Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Post Election Reflections

This piece was written by Shrinkwrapped, who has kindly agreed to crosspost on this site.

For the next two years the House will be in Democratic hands and the Senate is currently leaning in that direction, though things may change as late ballots are counted and the lawyers get involved. Ann Althouse has, to my mind, an accurate take on the outcome of the election, though her conclusion is more wishful than measured:

I wonder what will happen in the next two years... other than that lots of folks will run for President... and we'll all lookon and criticize. No one can possibly do that much in the new set up. The Democrats will be expected to do something -- a new direction! -- but what can they really do?


I'll have to rethink this tomorrow, but it seems to me that not much can happen in the next two years. The brakes are on everywhere. The watchword is "humility"... isn't it?

To which I would respond, "if only." Political partisans rarely practice humility when they ride a wave, and the greatest risk is that the Democrats will take this as a mandate. The Democratic base is fired up and for good reason. Their party has just thoroughly repudiated the Republicans. If the Republicans are smart, and many of them are, they will use the next two years to illustrate the radical nature of the Democrat base and re-think where they have gone wrong. Hugh Hewitt, ever the optimist, believes the Republicans will re-learn some old lessons:

House Republicans as well have to rebuild from the ground up and with an eye on those members best equipped to debate the almost certain overreaches of the Democratic majority. From the first day of the new Congress it is going to be a partisan slugfest or a GOP dismemberment. The GOP must find the fighters with talent and promote them.

The anti-illegal immigration absolutists got their heads handed to them. As the fence goes up, their rhetoric must go down --dramatically.

But there is good news as well.

Hillary's path back to the White House is much more difficult with her party in the majority in the House, and much much more difficult if the Senate falls to Harry Reid's command as well. Clarity as to her party's fecklessness will be back within the first six months, and the GOP frontrunners --Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney-- do not have to serve in the almost certain to be paralyzed Senate.

The Beltway-Manhattan media elite is now stuck "covering" Democratic majorities. Sure, they will go easy on them, but it is much more difficult to cover for a majority than a minority.

And it is a wonderful day for new media, especially talk radio. For two years we have had to defend the Congressional gang that couldn't shoot straight. Now we get to play offense.

Hugh points out the danger for the Democrats that I hinted at above. With a passionate, committed base well to the left of most Americans, they will almost certainly over-reach; parties do that. In fact, it is human nature to over-interpret successes and failures; Wall Street veterans rely on just such behavior to make their large bonuses. And now, instead of being able to say whatever they want with no possibility of being held to account, for the next two years, with their base clamoring for "action", and the newly enlarged class of moderate Democrats not interested in future electoral suicide, the tensions within the Democratic party will be forced into the open.

To take one example, the Democrat base is committed to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible. Responsible Democrats know that this would be a disaster, and worse for their political interests, such a retreat could only occur by cutting off funding for the war. Centrist Democrats are unlikely to go along with such an American defeat and the attempts to de-fund the War will reinforce the Democrats image as the party of defeat. At the same time, if the Democrats resist, if people like Hillary vote to continue war funding, they open themselves to a challenge from the left, which has already been shown to be effective in denying the nomination to a Centrist Democrat (Joe Lieberman). Watching Hillary try to square the circle that John Kerry never successfully negotiated will be a fascinating and true test of her political acumen.

For the Republicans, it is almost certain that the country's dissatisfaction with Iraq will translate into increased pressure on Bush to begin the re-deployment from Iraq. No Republican can wish to enter the 2008 election cycle with troops still dying in Iraq.

Which leaves the Iraqis, the Iranians, and al Qaeda as the wild cards in the mix. They will certainly interpret the Democratic victory as confirmation of their "Vietnamization" strategy of bleeding America until it gets tired and goes home. If they have the capability, they will attempt to maintain the pressure by killing Americans in Iraq. If they are smart, they will up the pressure of terror in Europe in order to keep the European appeasers on board, while avoiding further attacks on America itself.

The most likely outcome of all this is Glenn Reynold's prediction:

It's likely to be gridlock, which is what I think a lot of voters wanted.

Gridlock suits many Americans who have been unhappy with the Republican stewardship for the last several years; it will not be a happy outcome for the newly energized base of the Democratic party. We are in for an interesting two years.

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