Why the Republicans won the election

I’ve avoided blogging these midterm elections because (a) I’m not nearly as

much of a US political junkie as thousands of other webloggers out there; and

(b) I was just too depressed at the result. But this is my website, and the

elections were important to me, so here goes.

A lot of people are saying that the Democrats lost the election. They didn’t

have heart, they didn’t have a clear position, they aimed for the marginal voter

rather than laying out a big plan. All of which is true. Certainly a position

of opposing the Bush tax cuts without proposing they be repealed is a little

on the mealy-mouthed side. And the fact that not a single Democratic candidate

voted against the war in Iraq (the late Paul Wellstone excepted) is profoundly


But I think that it’s easy to miss the wood for the the intra-Democratic recriminations.

Terry McAuliffe may or may not have made an error of judgement: certainly he

left himself wide open to the last-minute across-the-board surge in Republican

support which we saw over the past few days. Rather, much as I hate to say it,

I think that the election result constitutes not a Democratic defeat so much

as a Republican victory. Specificially, it was a victory for George W Bush personally.

What we saw yesterday was a vote for leadership in uncertain times. Bush might

not be the sharpest tack in the drawer, but he makes decisions, sticks to them,

and is unapologetic about them. As far as he’s concerned, he knows what’s best

for the country, and he’s going to do it. That is what’s behind the unprecedented

mid-term success for the party in the White House. And so long as times remain

uncertain (which they surely will if the US invades Iraq) the same calculus

will apply in 2004. The standard incumbent’s advantage will also help, of course.

And on top of that, the GOP will have a much larger war-chest than the Democrats,

McCain-Feingold notwithstanding.

Bush has managed to identify himself with Freedom and Democracy, and his enemies

with terrorism and evil, to the extent that even youth

and vigor is going to find it hard to run against Bush without seeming unpatriotic.

All wars confer an electoral advantage on the party in power; the advantage

of a permanent war is that it confers a permanent advantage. That’s the really

depressing legacy of Florida: if it weren’t for a handful of confused elderly

Jews in Palm Beach, Al Gore would be the powerful President, the Democrats would

have picked up the We Want Leadership vote, and the House, Senate and White

House would all be under Democratic control.

But that’s not the way it is. And now I think the chances of a Democrat wresting

the presidency from Bush in 2004 are slim indeed: in order for that to happen,

the economy will have to continue to deteriorate, the housing-market bubble

will have to burst, and the US will have to fuck up in Iraq. Two out of three

might just do it; one out of three won’t be enough. I remember 1992, when a

weak Tory party somehow managed to win a general election in the middle of a

recession; and George W Bush is certainly a much more accomplished politician

than John Major.

And if Bush retains control of the White House, the odds have to be good that

the Republicans will retain Congress as well. So for the next four years, expect

more tax cuts for the rich, more right-wing activists appointed to the judiciary,

and all manner of other Republican mischief. The national debt will start to

soar again, the dollar will weaken, the economy will get worse, and the stage

will be set for Democratic victories in 2006 and 2008. Until then, however,

the prospects are bleak indeed.

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5 Responses to Why the Republicans won the election

  1. Josh Cartin says:

    Your conclusion is sound and your opening unusually direct and honest. I do have two complaints:

    1) Your parenthetical in the first paragraph, wherein you write that “times will surely remain uncertain if the US invades Iraq” – logically, “times” are necessarily uncertain until they pass, at which point they become only intermittently more certain. Then the tautology curdles with your implication that the certainty of future uncertainty is dependent upon a discrete (and uncertain) variable such as the US invasion of Iraq. If you used the only slightly less ridiculous terms stability/instability, and wrote that “times surely will remain unstable if the US invades Iraq,” then the reader could ask if you mean to imply that times will become more stable if the US does not invade Iraq, a conceptually defensible position that demands supporting argumentation and vision. Your word-choice intends confidence and betrays evasiveness; in that you echo the present boggle-headedness of the DNC.

    2) Paragraph 5, wherein you manage to blame the failure of Al Gore’s presidential bid, and by implication all of the present administration’s policy ills, on “a handful of confused elderly Jews in Palm Beach” – this sounds almost like a comically apocryphal update to the again ubiquitous and still abhorrent Czarist-era forgery “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Sadly, the possibility of your probably tongue-in-cheeky words being misread or misused is, depending on the breadth of your readership, greater than one would hope. The craven panderers in the Egyptian Broadcasting Authority seem to support this notion. Anyway, the contention behind your jape is absurd: elderly Jews in Palm Beach, elderly Jews, Jews or Judaism period had absolutely and proportionally very little to do with Gore’s failed bid, in any case much less than the fact that Gore failed to take few electoral votes in roughly the middle three-fifths of the nation. You seem to have fallen victim to the eerie media tendency to assign Jews a disproportionate share of the credit or blame for historical currents, sort of like the Arab extremists in the Middle East and their apologists blaming certain Arab societies’ collective failure to cope with modernity on a few million people inhabiting a sliver of arid land in the general vicinity. Well plenty of people share this unfortunate habit, but I’m not sure you’ll like the company.

  2. Ruben Remus says:

    Personally, I think Cartin’s response betrays a certain verbal anal-retentiveness. “Apochryphal japes” aside, I got Salmom’s drift, which is more than could be said for two-thirds of Cartin’s joust.

    Personally, I abhor both the aforementioned return to right-wing paranoia *and* the lax editorial judgement that leads some to submit my Citrus State zade and bubbe to stand in for the 49.999 percent of American voters in the 2002 presidential election who cast their ballots for Bush.

    But it might be worth reminding ourselves that academic exposition of an otherwise clearly stated thing does nobody justice — and gets in the way of the natural intuition with which we’re endowed.

    As George W. Bush himself has said, and which I believe he felt deeply about, “If you’re asking me as the President, would I understand reality, I do.”

  3. Reza Fahaad says:

    Cartin’s statement regarding “Arab extremists in the Middle East and their apologists” makes one wonder if perhaps the PROTOCOLS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION is such a forgery after all.

  4. Sayed Ajami says:

    No reason to fret, Reza. From your name I can tell you are not an “Arab” at all since your name is distinctly Persian.

  5. I have been serving in Iraq for over five months now as a soldier in the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, otherwise known as the “ROCK.”

    We entered the country at midnight on the 26th of March; one thousand of my fellow soldiers and I parachuted from 10 jumbo jets (known as C-17s) onto a cold, muddy field in Bashur, Northern Iraq. This parachute operation was the U.S. Army’s only combat jump of the war and opened up the northern front.

    Things have changed tremendously for our battalion since those first cold, wet weeks spent in the mountain city of Bashur. On April 10 our battalion conducted an attack south into the oil-rich town of Kirkuk, the city that has since become our home away from home and the focus of our security and development efforts.

    Kirkuk is a hot and dusty city of just over a million people. The majority of the city has welcomed our presence with open arms. After nearly five months here, the people still come running from their homes, in the 110-degree heat, waving to us as our troops drive by on daily patrols of the city. Children smile and run up to shake hands, in their broken English shouting “Thank you, mister.”

    The people of Kirkuk are all trying to find their way in this new democratic environment. Some major steps have been made in these last three months. A big reason for our steady progress is that our soldiers are living among the people of the city and getting to know their neighbors and the needs of their neighborhoods.

    We also have been instrumental in building a new police force. Kirkuk now has 1,700 police officers. The police are now, ethnically, a fair representation of the community as a whole. So far, we have spent more than $500,000 from the former Iraqi regime to repair each of the stations’ electricity and plumbing, to paint each station and make it a functional place for the police to work.

    The battalion also has assisted in re-establishing Kirkuk’s fire department, which is now even more effective than before the war. New water treatment and sewage plants are being constructed and the distribution of oil and gas are steadily improving.

    All of these functions were started by our soldiers here in this northern city and are now slowly being turned over to the newly elected city government. Laws are being rewritten to reflect democratic principles and a functioning judicial system was recently established to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the rule of law.

    The quality of life and security for the citizens has been largely restored and we are a large part of why that has happened.

    The fruits of all our soldiers’ efforts are clearly visible in the streets of Kirkuk today. There is very little trash in the streets, there are many more people in the markets and shops and children have returned to school.

    This is all evidence that the work we are doing as a battalion and as American soldiers is bettering the lives of Kirkuk’s citizens. I am proud of the work we are doing here in Iraq and I hope all of your readers are as well.

    Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo

    “Die dulci fruimini!”

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