08 November 2006

The pragmatic wisdom of the voters

It was a good day yesterday, and an interesting one. It certainly was, as expected, a rebuke to the right; and I stand by what I said here. But some of the results suggest more subtle interpretations.

Mishandling of the Iraq occupation obviously hurt the Republicans, but scandal hurt even more. Americans do not take corruption and abuse of power lightly, especially when the perpetrators represent a faction which is preachy, scolding, and morally judgmental of others. Also, trying to minimize and downplay scandals doesn't work -- it just makes people angry.

There is no evidence that most voters want to cut and run from Iraq, but they are clearly unhappy with the way things are going there, and have sent a message to Bush -- and, indirectly, to the Iraqis themselves -- that their patience is wearing thin. We want the insurgency quelled and our troops back home.

Some of the results show that Americans' dedication to individual freedom is not only alive and well, but stronger than the artificial left-right divide. Here in Oregon, for example, an anti-Kelo property-rights measure passed 66%-34%, while a parental-notification measure designed to discourage teenage abortion was rejected 55%-45%. The first of these decisions would generally be classified as "rightist" and the second as "leftist", but both of them are wins for personal freedom.

The same pattern repeated itself elsewhere. South Dakota's notoriously draconian anti-abortion law was overthrown 55%-45%, while anti-Kelo measures passed in many states, usually by huge margins. A gay-marriage ban failed in Arizona, and while such bans passed in other states, the margins in many cases were smaller than those by which such measures have usually won. Gay marriage is, after all, a new and fairly radical idea, but it seems that the masses' visceral hostility to it may already be starting to weaken.

Arizona also voted 73%-27% to declare English its official language -- a symbolic reminder that feeling on the illegal-alien issue continues to run high.

Bullies who enjoy exposing other people to toxic, stinking filth did not do well yesterday; Nevada, Ohio, and Arizona passed bans on smoking in most public places, the latter two simultaneously rejecting milder options which would have allowed smoking in bars. Many "libertarians" will denounce these restrictions on the "right" to poison and assault the senses of others -- thus showing how far they have drifted from the original libertarian ethos.

Joe Lieberman's re-election even after being rejected by the Democratic party serves as a reminder to the Democrats both that moderation is the key to victory and that an "anti-war" stance on Iraq is not, even in a relatively liberal state like Connecticut. Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger's easy re-election in California sends the same message -- moderates win.

The passage of Amendment 2 in Missouri, guaranteeing the legality of stem-cell research there, similarly rebuked fundamentalist interference in science -- all the more significant since Missouri is not an especially liberal state.

Of course it's not yet clear how the Senate will end up, but at worst it will have a roughly-even split. This should be enough to squelch the Republicans' aspiration to pack the Supreme Court with judges who would threaten Roe vs. Wade, Oregon's physician-assisted suicide law, and other critical bastions.

There will be a lot of analysis in the next few days, and much will depend on whether the right foolishly denounces the voters as idiots and dupes (as so many on the left did two years ago) or listens with an open mind to what they are saying. But in broad strokes, the message is that most of the people vote for freedom and common sense on most of the issues. The system works.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Infidel, you did your homework! Neither camp got what they wanted across the board. The social conservatives got a well deserved thumping while the progressives also got their asses handed to them, despite the dems regaining control of congress. You're right: the system works. My only concern is the state of the war and the safety of our troops. Time will tell on both those points.

09 November, 2006 20:39  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Dipsy -- thanks for stopping by. I always try to do my homework.

I am concerned about our troops too. But I think experienced Democratic politicians understand that betraying the troops is the royal road to losing their newly-won power in the next election. We should wait and see what they do.

I really hope this election signals the beginning of the end of the polarization of our country into two mutually-uncomprehending and hostile camps.

09 November, 2006 22:13  

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