11:41 AM comment on estonian media? This "FAQ on democrats vs republicans" is what I would like to read from the press. Unfortunately, Estonian news coverage of this topic limits itself to cut'n'pasting press releases.

Giustino ütles ...

McCaskill's victory is really important and too bad you seemed to downplay her role among the new Dem senators. I didn't exactly expect her to win, either, but her doing so is that much more crucial, after all Talent wasn't vilified the same way Santorum, Burns and Allen were.

Hey, I'm just one guy, and I live pretty far away from Missouri. I've never even been there - I have been in the airport and yes, I did notice the large amount of religious literature in the airport book store. I'd love to say something thought provoking on the race, but I didn't follow it like I followed the Webb campaign.

The culture wars are still there and the religious right didn't disappear. Absolutely the loss of Republican control of the Congress is important and it means a more socially liberal America. Bush perhaps buries the federal marriage amendment.

Back at the height of the Culture Wars - in '94, in '98 during the impeachment scandal, even in '05 with the Terri Schiavo fiasco - you got a real sense that both sides despised the others' values. I mean, as late as Kerry's presidential election in 2004, abortion was a campaign issue.

Abortion, euthanasia, school prayer - all that useless culture war junk took a back seat in American politics after Katrina happened. The Katrina disaster coincided with the ongoing carnage in Iraq and showed that our government was incapable of accomplishing things it either should do (evacuate people from New Orleans) or set out to do (defeat militias in Iraq).

I think, values aside, people thought on election day that our current Congress was not doing its job. That it wasn't checking executive power enough. That's why Shel Whitehouse got sent to the enate for Rhode Island instead of Linc Chafee. The voters there thought that they'd rather put the opposition in power then reelect a liberal Republican that presented a little obstacle for the Bush agenda.

oliver ütles ...

Thank you for this nice overview.
Just add a bit of history and maybe some examples of suprise winners or in-depth analysis of results of a particualr state or smthg and like kaur said, it would make a great article in our local media. Hey, you might even get paid :)