BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR:
YOU MIGHT JUST GET IT!
Notes on a battle no one will really win but which,
nevertheless, well sets up the much bigger Battle two years hence
Sunday, November 5, 2006
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
According to the best polling data, for which we have compiled a compendium on our website, there are- as of this typing- 209 U.S. House seats and 20 U.S. Senate seats (if you count Independents Joe Lieberman in Connecticut and Bernie Sanders in Vermont as "Democrats", if only for purposes of this analysis) either safely in the Democratic column or, at the very least, leaning toward the Democratic candidate for the given seat and 203 U.S. House seats and 8 U.S. Senate seats in the exact same circumstances as regards Republicans. Thus, in all, there are but 23 "toss-up" U.S. House races and but 5 "toss-up" U.S. Senate races, per our compilation of the latest polling data prior to this typing.
If all 23 "toss up" seats were, just for sake of this argument, to be won by Democrats (highly unlikely), the Democrats would then have 226 seats in the House, 8 more than would be needed for that Party to gain a majority (since 218 out of the total 435 seats in that body would be needed to have a bare majority of 1). If, on the other hand, one assumes- admittedly arbitrarily- that each "toss-up" seat will more likely be won by the candidate reporting the most campaign money to the Federal Election Commission (as we have posted it re: each individual race on our site), 16 of the 23 U.S. House seats would- under this assumption- go to Republicans, giving them 225 seats, or 7 more than that Party would need to retain their majority in the House (this last would mean a net loss of 7 for the Grand Old Party relative to the results of the 2004 Congressional Elections).
All in all, therefore, I think it is fair to say that a range of from (at the very utmost) 226-209 Dem to 225-210 GOP is the most probable outcome of the upcoming election as regards the U.S. House of Representatives. Put another way: whichever Party controls the lower house of the 110th Congress, its numbers relative to that needed for a majority will be but single digits and the Nation as a whole will be seen to still be basically split between Parties and competing ideologies (as was also the case after 2004, 2002 and 2000); the House being truly "the People's house", such an outcome merely means that the 2006 Midterm Elections will- in the end- be but an opening act to the drama that will be Presidential Election 2008.
But this is even more so as regards the United States Senate:
If the Democrats were to win all 5 seats "in play" per the latest polling data as analyzed on 'The Green Papers', 25 Democrats (again, counting Lieberman and Sanders as Democrats) would then be elected which- when added to the 27 Democrats not running this time round- give that Party 52 seats, 2 more than a tie. But, if one- as was done re: the House above- were to give these 5 seats to the candidates with the most FEC-reported money, then the Republicans would win 3 of the 5, for a total of 11 Republican victories among the 33 Senate seats currently being contested which, when added to the 40 Republicans not up for re-election in 2006, would give the Republicans 51 seats, a majority of but 1!
And, with the Bush Administration still finishing out the final two years of its second term, it has to be seen that- in the end- nothing much will have really changed (that is: on the Federal level) once the votes to be cast this coming Tuesday have all been counted.
Thus, many political observers are already looking ahead to the 2008 Presidential Election- one in which, for the first time since 1952, the presidential candidates of the two Major Parties will not be either
in other words, the 2008 will provide the most wide-open races for both Major Party's presidential nominations most of us will have ever seen!
Ironically, what would be most helpful to each Major Party in their respective quests to succeed George W. Bush as President of the United States- given the current political climate- would be, in this year's Midterm elections, to actually lose (such "loss" defined as- for the Democrats- failure to gain control of either chamber of the 110th Congress and- for the Republicans- loss of control of the U.S. House of Representatives)...
If the Democrats take control of both houses OR the Democrats take control of the House, but not the Senate, this would actually be good news for the Republicans heading into the next Presidential Election cycle because a Speaker Nancy Pelosi (who represents one of the most liberal Congressional Districts in the country) would then laregly become to conservatives what Newt Gingrich was to liberals a decade ago- a face to put onto the political agenda they so decry.
Of course, the Democrats could then deflect this particular problem by simply not electing her Speaker (though I think that the idea that they could elevate to Speaker the first woman to ever hold that post is far more tempting to Democrats than baser political calculations, thus I have no doubt that Congresswoman Pelosi will, in fact, be Speaker of the House should the Democrats actually take control of that body); but, even without a "Speaker Pelosi", the Democrats will still have political problems (more so, though, if they control both houses of Congress), for it is far easier to complain about acts of an Administration of an opposing Party when one's own Party has control of none of the apparatus of Federal governance--
thus, if the Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress, this will actually help the Democrats looking forward toward 2008-- because whoever is to be the next Democratic presidential nominee will then be able to run against the whole Republican "kit 'n' kaboodle": GOP control of the Presidency, both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. If the Bush Administration thereafter continued to dig themselves into a hole with a GOP-controlled Congress, as it has been doing of late, the Democrats wouldn't have to take any of the responsibility-- or, for that matter, any of the blame!-- for the concomitant adverse effects of this on the Nation as a whole.
The GOP does have one "trump card", however, to play come 2008: the fact that the next Republican presidential nominee- whoever it might be- will not have direct ties to the current Administration (for reasons I cited earlier in this very piece). And this should not at all be underestimated by Democrats and their supporters!
After all, Al Gore both benefited and was harmed, in 2000, by his being Bill Clinton's Vice President and the elder President George Bush benefited greatly by being the V.P. of a still-popular Ronald Reagan, while Walter Mondale wasn't at all helped by his having so recently been Jimmy Carter's "number Two".
Though yes, it's true that if the next Republican nominee for President be a Senator, there will be the usual (and, by the way, appropriate) parsing of his voting record as regards his or her support of the current Administration and that may well dampen this "trump card"'s positive effect (then again, as I have pointed out elsewhere on this website, we Americans may very much like Senators as presidential candidates- for they are "in the mix" when it comes to issues of national importance, thus we tend to gravitate to the proverbial [to borrow rock n' roller Chuck Berry's words] "campaign shouting like a Southern diplomat"- but we (as our History itself shows) the more love Governors as our Presidents!)
And, speaking of Senators who have unsuccessfully run for President of the United States, this whole recent flap about the comments of Senator John Kerry (D- Massachusetts), the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee who had lost to President George W. Bush during the latter's successful re-election bid, is typical of the abject silliness of the final week leading into an election that will, in the main, decide almost nothing on the Federal level (though this is not necessarily at all true of races at the State and local levels).
During a speech while on a campaign swing on behalf of Democratic candidates in California, Kerry told a college audience the following:
Education- if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart- you can do well. And, if you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.
Now, I happened to have heard a sound bite of this statement on the radio within an hour or so of its actually having been uttered (that is, before the spin-meisters on both sides could whirl this whole thing so utterly out of control) and I immediately took it as so clearly being a shot at President Bush- along the lines of the many, just as cheap, "George W. Bush is so stupid" shots that have been bandied about by partisan Democrats since Bush was first inaugurated nearly six years ago.
[you know the type:
two Democrats are talking and one says to the other "I think George W. Bush should be impeached"- and the other one asks "Why would you want Dick Cheney to be President"- to which the first one replies "Huh?-- isn't Cheney President already?!"...
now, this is much along the same lines as the jokes Republicans themselves told some seven years ago: for instance, two Republicans are talking and one says "Hillary Clinton is now running for the Senate-- this is terrible! At this rate, she someday might become President!" and the other one responds: "I thought she was already President!"...
of course, the jokes told by anti-Clintonites did not at all question the state of a President's brain so much as they questioned the state of another part of Bill Clinton's anatomy of which the then-First Lady/become-Senator from New York was supposed to have had strong hold...
no one need accuse political humor of being all that original!]
Now, *I* could so easily tell that this was a shot at "Dub-ya" and not at all at the troops currently serving- or, for that matter, those having already served (or who might yet serve)- in Iraq... heck, a trained chimp could tell it was merely yet another piece of the (by now) usual on-the-stump Bush-bashing!
But why let the actual facts of the matter at all get in the way of good GOP "spin"?-- especially late in an election campaign in which the two Major Parties are, at the Federal level, fighting over a rather meatless bone like two emaciated junkyard dogs!... and, to be sure, Kerry did give the Republicans the opening they needed.
Thus the GOP "piled on"-- for starters, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow saying that Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who've given their lives this; this is an absolute insult, and President Bush himself declaiming that [t]he members of the United States military are plenty smart and plenty brave and the Senator from Massachusetts owes them an apology (note well the escalation by the President here: for even if one takes Kerry's comment as, indeed, a crack at 'uneducated troops'- as the Republicans were opining it was, if only for their own rank political purposes [since, for the most part (or so I am certain), they themselves knew better]- Kerry had said nothing that could be construed as at all questioning their bravery!)
Kerry's own initial response to the furor was itself altogether lame, for he so easily fell into the political trap of, at first, defiantly saying that he made apologies to no one about my criticism of the President and his broken policy that kills and maims our heroes in Iraq every day and claiming that the furor which resulted from his own comments was a pathetic attempt to distort a botched joke about President Bush and a shameful effort to distract from a botched war. 'Twas as may be, for Kerry's gaffe certainly allowed the President to, if only for the time being, talk about Iraq without-- well-- actually talking about Iraq! But Kerry's own defiance merely served as a spotlight on a seeming inability, on his part, to immediately comprehend just how far he had stuck his foot into his own mouth (for it was the joke that had been "botched" which had itself created the distortion [or at least the ability for the opponents of those on whose behalf Kerry was, at the time, campaigning to so "distort" it] about which the Senator now so bitterly complained).
Kerry rather belatedly got the message and did, ultimately, apologize and said apology was deemed acceptable by the White House as the right thing to do (though, interestingly, through deputy press secretary Dana Perino). The Massachusetts Senator then canceled his remaining campaign stops on behalf of Democratic candidates (though this was far less voluntary than he tried to make it seem) and, in the end, very few minds were changed by the whole affair: while it galvanized a Republican "choir" hitherto become lethargic as the result of things such as Congressman Mark Foley's personal indiscretions, it also galvanized Democrats (which is why Senator Kerry was so quickly thrown under the proverbial "bus" by his fellow Party leaders).
In a nutshell, Senator Kerry was outright foolish while the subsequent behavior of his Republican detractors was downright silly... but it was, in the main, the very type of tomfoolery that makes American Politics so damned interesting, where it is not also altogether amusing: the kind of stuff that used to be largely confined to the National Conventions (back when these Conventions used to actually do something) and journalists such as H.L. Mencken would comment on political spectacle bordering on the gauche- this before the age of television, the debates that are not really debates and the 15- and 30-second sound bites TV engendered.
If anything noteworthy should actually emerge from this kind of falderal from the final week of the '06 campaign, it will most likely be the death knell of Senator Kerry's long-expected bid to attempt a vindication of his loss in the Presidential Election two years ago with a run for his Party's nomination two years hence. That may now no longer be a viable political possibility and I would not be the least bit surprised if, sometime early next year- if not sooner (that is: not all that long after this upcoming election), Kerry simply holds a press conference in order to to announce that (for, of course, reasons having nothing at all to do with this latest flap) he will not be seeking the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination and will, instead, focus on a bid for re-election to a 5th term as Senator from the Bay State (or, for that matter, not- if the Presidency is, indeed, a prize he now comes to believe he cannot gain and he no longer wishes to be that proverbial "big fish in a small pond").
Finally, a few more words with which I will now close this piece, if I may:
Lest anyone get the idea that I am at all suggesting herein (re: my observation that this election will likely change rather little on the Federal level, even with a change in Party control in one or both chambers of Congress) that one's vote means little in the upcoming election, nothing could be further from the truth!
If the country does remain fundamentally split between the two Major Parties (with neither Party having a statistically significant advantage, regardless of which chamber[s] a given Party might control in the ensuing 110th Congress), as I believe the 2006 election returns will ultimately show, it is only because it will be those who will actually show up at the polls this coming Tuesday who will have so decided. If I am, in the end, to be proven wrong (whether such "wrong" be in favor of Democrats or Republicans), these same- the voters of 7 November 2006- will be the very ones to so prove me wrong.
Therefore, I urge everyone reading this piece who is a registered voter in the United States of America to get out and vote!
I don't care what your ideology or Party might be- which of the two Majors you might (or might not) support or, perhaps, which candidate(s) of whatever Third Party or Independent candidate(s) who might well be considered by the mainstream media lucky to even gain a single percentage point of the total votes cast might be of your own choosing: I don't even care if your candidate of choice is considered by the vastest majority to be the "fringiest" among all fringe candidates-- and I certainly don't care whether you have agreed with what I have written in my Commentaries on (or my responses to Vox Populi submitted to) 'The Green Papers' or if my Commentaries and other writings for this website simply make you want to pick up your computer and toss it across the room in anger about what you might have read hereon... regardless,
please make sure that, if you have registered, you vote nonetheless!
We Americans live in- whatever the individual reader of this piece might think of its current political, economic or sociocultural condition- the longest-lived, best established and most successful Constitutional Republican Democracy known to Humankind. If you happen to think it's broke, then- by all means- use your vote to try and help fix it! If, instead, you might think things are generally fine and dandy right now, then- by all means- use your vote to show the rest of your fellow citizens- along with the rest of the World- that you think all is OK with the USofA. This, above all else, is your most fundamental duty as an adult citizen of this Union!
You think all the politicians are bums, where not also crooks, and you don't like any of these clowns who have the unmitigated nerve to think they can actually run this place? Then put your proverbial money where your mouth is, get off your hindquarters and actually show up at the polls on 7 November! Be willing to stand in line and wait your turn at the ballot box or voting machine and then simply don't make a mark or don't pull a lever or don't push a button next to the names of any candidate for an office, where you don't happen to like anybody running for that particular office... for that matter, if you so desire, don't vote for any candidate on the entire ballot in your precinct: but, if you are not going to vote for anybody, then show up at the polls anyway to make sure that your "non-vote" counts, too!
One of my favorite phrases is this: "If you don't vote, you don't count". I usually attribute this line to the one-time political consultant and, more recently, pundit/talk show host Jay Severin, only because I would see him on television several years back so often using it: if it turns out that he actually got it from someone else, I most humbly apologize. Severin himself has cut a rather controversial figure in the realm of political broadcasting, but this is one thing on which even his most vehement detractors should be able to agree with him.
Once more (with feeling): "If you don't vote, you don't count"... literally!
Why? Because, when I later peruse a rather lengthy table of admittedly arcane election statistics in order to find out what you and your fellow citizens in your State or your district or this Nation as a whole really wanted in a particular political cycle, I can't at all find you if you didn't even bother to show up at the polls in the first place!!
There is a statistic called "total votes cast" which measures the total number of voters who showed up at various and sundry polling places and actually entered the voting booth. Almost always, this stat is more than the total number of votes cast for the total number of candidates running for any particular office (which indicates that at least some voters failed to vote for any candidate running for that office); therefore, I can easily determine- when I look over the election statistics- how many voters didn't vote for anyone for the elective office in question (by subtracting "total votes for all candidates" [=how many voters voted for someone for that office] from "total votes cast" [=how many voters showed up at the polls in the first place]). It is in this way- and only in this way, by the way- that those of you out there who don't like anybody running for political office can actually be counted.
Yes, 'tis true that (except in a very few jurisdictions which allow a vote to be cast for "None of the above") someone will be elected to any elective office on the ballot (thus, it is also true that the office in question can't ordinarily be simply left vacant once the term of its current holder is up) because the Constitutions and laws of the American Union and its constituent States require that somebody be exercising the powers and carrying out the duties of said offices at pretty much all times.
And, yes, going to the polls itself can so often be something of an inconvenience (especially as new voting technologies are being hastily introduced in many polling places, but also in those polling places utilizing older equipment that should have, long ago, been retired): nevertheless, stand in line, wait your turn, don't leave until you have made your choice (or lack thereof) for the political offices you get to so help choose!... for there are people all around this globe of ours- including, recently, in both Afghanistan and Iraq- who have gone through (and will yet go through) far more than you ever will in order to merely register their own free choices as voters: these people, in many- too many- cases, risk being severely injured or even killed as they travel to the polls and then wait their turn to cast their ballots:
what about you?-- what's your story?!: you're going to be a little late to work?- you have to drive a few to several miles out of your way?? These last, by comparison, are hardly excuses with which to so shirk such a civic duty as that which is arguably the First Duty of a free citizen!
Our Rights and Liberties should never be taken for granted, else someone in power might get the bizarre idea that they- in fact- had actually granted them and then, further, might also have the temerity to try and take them away... and, to quote the title of a book written about the history of the Right to Vote in America some four decades ago, voting is- indeed- the First Liberty.
thus, *I* am voting on Tuesday 7 November 2006... you who are reading this, who are eligible and have already registered to vote, should well be willing to do the same!