24 October 2006

Is there life after the election?

As polls increasingly forecast major Democratic gains in the House and Senate, a sense of desperation and even panic is being observed in some quarters on the right. After years of demonization, a Democratic victory is perceived not as just another regular shift of power such as elected governments normally experience, but as a looming apocalypse. If the Democrats win, then the seas will boil, plagues of locusts will descend, and we will all fall off the edge of the world and be eaten by dragons. And Nancy Pelosi, the Antichrist, will prepare the way for Satan/Hillary's thousand-year reign of evil.

Personally I'm more optimistic, for two reasons: Joe Lieberman and 2008.

The recent travails of Lieberman, a leading Democratic moderate, embody exactly how the Democratic party can go wrong -- or right. A few months ago he lost the party's nomination to run for re-election to his Senate seat to Ned Lamont, a much more solidly-leftist challenger. This is typical of a pattern that is seen with both parties: the ideological-activist "base" insists on nominating hard-line candidates instead of centrist moderates, even though the latter would have a better chance in the general election. Now, however, Lieberman is running as an independent, and is far ahead of Lamont in the polls. When he wins, the party as a whole will receive a powerful reminder of political reality: voters prefer moderates when they are available, and the party weakens only itself by abandoning them.

As for the 2008 factor, the Democrats next month will be all too aware that their newly-won hold on the legislature is not guaranteed for any more than two years. The voters will be watching carefully to see what they do with their power. If they go nuts and launch a Ken-Starr-like vendetta against President Bush, or cut and run from Iraq leaving chaos and a jihadist victory behind, or adopt a French-style appeasement approach to Islamic imperialism, then they -- and their candidate for the Presidency itself -- will suffer for it in 2008. The Democratic leaders, who are experienced politicians and not internet hotheads, understand this.

The Republican reaction to next month's results will also be of importance.

Most of the people I know personally are fairly left-wing. After the 2004 election, some of them resorted to the easy route of dismissing those who voted Republican as nuts, morons, or dupes brainwashed by Karl Rove's witchcraft. I told them: When you lose an election this badly, the first place to look to find out what went wrong is in the mirror. Listen to the people who didn't like the Democrats' message. You might learn something.

This November 8th, it will be the Republicans' turn to listen.



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