Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

November 7th by the Numbers

That’s the title of my relatively short, very preliminary consideration of the meaning of the election. I worked mostly from the election returns and so didn’t really touch directly on the substantive issues that may or may not have moved the electorate.

My basic argument is that the bad news is the good news. Republicans have received an electoral wake-up call and have lots of incentive to address it. By contrast, the leading Democrats are insulated from the electorate in deep, deep blue districts. As a result, they’re susceptible to being disconnected from the electorate, as well as from the newly elected members who gave them control of the House.

Discussions - 9 Comments

I have not had time to check actual GOP votes vs. their general turnout, so what do these figures tell us? E.g., did more Republicans vote, say, to ban same-sex marriage in a given state but withhold their vote from the GOP candidate for the House or Senate (to punish the GOP for Iraq or the deficit or earmarks or Abramoff or what-have-you)? If so, there is a conservative electorate that remains to be tapped in the next election if the GOP can demonstrate their true colors. Alas, I fear they have squandered their day in the sun either by not being able to defend what they have been doing as the erstwhile law-making majority.?

If this is not true, then all we’re left with is the apparent disarray of the Iraq occupation and counterinsurgency, which has left the American people with nothing to do but punish the only ones within reach: with Bush not up for reelection this year, that meant Congress got the broom, fairly or not. Someone else mentioned that the country may have just cut off their nose to spite their face. Is there another alternative explanation for the partisan swing in the House?

One should add that in states like Pennsylvania (see the Wall St. Journal article earlier this week), GOP gerrymandering appears to have produced more GOP districts at the risk of more slender victories for those same GOP officials. But with a roused electorate (assisted by union-targeted money and GOTV efforts, for ex.), what ordinarily would have engineered a slim GOP victory turned into a somewhat slim victory for the Dems.

Lucas, I wonder why this is a "slim" Democratic victory while Bush’s 2004 50/49 win was a "mandate?"

And Mr. K, the idea that somehow Democrats are more insulated than Republicans... I cannot see the basis of that statement. What, do Democrats not have televisions? Are they not allowed out of their Districts? Weird tack for you to take, if you ask me.

The election was about corruption, if you ask me. Good news for you guys, because once Dems have been in power for 10 or 12 years, it’ll take them over and we can start the whole cycle over again.

Daniel,

I can think of a couple of responses to your observation. First: yes, a smart, thoughtful, and open-minded political leader would certainly have the imagination to engage with those whose votes he or she doesn’t need to win election. I hope such leaders exist on both sides of the aisle. But our system relies on more self-regarding incentives as well--elections and campaign fund-raising, for example. It seems to me that both of those can be powerful, albeit not insuperable, countercurrents to the moral imagination exercised by decent political leaders.

My snarkier response would be to ask whether newspapers and television actually provide an alternative to what folks like Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel hear in their districts. And I’d only be half unserious in raising that question.

Good question, DanielK. The language difference employed by the right - "slim" or "narrow" victory versus Bush’s "mandate" - is interesting.

Mr. Knippenberg, having read your article, I think you have incredible optimism in the face of defeat. After showing us that Dems won all of their incumbent races and 20 of 32 (62%) open seats, in both cases with better winning percentages, you grasp at rhetorical straws and spin.

We’re supposed to believe that the Dems (w/ the exception of Lieberman, I guess) are largely comprised of extreme liberals ("Their leaders have no personal incentive to moderate their views") who are always inflexibly subservient to the radical left ("They can handily win reelection w/o reaching out or giving an inch to the other side") You DID hear Pelosi say that impeachment proceedings against Bush were "off the table," no? I would say that’s giving at least a couple inches to the opposition.

You lay claim to the existence of a "right of center consensus that still marks American public opinion." If this is so, then how did all of those allegedly leftist Dems defeat so many Repubs., or take so many open seats, with so much greater margins of victory? Are people voting counter to their own opinions?

What’s also interesting is your remark that "the leading Democrats are insulated from the electorate in deep, deep blue districts. As a result, they’re susceptible to being disconnected from the electorate..." Are the people in their districts NOT part of the electorate? Clearly, that portion of the electorate that voted them into office either has confidence in them (look at those incumbent %ages) or wants to see what can happen with some of their supposedly leftist policies. They’re certainly not disconnected from their sizeable portions of the electorate, composed of millions of people.

The election last week was not only a rejection of a heavily corrupt slate of GOP candidates, it was also, obviously, a rejection of Bush and his Iraq policy. Bush has done a great deal of harm to the Republican "brand".

Joe, we both agree that politicians should govern for the common good and almost never do; so I’ll respond to the snarky answer instead.

What the hell?

Are you saying it’s BAD for representatives to listen to their constituents over the media? Especially since so many people are saying the media has a liberal bias? Dude, you’re exploding my logic circuits.

Daniel,

Nope, I’m saying that the newspapers and networks are unlikely seriously to challenge the "verities" the Speaker-to-be and her colleagues hold dear.

Oh yes, the legendary liberal media bias. The one that has duped all those people into voting for Democrats for the past 6 years. :D

Because of the slim majority in both Houses, and especially the Senate, it is highly unlikely that even representatives from "deep blue" districts/States are going to be able to ignore their "purple" colleagues. There’s an article in today’s NYT that focuses on Lieberman’s ascendancy in the Senate, and the fact that EVERY Democrat (and Republican) is aware that they could lose (or gain) the majority by alienating him. In short, it may be wishful thinking on the part of those Republicans licking their wounds to think that the Democrats are likely to act like the complete fools they usually do (though I would nevrer underestimate them...). Indeed, there is some hope that the pivotal role of newly elected moderates will keep the party from remaining in the echo chamber of northeast Ivy League liberalism.

By "slim" I did not mean the overall Rep/Dem margin. I meant the respective district outcomes for gerrymandered seats, seats the GOP intended the increase in number at the cost of producing districts that leaned Republican but by a smaller margin than if they aimed more for secure seats than total number of seats in their favor. Sorry for the late post; been out of town and away from the computer.

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