Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election 2006 Post-Mortem

Wow. Reva Tramell is returning to the Richmond City Council. Didn't see that coming.

Well, everyone seems to agree that this election was a referendum on the war on terror. But don't drink the "America wants out" kool-aid quite yet.

For historical and mathematical perspective, check out these numbers: Since 1914, the average two-year midterm loss for the party in the White House is 27 seats in the House and 3 in the Senate. The average six-year (like this year) loss is is 34 in the House and 6 in the Senate.

In President Bush's two-year midterm, he completely bucked the odds, actually gaining 6 seats in the House and 2 in the Senate. That's +33 and +5 against the average. He was the first Republican president to ever gain House seats in a midterm, and only the third president of either party since the Civil War to pick up seats. Democrats picked up 26 seats in the House yesterday (the Senate is still in play with Virginia and Montana undecided). Not only is that 8 seats less than the six-year midterm average gain for an opposition party, it leaves them 41 seats behind the combined midterm average gain.

My point is not actually to belittle this win. It's just to provide a splash of reality in the midst of all the ecstatic spin and empty promises (which, for the record, we'd be getting regardless of which party won). If this election was a referendum on the war on terror, it's interesting that the gains for the opposition party are substantially less than similar elections during peacetime. The Democratic party will, of course, spin this as a massive change of heart for the American people. I'm just not sure that's at all the case.

Here's a question for you to consider: Every winning Democrat has promised to take America in a "new direction." What have they said that direction would be exactly? Did we vote for a change, or simply for change? I worry that yesterday's election was like picking a random dish from a menu just because you feel like something different; it may taste terrible, or we may even have a deadly allergy to it. I worry even more that Americans seem to have glibly voted for some very vague promises with precious few specifics supporting them, and that this appears to have been the entire Democratic strategy.

Jimmy Barrett just said "Conservatives are miserable, liberals are ecstatic, and moderates are saying 'Gee, I hope I did the right thing.' " Amen, brother.

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25 Comments:

  • At 11/08/2006 10:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    That's not really the point though.
    The thing is that BushCo will be forced to learn how to play with others and be held accountable for its actions. THAT is what Democrats voted for.

     
  • At 11/08/2006 12:28 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    It's my opinion that most people whom voted Democrat voted beacuse they just wanted a change, regardless of what it may be.

     
  • At 11/08/2006 12:29 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    And as Tony Snow said, it will be intresting to see what the Democrats do now that they hold majority.

     
  • At 11/08/2006 5:15 PM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    People who "just wanted a change" also voted for Hitler, so I'm not certain that really qualifies as a great primary reason for voting a certain way.

    Here's my fear: a lot of people who are very happy today are going to be very angry in a few months when the Democratic majority does nothing whatsoever different in Iraq. Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt have already admitted that they don't plan to move for any change in the waging of the war.

    The change that we can all pretty much agree was needed came today when the President finally accepted Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. It only took Rummy three tries.

     
  • At 11/08/2006 6:02 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    But I'm sure that the people who voted for Hitler didn't know that he would initiate one of the bloodiest genocides in the history of the world.

     
  • At 11/09/2006 8:28 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    My point exactly. Blind voting for "something different" is like Russian roulette.

    The most upset person I spoke to yesterday was not a despairing conservative, it was a very nervous liberal. He told me he's convinced that the Democrats will change almost nothing despite their campaigns, and even more convinced that their leadership is so weak that the Republicans are going to take it all back in 2008. Smart man.

    Let's see: in the past couple days I have compared George W. Bush to Abraham Lincoln and Nancy Pelosi to Adolf Hitler. I think I need to re-take my Allegories 101 exam...

     
  • At 11/09/2006 5:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    You have such a weird perspective on this.
    A country that is tired of a government that continues to extend the power of the executive branch and exploit it's position of world super-power for reasons not fully explained NEEDS a system of checks and balances. This whole election was about just that: Instilling a way to keep this administration from doing whatever it pleases by ensuring that Congress ACTUALLY DOES ITS JOB. The American people simply aren't happy with this government. Yes, the whole issue of what's going to happen is up in the air, but you are spinning the root of the results into what every Republican pundit and politcian spouts and that is anti-Democratic sentiment. Might I remind you that this adminstration is damned lucky that impeachment is "off the table" and that they are going to move forward with actually trying to work together on this issue and try to unite Americans rather than divide them, as the Republicans have.
    There is nothing "blind" about this election.
    Here's an oversimplification: Suppose I were to poke you in the arm with a sharp piece of metal over and over and over. Then I told you I could continue to poke you over and over with this thing or you could choose to be poked by a new instrument. You don't know what the instrument is, but GODDAMMIT your arm is bleeding and you are starting to get woozy. You are going to pick the optional poker, whether it's made of foam or flames. Why? Because if you keep getting poked like this, you're going to pass out and die.
    You say that you are offering perspective on this, but you simply aren't. You question what EXACTLY they intend to do when the current government has shared almost nothing with its people in the way of information, reform OR justice. You refer to the Democrats words as "empty promises" and you belittle Democratic intentions. It's cool that you're Republican and all, but I'm just curious: Are you defending the way things have been for the last few years and think that everything is OK? Or are you just playing Devil's advocate? If it's the latter, then you contradict yourself. Otherwise, your logic is a wolf in sheep's clothing, playing the innocent discussion, but actually intending anti-DNC statements.
    So to you I ask, good sir: Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?

     
  • At 11/09/2006 5:32 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    I do think that people are simply voting for a change.

    The facts show that people were voting aginst Republicians, not aginst conservitisim.

    The marriage act that banned gay marriage was voted for in every state in which it was a part of the ballot, even in the Liberal states. Legalize mary jane was outlawed in such places as Colorado and Nevada. As far as issues go, people were still voting more on the consertive side, but just agnist Republicans.

     
  • At 11/09/2006 5:32 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    simply voted for a change*

     
  • At 11/10/2006 9:19 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Joey's got it right. People were voting against Republicans, not against conservatism. The gay marriage and eminent domain referenda were clear evidence of that.

    Perhaps I should clarify here: I am not a Republican, I'm an independent conservative. And I should definitely clarify that when I say "empty promises," I'm referring to pretty much all campaign language across the board. For example, the Democratic promise to take care of the "culture of corrpution" in Washington is very unlikely to result in the removal of Democrats such as Jefferson ($90,000 in bribe money in his freezer), Reid (undocumented land-for money deal in Arizona) and Murtha (millions in government contracts for his brother). "Read my lips: no new taxes" taught me to be very discerning about voting for someone based on campaign promises. You really want to get angry? Track the campaign promises for two years and see how many are kept, or even addressed. In all of American history, there has been one president who kept every campaign promise: James K. Polk, who did it all in one term and didn't run for re-election.

    Please bear in mind that social conservatives are almost as pissed off at the GWBA as liberals are. The idea that President Bush is some kind of uber-conservative is complete and total left-wing propaganda.

    Yes, I'm often playing devil's advocate (which made me very popular in grad school, as you can imagine).

    What surprises me is that, with all due respect, you don't seem to have any problem with the fact that your leaders have said NOTHING about what they would do differently in Iraq. Then again, that's what John Kerry did in 2004; he talked about how he had a "plan" for Iraq but never gave any details. So apparently A) his constituency was too dumb to understand it, B) it was going to be unpopular, or C) he didn't have one. If you're scoring at home, the answer was actually B; Kerry's Iraq plan was nearly identical to the one currently in action. And Howard Dean confirmed on Tuesday night that the same is true today; the Democrats do not plan to push for significant changes in Iraq.

    That doesn't bother you? It bothers the hell out of me. I want changes, okay? We need a massive change in strategy in Iraq, we need to intervene in the Sudan, and we need to do something serious about illegal aliens. For my mind, the biggest issue facing us today, this minutem, is the sieve-like border with Mexico. But you can relax, President Bush uis already looking forward to creating an amnesty program, which he couldn't get passed by a Republican congress.

    So I agree that some things need to change. I just don't think the Democrats have demonstrated that they have any actual plans to change anything. They do, however, have a surfeit of rhetoric.

    Problem or solution? I'm sure that what some people see as problem I see as solution, and vice versa.

     
  • At 11/10/2006 5:38 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    I never said that Democrats would change a lot of what needs to be changed, I simply stated that that might be why a lot of people voted for them.

    And yes, I agree, we do need to get the hell out of Irag and the hell into Sudan, asap. But I don't think people give demostic polotics much thought. A lot of the polotciial discussions I have had with others as of late all include forgin polociy, with little or no attention to demostic policy.

    There is a diffrence between being worried about the world around you and neglecting your own country's needs.

     
  • At 11/10/2006 6:23 PM , Blogger PhilBiker said...

    Funniest quote from Bush was now since his party lost the house and senate, he's hoping that the two parties can work together and not be partisan (I don't have the exact quote).

    Made me chuckle, because his statement implies that when his party was in power it was ok for them to be partisan.

    So when my team is in power we do whatever the hell we want. And when your team is in power, let's not be partisan.

    Transparent as glass.

     
  • At 11/10/2006 6:58 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    Screw parties. I'm not Liberal, im not Consertive, i'm not a Democat and im not a republician.

    I'm an americian who votes for what i belive in. Grant it, i really cant vote yet, my point is clear.

     
  • At 11/11/2006 9:43 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Phil,

    I know the quote you're talking about. In all fairness, President Bush had a long record of bipartisan legislation as a governor in heavily-conservative Texas, and made bipartisanship a major part of his 2000 platform. In addition, his stance on illegal aliens is way left of center, and he is genuinely looking forward to working on immigration legislation that Republicans wouldn't have passed. More's the pity.

    And if I may put the devil's advocate horns on for a moment, why should a president whose party controls both houses of Congress go out of his way to please the minority party? The American people voted in Presidential, House, and Senate races, and for six years they said, "we want it done this way." It's no sin to take advantage of a singular opportunity to make choices you think need to be made when you have the political muscle to back them up. Do you think President Clinton would have done differently if he had had control of Congress? Or Reagan? When the American people have had enough, they'll vote for a change--oh, wait: they just did. Okay, horns off.

    The thing that disturbs me most about the transparency you're talking about is that all of these clowns know that 99% of the population doesn't bother to check the facts, follow up, or do any research. (I feel like such a lonely man when I do political research. I hear lonely hawks screeching in the winds over my head. No, wait: those are actually in my neighborhood. They live in the neighbor's tree.) I can't really even blame my favorite target, TV news, this time; I'm reading Shelby Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative, and the politics are nearly the same in 1860, they just move a little slower and involve duels more often. Actually, the more I read the more the Lincoln - Bush parallels are creepy. No kidding. I'll post about it some time.

    Getting back to politicians' messages: Polls taken last week show that the majority of Americans believed that Democrats were more likely than Republicans to cut taxes, control spending, and downsize government. The Americans polled, for reasons passing understanding, endowed Democrats with the core issues of fiscal conservatives. Just wow. That's like saying you think Democrats are more likely to be anti-abortion; seriously, it's just that ridiculous. Putting aside the fact that both sides are pretty much all servants of corporations and special interests, a quick dip into a seventh-grade social studies textbook would clear that up, for crying out loud. Then again, the GWBA has been fiscally very liberal, with the exception of the tax cuts, so complete and total voter ignorance on the foundations of the parties' platforms is somewhat understandable.

    Swing voters vote with their hearts and their guts, so that's all the politicians try to appeal to in election season. In the week after the election, the order of the day is to look magnanimous. It's slimy and fallacious, but it goes all the way back to the Washington presidency.

    So why shouldn't they all lie? The only people calling them on it are liars themselves or impotent bloggers who try to tell the truth. As evidenced by the poll results above, the voters certainly aren't checking up on them or doing any homework. Hell, they're barely even thinking.

    Now can we get back to talking about comic books or Transformers or something?

     
  • At 11/11/2006 9:48 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Something I forgot to mention:

    For a president whom so many people label "extremist" when it comes to foreign policy and combatting Arab terrorism, Mr. Bush doesn't at all seem to share my certainty that the nuclear, biological, or radiological weapon we're destined to see blow up in one of our cities is going to come through the Mexican border. On this issue, I'm, as Tim Rice would say, "slightly to the right of Atilla the Hun."

     
  • At 11/11/2006 5:23 PM , Blogger PhilBiker said...

    "Getting back to politicians' messages: Polls taken last week show that the majority of Americans believed that Democrats were more likely than Republicans to cut taxes, control spending, and downsize government. The Americans polled, for reasons passing understanding, endowed Democrats with the core issues of fiscal conservatives. Just wow. That's like saying you think Democrats are more likely to be anti-abortion; seriously, it's just that ridiculous. "

    GWB has thrown traditional fiscal conservatism out. The Repubs have spent amazingly huge amounts of money and enlarged government while lowering taxes. Anyone who pays bills can see the foolishness of this. Traditionally Dems have been more free-spending but that changed with GWB. For the last 6 years not only have they massively enlarged spending but they've cut taxes.

    That's like me buying a bigger house and going to my boss and asking for a pay cut.

     
  • At 11/12/2006 2:14 AM , Blogger Scott Wichmann said...

    BLUE ALERT!! INTRUDER!! INTRUDER!!!
    THERE'S A BONA-FIDE JACKASS MASSACHUSETTS LIBERAL IN HERE!! LET THAT GUY RUN LOOSE, AND SOON WE'LL ALL FIND OURSELVES IN BIRKENSTOCKS, SMELLING LIKE PACHOULI, MARRIED TO OTHER MEN AND BURDENED WITH A HUGE TAX BILL AND A CHRONICALLY UNDERACHIEVING BASEBALL TEAM!!

    Teddy Kennedy sent me.

    Kidding. I kid. I just Read dave t's blog and had to hop over here to see what's up. The thought of us debating was funny to me, because we're both so short-- where are they gonna find small enough podiums?? It'd be like a friggin frosted mini-wheats commercial or something. Picture us in suits too big for us.

    Andrew:"The wheat side keeps me on message, ever-vigilant and fiscally conservative with a fired-up base.."

    Scott: "But the frosted side brings out my desire to introduce legislation to make 'Kumbaya' the national anthem!!"

    ...aaaand scene.

    Needless to say, I fwiggin wuv this bwog.

    Regarding the initial post, I think both sides, Democrat and Republican, are waiting to hide under the protective awning of the Jim Baker Iraq report. I think They'll deliberate and then implement some of the the recommendations therein. (Which will be an Amityville Horror-esque voice whispering 'GET OUT' when you open the actual report-- it's like a pop-up book, I got an advance copy.)It's clear that we need to get out as fast as possible-- our continued presence only exacerbates the situation in Iraq.

    Look for Bush to meet the Dems in the middle and grab some sort of political lifesaver thrown by Baker. We already know Baker says the war is 'Unwinnable'-- Having already cut the dead weight in Rumsfeld, Bush can now chart a new 'course' and look like a 'Uniter' who is open to new ideas (Which he may well HAVE to be to get out of this mess and preserve his legacy) while Bush Sr's Old standbys handle the actual mess. The Baker report gives both the dems and the GOP something to hang their hats on. Pity that more iraqis and US Soldiers have to die while they wait around for a politically advantageous time to act.

    I think the Dems have some good ideas--Raising the minimum wage is a good idea. Introducing legislation to make college tuition tax deductible is another great idea. So is enacting the 9/11 report security recommendations. How about securing nuclear power plants and ports?? That'd be sweet. They should also fight for embryonic stem cell research so we can clone Helen Slater...My first crush-- what can I say?

    I'm thinking that they also need to try to get environmental policy out of the hands of the Oil bigwigs who run the EPA.-- That's just common sense.

    I was saying the other day that I think america really wants to meet itself 'in the middle,' and while there are sure to be lots of clashes ahead between the President and the new House, there may actually be some good things that come from it.

    BTW, Am I the only one that thinks Montana senator John Tester looks like Meatloaf??

    Here's a toast to bipartisanship!!

    Clink-CRASH!!

    ...oops... better fasten our seatbelts...

     
  • At 11/12/2006 8:06 AM , Blogger LKotula said...

    Wow - I'm coming back for more drama! Looks like a news story here...

     
  • At 11/12/2006 9:57 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Phil,

    The spending is insane, and it's one of the reasons anyone who believes Bush is an arch-conservative needs to do some more homework. The GWBA is, however, two years ahead of their goal in reducing the deficit, and tax revenue is way up despite (or because of, depending on which economist you ask) the tax cuts.

    Ha ha ha ha ha! John Tester DOES look like Meat Loaf! And that's TWO words, my man: first name Meat, last name Loaf. People who don't know him well call him Mr. Loaf.

    I think I saw some podiums on sale in the lil' legislators section of Toys R Us. I promptly bought a special edition "Exo-Force" Lego set instead. It's yellow and shiny.

    I don't know how much this is a debate any more, because I secretly share the most liberal socialist's frustration and desire for change. I just don't think it's unreasonable at all for me to be extremely nervous about a party whose platform was centered around "give me a vote and close your eyes and I will give you a big surprise."

    I'm eager for the Baker report. (I have the "books-on-tape" version on order. It's read in a soothing southern drawl by Holly Hunter.) I'm pretty sure Iraq has taught us that the war on terror, whether it's worth fighting or not, is at its heart an unwinnable war. In the president's defense, I'm not sure there's any way to get it right.

    Once again, it's much like the Civil War; early battles were fought with the Napoleonic tactics all the West Pointers had learned in their classes and textbooks. The problem was that the rifled musket had been invented, and guns had much longer range and faster load times. So the old tactics, the only thing the experienced commanders knew how to do, were completely obsolete and got their men slaughtered. Newspapers and politicians demanded the heads of generals on both sides, the Secretary of War, and yes, even President Abraham Lincoln. It took horribly bloody battles like First Manassas, Pea Ridge, and the nightmare of Shiloh for the generals to adjust. We're fighting a post-Cold War campaign right now, which means two things: 1) No huge ground battles in favor of air power, and 2) No massive setbacks to teach us lessons, only a series of very small ones over and over.

    My point? I really don't think Presidents Gore or Kerry would be doing substantially better at this juncture. This is World War III, it's been going on since the late 1970s, and it took 9/11 for us to realize war had been declared. We're waist-deep in a war that no one knows how to fight because we've never had to fight anything like it before. We're the British, and they're the Colonial Americans; they just won't stand still, get in line, and be mowed down.

    Thanks for lightening it up, Scott. This whole topic (and the Michael J. Fox one) have my "intense" switch turned firmly to the "on" opsition.

    You do realize that writing all these political responses is taking up valuable time that I could be writing about the Mighty Avengers and the latest Steve Hackett album, right?

     
  • At 11/12/2006 12:01 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    Do you think Tester will break out in the middle of a Senate meeting singing "Paradise by the Dashboard Light"?

     
  • At 11/12/2006 12:42 PM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Or "Everything Louder Than Everything Else."

     
  • At 11/12/2006 3:35 PM , Blogger Joey Fanelli said...

    Or maybe he'll sing my Fox football robot song.

     
  • At 11/12/2006 7:18 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    A debate between Andrew and Scott? No. Arm wrestling match? Oh, yeah! But really, Scott, let's get real...you don't even OWN a pair of Birkenstocks, I've NEVER known you to smell of patchouli (Andrew...I might have caught a whiff on YOU though), and while the Bosox bombed this year, didn't they cancel the curse a year ago? MANY holes is this argument, you Massachusetts left-wing radical infiltrator! Hey folks, I think we've got a carpet bagger on our hands here! (Don't let the Samsonite luggage fool you!) Jen, who IS this guy you married? Help, help, citizens' arrAYest, citizens' arrAYest! (okay, my Gomer impression needs some work...but you get the idea!)

     
  • At 11/12/2006 8:14 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    But seriously folks...Andrew, to your point about how to fight this war, I totally agree. Is Iraq going well? Of course not, and if Don Rumsfeld had been ousted six months ago the election results could have been much different. Que sera, sera. My interest is not so much the party in power but in making sure we know (and ATTACK) the real enemy: Islamic tolitarianists. I was in college when Iraqi students took our embassy employees hostage (not Jimmy Carter's fault); four years later, I was in the Air Force in the former West Germany when the modern era of suicide bombers began the first of many attacks by killing a few hundred Marines in their Beirut barracks (not Ronald Reagan's fault).

    Let's face it, folks, these people believe that if you don't follow their brand of Islam (and you could even BE a Muslim, no matter), that YOU MUST DIE. Am I afraid? No, what good would that do? Do I believe they can kill everyone who doesn't convert? No, not likely, not by a long shot. But they CAN disrupt economies by creating the uncertainty that constant terrorist activity will produce. Look, it nearly DESTROYED the American airline industry in the months following 9/11. We sunk further into the recession that began in 1999 (oh, and by the way...free market economies don't necessarily rise and fall based on who is in office, whether Democrat or Republican). We're in FAR better shape now economically, mainly because we've had no terrorist action on our soil in five years. Despite the debacle in Iraq, that fact didn't just happen by accident. We need to pick our battles carefully, and protect the lives of our servicemen and women. But we also need to keep on the offensive as well, and we need to fight to WIN, no matter how long it takes or how much it costs. The alternatives would be far costlier.

    The Islamic terrorists believe God is on their side. We can't reason with them, there's no negotiating, there's only us or them. I wish it were otherwise. But it's just NOT, and we can't pray it away or vote it away.

    Palestinians in Gaza recently broke the truce by firing rockets into Israeli territory. As the Israeli Army fired upon the combatants, they fled into a Mosque. Undeterred, the Israelis continued firing. Hamas called for hundreds of women in the area to surround the mosque, creating a "human shield". The Israelis promptly deposited some lead into a few of the women's skulls, causing them to scatter. Now THAT'S how you win a war. We can't kill or even identify all the Muslims bent on destroying every living "infidel". But we CAN destroy their will to fight. It worked when we bombed German and Japanese cities, and it might take similar tactics today. If the Iranian president begins to believe we might go in that direction, the diplomatic efforts might suddenly go in a whole new direction.

     
  • At 11/12/2006 8:15 PM , Blogger Frank Creasy said...

    Correction, IRANIAN students.

     

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