Pharyngula

Morning-after cynicism

Democrats take back the House of Representatives and make gains in the Senate. It’s good news, right? So why am I not particularly happy?

One reason is how they won. Republicans were just plain vile: they stunk up the joint with corruption, incompetence, greed, and viciousness, and they are saddled with an unpopular president and an unpopular war. They should have been easy to beat, and the Democrats relied on winning by default. There was little attempt to campaign on progressive values, just an expectation that the discontent of the Republican voters with their ugly party would scrape away enough voters that we’d come out on top. And we did. Rah.

A perfect example: we threw Rick Santorum, one of the worst senators ever, onto the rubbish heap, to gain…Robert Casey Jr, a bland, boring, pious middle-of-the-road Democrat who is anti-choice. Was anyone excited about that candidate? You know he won purely because Santorum was such an idiot.

Local races left me little to cheer about. Bill Ingebrigtsen, the local thug who campaigned on a racist, anti-immigration platform but had loads of money to throw at mass mailings, won the 11th Minnesota senate district against a tepid, conservative Democratic incumbent. Michele Bachmann, creationist homophobe, is going to be one of Minnesota’s representatives. The creepy medieval platform of the Republican party still appeals to many voters—they’re just willing to throw them out after they’ve become associated with a failed regime.

The side of science has seen mixed results. Santorum’s gone, the Ohio races that pitted creationists against pro-science moderates seem to have all broken for the good guys, but Kansas has opted to support their creationist candidates. The fact that Bachmann could get elected in my state is discouraging: she’s a flaming anti-science, pro-god kook. Being an irrational nut is still not an obstacle to getting elected, apparently.

I don’t see a lot of hope to build on for the 2008 election. Here’s my prediction: the Republican candidate for president will run on the position that he is Not Bush, while still accommodating the core Republican constituencies of the religious and the rich. The Democratic candidate will run on the position that he or she is Not Bush, and, as we’ve learned to expect, will avoid being too closely associated with his or her core Democratic constituencies of the secular and the working class and labor in order to try to appeal to Republican voters. All the Republicans who fled their party in revulsion during this election cycle will look at their choices of two Not Bushes, and pull the lever for the one who panders best to their Prosperity Christianist faith. The Democrats will try to stir up a pro forma enthusiasm for their nominated functionary, and we’ll instead spend most of the campaign moaning about what a godawful boring Republican-Lite drone we’ve nominated.

We’ll lose.

Unless the Democrats actually learn to fight for a cause rather than moping about hoping to pick up voters disaffected by Republican incompetence, yesterday’s victories are only going to be temporary. Does anybody think that will happen in our new Democratic congress?

In the long run, though, the real issues have to be this thundering race between China and the US to see who can puke the most carbon into the atmosphere, America’s attempt to bankrupt itself with debt, and our ongoing efforts to blind ourselves to the problems with religion. The Republican goal is to make the problem worse, the Democrats will continue to bumble about and avoid any conflict, and the media will find Britney Spears’ divorce more interesting. Come back in a century and look at America, and I think what you’ll find is Easter Island with tabloids.

Comments

  1. #1 Zeno
    November 8, 2006

    I think this year’s winning edge was providing precisely by those people who are willing to fight on principle, to advance an actual cause rather than merely being “Not Bush”. I agree that attitude has not sufficiently percolated to the uppermost ranks of the Democratic Party, but this is a teachable moment.

    And I’m still basking in the rosy glow of California’s ouster of Richard Pombo (Mr. Anti-Endangered-Species-Act), the most anti-environmental and anti-science member of this state’s congressional delegation. Sorry to hear that some of your local nuts got elected.

  2. #2 Steve LaBonne
    November 8, 2006

    Unless the Democrats actually learn to fight for a cause rather than moping about hoping to pick up voters disaffected by Republican incompetence, yesterday’s victories are only going to be temporary. Does anybody think that will happen in our new Democratic congress?

    Word.

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich
    November 8, 2006

    PZ, the results in your district are indeed disturbing. Sometimes, I wonder how people in rural Minnesota can be as ignorant as to stand behind such ideologues as Bill I. or Shelly B. On the good side, the Republicans lost their standard-bearer for gay marriage in the senate, and it will now never see the light of day in the house.

    Look at South Dakota – they passed their homophobic amendment.

  4. #4 Alon Levy
    November 8, 2006

    Thank you.

    As I just said on Pandagon, the Democrats still have some opportunity to get some things done with this victory. But they won’t because Reid won’t pressure moderates the way DeLay did, and because we’re after all talking about the party that failed to increase the minimum wage when 83% of the people supported it.

  5. #5 Caledonian
    November 8, 2006

    Easter Island with tabloids

    Nonsense! I’m sure the Chinese will find some use for all that land.

  6. #6 guthrie
    November 8, 2006

    PZ for president?

    (Note- I am not a USA citizen)

  7. #7 Alon Levy
    November 8, 2006

    I still maintain the liberal blogosphere needs to form its dream team of a good economist for Treasury, a foreign policy blogger for State, PZ for Education, and so on.

  8. #8 Daephex
    November 8, 2006

    I wonder what sort of wildcard your new rep Keith Ellison will prove to be next to someone like Bachmann. A little diversity should prove SOMEWHAT interesting.

  9. #9 Caledonian
    November 8, 2006

    Being not-Republican isn’t enough to guarantee competent leadership. It’s not at all clear that they will do anything to reverse the trends of decline – at most, it will be slowed slightly due to the removal of the people actively working to accelerate it.

    But we’re still headed right over that cliff. Does it really matter whether we reach it in fifty years or eighty?

  10. #10 CCP
    November 8, 2006

    well Zeno beat me to it, but I’ll second it: anybody who cares about ecosystems ought to happy they threw dat bum Pombo out. Thanks Californians!

  11. #11 Albatrossity
    November 8, 2006

    Sorry to hear about Bachman winning; that is mind-boggling, especially in a state like Minnesota.

    Maybe you should move to Kansas. Despite the re-election of the two creationists running for state Board of Education, there were some very hopeful signs. Here in the 2nd District, we threw out Jim Ryun, a sanctimonious lap monkey for Bush, and replaced him with Nancy Boyda, who has a degree in chemistry and worked for the EPA as well as in the pharmaceutical industry. She is a solid pro-science voice.

    And that is great news about Pombo in CA! I actually contributed money to that campaign against him; it is good to know that I can sometimes support winning candidates.

    But I agree that the future is not looking good unless the Dems can find their voice and their principles nationwide. This is a good time to start.

  12. #12 the-g-man
    November 8, 2006

    My hope is the Democratic party won’t be timid and will actually move to undo all of the horrible things the Republicans have done. My biggest hope is that the Dems can put the brakes on the runaway train that is this country’s slide into theocracy. The American Taliban is alive and well.

  13. #13 Kristjan Wager
    November 8, 2006

    I think it’s worth mentioning that while many Democrats elected are quite right-winged, they are a step to the left compared to those they won against. The moderate Republicans who lost, lost to more progressive Democrats. In other words, the US took a step to the left.

    This makes it easier to shift futher left in the next elections.

    It’s a slow process, but it’s how the Republican right have taken over their party.

    Oh. And I am so enjoying the fact that Harris lost in Florida.

  14. #14 Brian Axsmith
    November 8, 2006

    True enough. But voters in many places supported progressive intitiatives such as stem cell research. They also voted down proposed gay marriage bans and restrictive abortion laws. All is not lost.

  15. #15 Maria loves pictures
    November 8, 2006

    Yes I agree with you, a democratic congress is a good news.
    I think your thoughts about the use of power are very resonable, because the democrats will have to deal with a conservative administration.

    Thank you for sharing this story with me !

  16. #16 CML
    November 8, 2006

    I’m glad the Dems have some influence now, which should lessen Bush’s further damage over the next year, but we’re still going to be plagued by partisan politics. The fast track to breaking down partisan politics and at the same time, bringing in an executive branch that consist of people with integrity, intelligence, wisdom and basic decency would be Obama and McCain running together as independents in 2008! It will never happen. The US and THEM mentality is too strong. My prediction, this victory for the Dems will mean the republicans are going to be more worried than ever in 2008. That means McCain will get the repulican ticket, after some reluctance. Are there any Dems that can beat McCain? No. Short of a heart attack, he will be the next president. And don’t try to play the age card; Reagan was of similar age his first run as president. Obama is great, and I’d vote for him, but I really doubt he could compete against McCain.

  17. #17 Jules
    November 8, 2006

    Rural Minnesota, especially the Stevens County area has a large group of religious zealots/wackos called “Swissers” (long-I) or some kind of “Adventist” cult.

    They’re crooked, conservative, racist, narrow-minded a**holes. It was a nice thing to get away from. They own most of Morris. If you work for one, expect the company to get raided for evasion of something. My spouse received two different checks from two different businesses in Morris because the were being shady with the payroll books.

    What ever happened to the ethical, mild-mannered, progressive rural democrats?

    Anyway, this partially explains why some rural areas vote for superstition and anti-enlightenment.

  18. #18 Carlie
    November 8, 2006

    Ah, Brian beat me to it, but I’ll repeat it anyway. (Hi Brian!)

    Look at South Dakota – they passed their homophobic amendment.
    True, but they also voted down the abortion ban. Some bright spots, at least.

    It does trouble me that so many races were so close. If the Democratic party had some real issues to stand behind other than “we’re not Republicans”, they should have had a clear landslide. I think that the fact they didn’t says more about the lack of platform for the Democrats than about die-hard support for the other side. I thought John Stewart characterized them perfectly last night – he said that the Democratic campaign strategy was identical to a kid backing slowly and quietly out of the room while his brother gets yelled at for setting fire to the garage.

    I have my fingers crossed that they can get their act together. If they don’t, they shouldn’t be surprised to lose next time (as PZ said).

  19. #19 Steve LaBonne
    November 8, 2006

    My dislike of Obama just rose a few more notches due to CML’s praise.

    I’ve had it with the kind of brain-dead “bipartisanship” that means the wingnuts basically get about 99% of what they want. The steady rightward drift of this country’s politics needs to stop, NOW. Then we can get to work on reversing it.

  20. #20 Wes
    November 8, 2006

    Well, science faired as well as can be expected here in Oklahoma. Remember that imbecile Bill Crozier (the one who made a video of himself shooting textbooks full of holes)? He also supported Intelligent Design (plus prayer and corporal punishment in schools). He actually listed ID as priority numero uno in his plug in the newspaper. Anyways, he got absolutely spanked 63% to 37% by democratic incumbant Sandy Garrett. So our schools won’t be dragged back to the 19th century, and will remain where they are (which is somewhere in the vicinity of 1970…)

  21. #21 MAJeff
    November 8, 2006

    They also voted down proposed gay marriage bans and restrictive abortion laws. All is not lost.

    They voted down one of these marriage bans and approved seven. Bringing on the gay-hating is still effective.

  22. #22 Jonathan Badger
    November 8, 2006

    I think you are conflating two issues here: the fact that the Democratic party is not as leftist as it once was and the failure of the party to win as many elections as it would like. You seem to assume that they are linked; as if running 1960s radical candidates would stimulate the masses to vote Democratic and it is merely the “Republican-lite” nature of the current party that is holding them back.

    I see no evidence to support this; politicians develop their platforms on the basis of polls that allow them to tailor their positions to their constituents and win elections. Obviously that isn’t an exact science, but it is merely wishful thinking to suppose that there is a huge untapped leftist base in America that the polls have missed. Of course from the blogosphere things look different, but that’s because moderates tend not to blog.

  23. #23 Russell
    November 8, 2006

    Keep in mind that gay marriage never was legal in the states that voted those bans. And unlikely was to become so. Strengthening that ban by a state constitutional amendment does mean that it will be more difficult to roll back in the future, as society progresses and the religious wingnuts become less influential. But it also eliminates that issue as a way to get the homophobes to the polls next election.

  24. #24 Odd Jack
    November 8, 2006

    I’m sorry, I don’t think Obama and McCain are as independent minded as you imagine, and McCain really does want as deep into the Republican deep pockets as he can get.

    Yeah, I don’t know which way my cynicism should go. Is it that we (the candidates, actually) needed to push progessiveness harder and stand for something? Or is it that the country is just so much more conservative than us? Being more conservative got people in. I looked as SD, the legislature went redder. And FL is still in love with the Bushes.

    But maybe it is the easy way, to play to the baser instincts. Maybe pushing back and arguing louder is needed. In SD, marijuana and defending gays lost by a few percent points, and the abortion ban was blocked (it should have been a bit wider though). In AZ they fully blocked the gay marriage ban. In McCain’s home, as he was bad mouthing the issue. And in MO the Dem one, as did support for stem cell research (last night I went to bed with little hope).

    I can live with some conservative dems, they need to justify their stands, but I can live with them…we are supposed to be a true big tent party. But I loathe the thought that people think we have to enmass shift to the right.

    Perhaps the bigger deal is to win the issues conclusively. Right To Choose and stem cells would be in the forefront. Gay rights is a bit easier, as with the first two people always make arguments for “lives” being at stake. Perhaps the key is to shift understanding of the issues, the science, and the reality really is.

    Time to be a battlin’ cynic.

  25. #25 Stephen Erickson
    November 8, 2006

    Sheesh, PZ, give a frickin’ day to bask in how pissed the phrase “Speaker Pelosi” is making the wingnuts.

  26. #26 MAJeff
    November 8, 2006

    Russell, what you fail to realize is that things like the VA amendment may actually nullify private contracts and may remove protection from domestic violence. In other states, where public institutions offer domestic partnership benefits, said benefits are likely to be taken away. It’s more than banning something that doesn’t exist.

  27. #27 JohnPhys
    November 8, 2006

    CML,

    I for one, have had it with all of the unnecessary praise heaped upon McCain. I wish the general public would wake up and see him for what he really is, a slimy politician, who hasn’t been willing to take a firm stance on anything that might be disagreeable with the administration.

    I don’t mean he should be smeared 2000-GOP-Primary-style, but many of his recent comments have indicated that he’s more a talking puppet head for the GOP than a man of principle.

    He may have been a prisoner of war, and for his service he should be thanked. However, “prisoner of war” does not mean someone actually stands up for their principles.

  28. #28 Scott Hatfield
    November 8, 2006

    PZ: If I might damn you with faint praise, you’re definitely not a politician. Do you honestly believe that any political party can win a national election by focusing on ‘the problems with religion’? Most people in this country don’t regard religion as a problem, as you do, and I think you know that.

    The path to Democratic victory will not be found in a secular critique of religion per se, but rather in building common ground on core values (such as the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom). Perhaps this is what you meant? Cordially..SH

  29. #29 JohnPhys
    November 8, 2006

    PZ,

    I especially enjoy the title of this entry, especially the first two words. It seems ironic to me that it’s the republicans that woke up this morning, possibly hoping they could find a little pill to take to make the results of yesterday all go away….

  30. #30 Russell
    November 8, 2006

    MAJeff writes, “Russell, what you fail to realize is that things like the VA amendment may actually nullify private contracts and may remove protection from domestic violence.”

    Excellent point. I can only hope in coming years, as that harm is done, that people in those states start to realize that the kind of irrational hatred that causes homophobia always has some spillover.

  31. #31 JimC
    November 8, 2006

    Most people in this country don’t regard religion as a problem, as you do, and I think you know that

    I’m not so sure about this statement. People often regard other peoples religion as a problem and I talk with more and more people in church and out that see it as divisive.

  32. #32 Steve LaBonne
    November 8, 2006

    What JimC said. I yield not even to PZ in my dislike of religion, but this needs to be said: Though you’d never know it from the mainstream press, the great majority of Christians in this country do not support and heve never supported the bashing of non-Christian religions, still less the bashing of fellow-Christians for being “not Christian enough”, nor do they have much enthusiasm for the intrusion of religion into politics. I think there are some grounds for hope that we’ve seen the high tide of the Religious Right (though eternal vigilance, etc.) Many of its supporters are starting to regard their foray into politics as a snare and a delusion and are considering retreating into the quietism that was more characterisitic of them before the Republican Party started trying to cynically exploit them. And saner Christians are showing real signs of getting tired of being spat upon by the extremists.

  33. #33 plunge
    November 8, 2006

    PZ, you are just unrealistic. The country just isn’t, politcally, all in line with your political views any more than it is with mine.

    As I kept saying: you can complain that you wouldn’t want to suport someone more conservative than Wetterling. But the result is that MOONBAT BAHCMANN ENDS UP AS A CONGRESSMAN. Kapeesh? You cannot be so unrealistic about what the VOTERS actually support that you won’t concede anything to their actual political center.

  34. #34 Gray Lensman
    November 8, 2006

    I’m hoping to see a weakening of the monolithic GOP, with a rise of multiple factions who will contend for the leadership of the conservatives (religious nutballs versus rich guys/corporations, etc.). Multiple parties might result, splitting the conservative vote. Maybe they will be just a little more disorganized than the Dems.

  35. #35 Steve LaBonne
    November 8, 2006

    Plunge, sorry, it’s not that simple. The “center” has been gradually and purposely shifted to a position that is pretty far to the right by historical standards. That situation cannot and must not simply be accepted as a permanent new fact of life. A few extra wingnuts in Congress is a temporary price that I’m quite willing to pay in order to halt, and begin reversing, that rightward drift. “Control” of Congress by Republican-lites isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.

    This time around, the Democratic establishment will spit on liberals- who provided a lot of the on-the-ground work to bring about this victory- at their own mortal peril. They’d better figure out a way to work with us, and not pat us on the head and tell us to run along and play. Because we’re not going anywhere.

  36. #36 Daniel Morgan
    November 8, 2006

    I think there are some grounds for hope that we’ve seen the high tide of the Religious Right (though eternal vigilance, etc.)

    I think so too. I hope so with all my being.

  37. #37 rrt
    November 8, 2006

    FWIW, I have my doubts PZ was implying that all the Democrats need to do is push more hardcore liberal values. I think “The Democratic candidate…will avoid being too closely associated with his or her core Democratic constituencies…in order to try to appeal to Republican voters” is acknowledging the fact that there’s a REASON the candidate would try to distance himself from those constituencies.

    I read PZ’s statement that the Dems need to “learn to fight for a cause” as also implying that they need to learn how to make that cause appealing to a majority of voters.

    I could be wrong. I’d certainly LIKE to believe the hints that there’s actually a “silent majority” of Christians who are fed up with politics, and willing to vote for Democrats or more moderate Republicans.

  38. #38 Glob
    November 8, 2006

    and they are saddled with an unpopular president and an unpopular war.

    This cannot be listed that as a disadvantage for the Republicans. It’s a symptom, not a cause. They promoted and supported a president to the point of becoming unpopular. They started and conducted a war to the point of becoming unpopular.

    Nonetheless, it’s impressive, the shear number of advantages the Republicans have, and still manage to blow it. They include:

    • Incumbency
    • Majority
    • Decisive control over all three branches of government, both houses of the legislative branch, and a majority of states
    • Funding
    • Sympathy and fear from the terrorists attacks
    • A media that is cowering when it isn’t fawning
    • Disorganized and intimidated opposition
    • Opposition with no message

    Perhaps you can think of still others.

  39. #39 Jessica Guilford
    November 8, 2006

    All of the above may be true. Nevertheless, could we have someone concede that maybe it could have been worse? That taking back one (or one-half) of the three branches of government is not entirely a bad thing?

  40. #40 plunge
    November 8, 2006

    “That situation cannot and must not simply be accepted as a permanent new fact of life.”

    The voters are the voters.

    The reality is that someone who is less liberal than Wetterling who could actually win that race means, net, a more liberal House. This is one reason why the Republican spin that many of the Dems are more conservative than Nancy Pelosi is silly. It doesn’t matter: what matters is that they are MORE LIBERAL THAN THEIR OPPONENTS.

    You want to get too much, for investing and compromising too little. With such a strategy, you might end up with nothing. There just aren’t enough PZ Myers in the country to appeal solely to the PZ Myers constituency.

  41. #41 Steve LaBonne
    November 8, 2006

    “The voters are the voters” is a pretty cynical outlook, and a defeatist one. The voters didn’t get where they are- well to the right of what used to be the center not very long ago- by default, they were nudged there by persuasive right-wing politicians who played on their fears and anxieties. The Democrats need to start doing some persuasion of their own instead of just giving up without even trying and running as substance free “not-Republicans”. That won’t get them far.

  42. #42 Steve LaBonne
    November 8, 2006
  43. #43 Stogoe
    November 8, 2006

    May I just say that McCain is looking terrible these days, like he’s one foot in the grave or on serious chemo.

    I just don’t think he looks up to snowballing Bush’s lies with Lieberman anymore.

  44. #44 tacitus
    November 8, 2006

    As others have pointed out, Americans in general lean heavily conservative. When I first came to the US from the UK, I was immediately struck by how much further right the political center is in America than in Britain. Many in the British Conservative Party would feel quite at home in the American Democratic Party.

    And I have to laugh when right-wingers paint Nancy Pelosi as an extreme liberal. She would fit quite comfortably in the moderate wing of the British Labour Party and see eye-to-eye with that Republican hero, Tony Blair, on just about everything other than the Iraq War (Blair’s albatross).

    I don’t think that will change any time soon. What we saw last night was a wave of revulsion against the excesses of the neo-con hard right, not a wave of popular support for progressive causes (not that the Democrats were selling any this time around).

    Perhaps the pendulum has swung about as far to the right as it can, and the momentum will pick up towards more moderate governance, but a swing way to the left is not likely even in the long term.

    Only when the US becomes a more secular society (which is happening, but very slowly) and Sunday mornings become more about having a lie-in than worshipping a non-existant deity will this nation begin a more sustained move leftwards. The Bible still hold millions of Americans in thrall, and the Bible (or at least the parts that appeal most to the masses) is anything but progressive.

  45. #45 sglover
    November 8, 2006

    Look, it’s hard to get inspired by the Dems, but I think PZM is overlooking one thing that’s absolutely crucial: Last night’s results might be the first step in easing Cheney’s twitching finger off a trigger labeled “Iran”. I strongly suspect that the Cheney administration, unfettered by any reelection concerns, would love to resort to the magic of “surgical” airstrikes.

    This is a huge issue, because I think an Iranian war would really be the end of whatever’s left of the American republic. I worry that the Dems are still too dumb or weak to stop this insanity, but I know for a fact that a Republican Congress would cheer it on. So last night’s results are very encouraging. And there’s another bonus: It looks like the studied scumbuggery of the Atwater/Rove school of politics has finally begun to disgust people more than anything else.

  46. #46 Troublesome Frog
    November 8, 2006

    I too am basking in the warm afterglow of the destruction of Evil Overlord Pombo. I’ve been in the man’s district for years, and being able to shoot my little dart and watch the monster die was ever so much fun.

  47. #47 Uber
    November 8, 2006

    As others have pointed out, Americans in general lean heavily conservative

    I don’t think this is correct. The majority of Americans are a hodge-podge of ideas some conservative some liberal. I think the vast majority of Americans are moderates who when prodded are relatively progressive.

    They start like all humans tend to, resistant to change but eventually accept it. The liberal ideas of yesterday are embraced as the norm today.

  48. #48 Mena
    November 8, 2006

    Russell, keep in mind that same sex marriage is only part of the issue. Those people are still not allowed to join the military and can still be legally discriminated against in many ways. These amendments just told them to get back to the back of the bus and shut up. I honestly don’t think that they are going to do that, and they shouldn’t have to. Not in this country and not in this century. How would you feel if you weren’t considered next of kin for your partner of many years because you weren’t allowed to get married so you couldn’t get information from hospitals about her, couldn’t inherit property from you or she couldn’t inherit property that you worked for together, and if there were kids she couldn’t get survivor benefits from your insurance to help raise them? This is just not right by any definition of being an American.

  49. #49 CML
    November 8, 2006

    LaBonne, I agree with much of what you’ve posted here, but I have a few questions.

    First, what’s the beef with Obama? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not devoted to Obama. His stance on several issues is still unclear. He hasn’t openly opposed the Iraq war, another mark against him. But what is the Dem strategy to win in 2008? Who can step up the plate? Hillary? Can she reach out and get the vote?

    As for McCain, he’s big trouble for the Dems. His track record is relatively clean for political figure in his 70s. How many times have you heard Dems say something along the lines of “I don’t agree with McCain, but I don’t hate him”? If he gets the Rep ticket, and that’s a big if, then the swing vote will likely go in his favor, unless the Dems have someone of equal appeal to the middle. I’m open to ideas, but from the players on the field, IMHO, Obama seems to be the best pick. What do you think is a reasonable strategy for the Dems in 2008?

  50. #50 Steve LaBonne
    November 8, 2006

    Obama is working a little too hard to establish himself as yet another Republican-lite. I prefer Democrats myself.

    McCain is basically a creature of the mainstrem press- reporters always loved him. He also has a very short fuse. And there is a strong built-in tension between his need to (falsely) present himself as a moderate (with the help of those press goobers) so that he could win a general Presidential election, and the continued sucking-up to the Religious Right that he clearly believes is needed to win the nomination. I predict that he’ll implode under the stress of a hard-fought primary campaign, if he even makes it that far amid the infighting that will be going on among the Rethugs the next couple of years. If hr gets the nomination he might be able to beat Hillary, but I think a stronger candidate like Edwards or Clark would make short work of him.

  51. #51 Steve LaBonne
    November 8, 2006

    P.S. I think another factor that will come into play is that Bush is going to dig in his heels on Iraq, Pelosi et al. aren’t really going to be able to do much about it (but can get credit for trying if they play their cards right), and consquently the electorate will be in an even fouler mood with supporters and enablers of this useless slaughter in 2 years than it is now.

  52. #52 "Q" the Enchanter
    November 8, 2006

    Yes, a return to positive, progressive, reality-based campaigning will be far more effective long-term in countering the conservatives’ coalition of the shilling.

  53. #53 Steve_C
    November 8, 2006

    They will start Iraq oversite hearings as soon as they can.

    You’ll hear story after story from retired generals testifying that Rumsfeld and Cheney
    ignored their advice… and continue to ignore the advice of the generals.

    Also there’s no chance in hell we’ll ever attack Iran. It was just a distraction and a reinforcement of the notion we have to be in Iraq to keep things “stable”.

  54. #54 Daniel Martin
    November 8, 2006

    Unless the Democrats actually learn to fight for a cause rather than moping about hoping to pick up voters disaffected by Republican incompetence, yesterday’s victories are only going to be temporary.

    You know, I keep hearing this, and I’d love to see Democrats standing up for strong liberal beliefs too, but…

    The thing is, you saw the Connecticut Senate returns yesterday. Lieberman crushed Lamont. The voters had a chance to pick someone whose act is something other than being a more competent generic politician than the Republicans in power, and they decided not to. They’d really rather stick with the “Democrat” who can always be counted on to strategically help Bush.

    So castigate the Dems for being spineless all you want, but don’t claim that this spinelessness is irrational. It fits the facts on the ground.

  55. #55 tacitus
    November 8, 2006

    I don’t think this is correct. The majority of Americans are a hodge-podge of ideas some conservative some liberal. I think the vast majority of Americans are moderates who when prodded are relatively progressive.

    I agree that there are plenty of real liberals in America, but when you add together the plurality of political views in the US, it is, on balance, decidedly more conservative than the UK. Unless you have spent time in both places it can be hard to realize how different the two countries are politically. I would dearly love the US to be much more progressive, but it’s going to be a hard battle that may not be won for a long, long time.

  56. #56 Steve LaBonne
    November 8, 2006

    Don’t use Lieberman as a bellwether. There are lots of special features in that race, including his long tenure and his active, covert support from the national Republican party which essentially deep-sixed its own candidate. Plenty of people who aren’t Rahm Emmaunel’s buddies also won yesterday.

  57. #57 mndean
    November 8, 2006

    It appears that Dems who ran harder to the left than the Rahm Emmanuel-supported bunch did better, and those that stood for something were much more inspiring than the Obamaish mealymouthed clones. Not all won, of course, but I hope the Lieberman/Obama type will be less likely to be nominated and run.

  58. #58 Steve_C
    November 8, 2006

    You are all missing the INCREDIBLE gains the democrats made yesterday!
    The navel gazing is ridiculous! The environment, minimum wage, healthcare everything that democrats WANT on the agenda will BE on the agenda…

    Yes how far we go left will be tempered but the country resoundingly voted for a change.

    Sherrod Brown won in Ohio! He’s a liberal in a very conservative state.

    That change was not a move to the right but to the left and WAY left of Bush.

  59. #59 Steve_C
    November 8, 2006

    I’m sorry but you have to see the news from my old home state.

    11:32 p.m.: The Associated Press reports that the Democrats have clinched control of the New Hampshire House for the first time since 1911. Their current count in the 400-member chamber: 213-153 Democratic. Staggering GOP losses in Manchester and Strafford County were part of the landslide.

    http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=ELECTION+NEWSBLOG%3a+Early+results+very+good+for+Democrats+in+Manchester&articleId=22235945-2dcf-40dd-9eb8-94c1bc383830

    This is the state that had the weasel John Sununu as governor… my how times have changed.

  60. #60 David Harmon
    November 8, 2006

    Regarding McCain: “Reagan was of similar age his first run as president.”

    You mean the guy who brought Alzheimers to the Oval office? I think McCain’s been on the fence too long — backlash may take him down.

    Regarding the “shift to the right”, I don’t buy it. America’s historical tendency is for true conservativism — financial restraint, foreign-policy isolationism, weak federal government, personal privacy. The Rethuglican media manipulation doesn’t represent a change in American values, but a concealment thereof.

    ShrubCo and his neocon predecessors have hijacked the Republicans to the point where the remaining old-line conservatives are getting almost as pissed as the moderate liberals. If they break away, it’ll seriously screw over the neocons’s plans. Admittedly, it may also hurt social-welfare issues, but those will still be supported by aging demographics and the “bread and circuses” issue.

    I’d say the Democratic priorities for the next couple of years should be election integrity, public campaign financing, and reversing the Rethuglican gerrymandering. That will set them up to ride the true backlash.

  61. #61 Steve_C
    November 8, 2006

    Another take down of the idea it’s conservative democrats that were the key.

    Rahm Emanuel did not win us the house… if anything the wins could of been bigger.

    What Happened Last Night? By: Howie Klein

  62. #62 Sonja
    November 8, 2006

    PZ,

    We MN DFLers need to look at each election and learn, learn, learn! What I learned is that new faces in the DFL win! This is good news. Remember in 2002 when our ticket was Mondale, Moe/Sabo, Humphrey, etc. When we go for these stale candidates with hopes the big names will pull them through, we lose. I see great opportunities for a new generation of DFLers to win a lot of races. We need them.

  63. #63 MikeM
    November 8, 2006

    It’ll be highly amusing to me to watch possible GOP nominee Jeb Bush attempt to claim he’s “Not Bush.” Har. I wonder who’ll buy that.

    Unfortunately, California still did not lose John Doolittle. That’s the most depressing part. But Richard Pombo’s gone. Yessssss.

    Here was my favorite ad from Doolittle’s opponent:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4TNma4-yzw

    Now that’s class.

    On a local note, the proposal to give the owners of the Sacramento Kings $600 million in taxpayer money lost in what I think is as close to a shutout as possible, with nearly 81% opposed. That was outstanding.

  64. #64 Steve_C
    November 8, 2006

    The DFLs don’t win alot of races. That’s been the strategy and it hasn’t been working.
    Sure “moderates” are needed in certain races where needed, but it doesn’t work as an over all congressional strategy.

  65. #65 Chris
    November 8, 2006

    Feingold. Isn’t everybody and his brother saying that the Democrats need to take a stand? Feingold has done that – even before the polls showed it was popular. Feingold has a spine, and principles – things that McCain demonstrably lacks.

    Moving toward the center is exactly the wrong move to make in ’08. The country is incredibly polarized by years of Bush and will be even more polarized after a couple years of Bush vs. Congress. Anyone who tries to move to the center will be vilified for pandering and compromising their principles, unless they were visibly in the center all along – which almost nobody is, that’s what polarized *means*.

    Obama is a waffler, and that’s going to be fatal. We’re already hearing even more amplification of the Rovian talking point that the Democrats have no plan and no message. (Of course, when your party isn’t ruled by one man with an iron fist but instead values diversity of opinion and actual debate, it’s easy to be caricatured like that.) The last thing we need is a candidate that really *doesn’t* have a plan and a message.

    Furthermore the long sequence of Republican moves to the extreme right, Democrat moves to the center is just a game of “what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is negotiable”. The country cannot afford for Democrats to keep playing that game. They’ve been inching to the right so long they passed Eisenhower and Goldwater.

  66. #66 Chris
    November 8, 2006

    Bah – I started writing that right after the post that ends

    What do you think is a reasonable strategy for the Dems in 2008?

    which the beginning of my post was intended as a direct answer to… only this is an *active* thread and there are now 20 other comments in between.

  67. #67 Russell
    November 8, 2006

    Mena, I agree wholeheartedly. Were it up to me, we would have same-sex marriage in all fifty states. Maybe my joy over yesterday’s election spilled over too much into putting a “not too bad” spin on those results also.

    Mea culpa.

  68. #68 Mena
    November 8, 2006

    I understand Russell, I just noticed a glaring lack of mentioning that this had passed in seven states last night during those speeches. Even if they kept the losses low key, it was a celebration after all, someone should have mentioned the victory in Arizona. They seem to want to be the people’s party as long as we are talking about the popular people. The Republicans just seem to want to pass judgement on everyone and take action against those they find immoral. This is hardly a choice, maybe the democrats will be emboldened by this and start taking a stand. I doubt that though. Isn’t it time to start campaigning again? ;^)

  69. #69 Bilbo
    November 8, 2006

    Prof. Myers,

    I have to agree with most of your commentary. The DLC (Democratic Leadership Committee) controls most of the money going to Democratic candidates. The DLC is controlled by conservative leaders, who really aren’t much different from their Republican counterparts.

    The only way to combat this is to start our own parade. When the Democratic leaders see that we can attract lots of people, they’ll get in front and claim it was their idea. (I got this idea from listening to Thom Hartman, progressive radio talk show host).

    But I would suggest that you drop the religion bashing. You’ll find that a great many progressives are also religious. We want unity on important issues, no division.

  70. #70 plunge
    November 8, 2006

    “The DFLs don’t win alot of races. That’s been the strategy and it hasn’t been working.
    Sure “moderates” are needed in certain races where needed, but it doesn’t work as an over all congressional strategy.”

    Of course not. But the point is not to run mealymouthed centrists everywhere. The point is to be REALISTIC and make sure that the primary process really reflects some measure of the district the candidate will be running in.

    “The voters didn’t get where they are- well to the right of what used to be the center not very long ago- by default, they were nudged there by persuasive right-wing politicians who played on their fears and anxieties.”

    You call me cynical, but your sense of voters is that they are just idiots to be molded? I’m not saying don’t be persuasive. I’m saying be realistic.

    By the way: I just hugged my first Congressman. PA08 is ours.

  71. #71 Steve_C
    November 8, 2006

    We want unity on the issues. Not some vacuous belief in god. We perfectly willing to over a candidates religion as long as they have the right views on the issues.

    Reproductuve freedom, gay marriage, stem cell research and creationism in schools. If a religious candidate can manage not to fuck up those votes… we have no problem with them.

  72. #72 Steve_C
    November 8, 2006

    I’m typing too fast before hitting post.

  73. #73 Ichthyic
    November 8, 2006

    Sheesh, PZ, give a frickin’ day to bask in how pissed the phrase “Speaker Pelosi” is making the wingnuts.

    …and in that light:

    SPEAKER PELOSI
    SPEAKER PELOSI
    SPEAKER PELOSI

    yeah, that’s right, suck it up rednecks:

    the first woman speaker of the house, and a die-hard liberal too!

    http://democraticleader.house.gov/

    ooh, just got a second rush of schadenfreude!

    I know they said no gloating, but really, I do recall 94.

  74. #74 PZ Myers
    November 8, 2006

    Were it up to me, we would have same-sex marriage in all fifty states.

    Wouldn’t that be bigamy? Wouldn’t it be awfully tiring, too?

  75. #75 bernarda
    November 8, 2006

    Gosh, you are now sounding like Michael Moore from a couple of years ago.

  76. #76 j
    November 8, 2006

    I’m rather content with Missouri’s election results. We approved embryonic stem-cell research, raised the minimum wage, and got a Democrat whom I rather like in the Senate. Kansas threw out a creepy, anti-choice, pedophile/stalker-like attorney general.

  77. #77 JustinK
    November 8, 2006

    “The side of science has seen mixed results. Santorum’s gone…”

    I’m not going to read through all the above comments, but surely by now someone else must have pointed out how ironic it is to knock Santorum, when it was probably Santorum who played the largest part in getting Judge Jones into a position where he would eventually be able to throttle ID. Admittedly, there is no real debate between real science and creation “science,” but at the popular level there is still confusion, and indirectly Santorum played a part in clearing it up. Santorum probably did more for the evolutionist cause, on the popular if not the academic level, than any 100 articles written in scientific journals could have done.

  78. #78 Ichthyic
    November 8, 2006

    LOL.

    giving the devil his due there, Justin?

    hilarious.

    surely we should give Hitler a medal of honor for showing how clearly repugnant the utilization of eugenics in practice was?

    feel free to call godwin on that.

  79. #79 Eric Zaetsch
    November 9, 2006

    The posting is 100% correct. The Dems will be stupid, and the Dems will be divided, and the Dems will opt for a tepid candidate, and the Dems will lose. Who the GOP non-Bush is will be decided before the convention in the Twin Cities which will be a coronation and not a real event.

    FEINGOLD.

    My dream ticket would have been Feingold – Spitzer in 2008.

    Spitzer went for Guv of his state, and should stay there and not be a short-termer looking for a spring board. He can accomplish a lot from that office.

    So, Rush Holt is an excellent “unknown” or lesser known Dem in Congress, from New Jersey. PhD in physics, Carleton College, Minnesota. Head on the shoulders, strongest voice over having paper trails even with electronic balloting. Makes sense to me. No power colalition backing him that I know of.

    My dream ticket now, Dems for 2008, FEINGOLD – CANTWELL.

    Think about it. Cantwell is the junior senator from Washington, and she has a computer science -&- infotech industrial background, and made millions that way.

    She refused to be backed into a rote “get out of Iraq” position, and instead recognized the ongoing wisdom of the Powell-Armitage “pottery barn” truth – you go in, you break it, you own it. Or at least you owe something in terms of exiting in a way to minimize the screwed up mess left behind.

    But the Dems moved to the position of let the uniformed Pentagon extract itself; and Bush dumping Rummy is acknowledgement of that. However unless the neocons are run out with Rummy it’s a hollow move. And expect them to stay because of Lieberman winning, not Lamont, and the Dems needing Lieberman voting with them on organizing.

    The voters of Connecticut screwed things for the rest of us by not electing Lamont. Now this unlikable incumbent will swing even more weight and that means a less expeditious exit from Iraq and a continuing strong will to meddle in the Middle East.

  80. #80 Kayla
    November 9, 2006

    I don’t know. In Maryland, at least, there was some discussion of progressive issues by the Dems. The main thrust of the campaigns were “My opponent is a Republican and supports Bush”, but there were also ads that talked about things like stem cell research, keeping down the cost of Maryland state universities, the minimum wage, the environment, and health care. (Especially about what a bad record their Republican opponent had on those issues.)

  81. #81 Keith Douglas
    November 9, 2006

    If the voters are the reason for the push to the right and the rise of the plutocratic and theocratic plutocratic parties, why do they poll far to the left (on average) relative to the politicians and more in line with Europeans and Canadians?

    Alon has already mentioned one area where this is true; there are others.

  82. #82 Steve LaBonne
    November 9, 2006

    I’m not too worried about Sore Loserman. Being a self-important a-hole he just likes the ego boost of being Senator; the primary threw a major scare into him, and he knows he got re-elected only because he promised to caucus with the Dems (and that he sure as hell won’t get re-elected in 6 years as a Republican.) Also he may not be very bright but he has enough brains to know that the political wind has shifted and kssing up to Bush is no longer a good career move. In addition I strongly suspect the leadership made a deal with him whereby he would keep his seniority and committee assignments in return for being a good boy and not making trouble after the election.

  83. #83 JS
    November 19, 2006

    Robert Casey Jr, a bland, boring, pious middle-of-the-road Democrat who is anti-choice. Was anyone excited about that candidate?

    So being a moderate is bad? And being against abortion is an insult?

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