The first sign that something big was afoot came early in the evening, after the VNS numbers were thrown out and when initial returns from Georgia showed Chambliss leading Cleland, Bush ahead in Florida, and, for me, the most important sign, Anne Northup comfortably ahead in her swing House district in Kentucky (where I lived for a year). Suddenly Pat Caddell melts down on MSNBC, attacking Democrats as corrupt, lacking courage and message! Chris Matthews dyspeptic shreik reached a whole new octave, and Donna Brazille slumped in her chair in a clear funk. And it got worse from there. (James Carville finally put a trash can over his head in CNN, a vast improvement over his normal visage. . .) By far the most savory moment was when NBCs Bob Kur and Brian Williams announced that Kennedy Townsend had lost in Maryland: Both looked obviously stricken at the news.
What does it mean? Is this a sign that Bushs coattails showed up two years late? And/or is this a sign that the foundation of realignment, first suggested in the results of 1980 and 1994, is starting to solidify in a meaningful way? The late pre-election polls and what exit polls we have suggest that Republicans are increasingly competitive with Democrats even on the issues where Democrats are supposed to be strongest (economy, health care, etc). Social Security and Mediscare didnt work. (The Oregon health care initiative went down HARD, a sign that there isnt much room to go with that issue.) There is no sign that environmental issues helped Democrats anywhere (and the enviro groups spent big on this election). GOP wins on northeastern governors races shows that the GOP is alive in its historic homeland.
Let the Democratic bloodletting begin. It will be said, correctly, that black turnout was not sufficient, and Democrats will now try hard to reverse this in the next election. How? Look for a renewed push for reparations. (There are signs in windows in black neighborhoods in Oakland, CA that read "Reparations Now!") More generally, Pat Caddell is right: liberals will now blast the centrists for depriving the party of a message. This will be fun to watch.