November 06, 2002


THE TIE IS BROKEN: After weeks of pronouncements that America is caught in a 50/50 political tie that likely won't be broken anytime soon, the Republicans pulled way ahead early in Tuesday's midterm elections and never looked back. With the exception of the Arkansas and New Jersey Senate races and a few selected governorships, the GOP won virtually every contested race, from North Carolina to New Hampshire, and from Florida to Minnesota, re-taking the Senate and widening their lead in the House.
Three of the most liberal states in the union (Minnesota, Massachusetts, and New York), all of which I have lived in, each saw GOP victories for governor last night, and those states have not elected Democratic governors (respectively) since 1986, 1986, and 1990- that's 11 losses in a row. There's a reason for that: these local Democratic parties simply don't know how to get their shit together- they're so divided and so driven by special interests and identity politics that it's next to impossible for the party to ever unite behind a strong, electable candidate.
It was expected that the economy and corporate scandals would hurt the Republicans, while softness on national security and opposition to tax cuts were expected to hurt the Democrats- but the tie was broken by a simple disparity in the electoral strategies of the two parties- the Democrats at this point in their history have no leadership, and nothing to say- for Bush's entire presidency thus far the Democrats have never acted and only reacted. It's time for Tom Daschle to step down, and Dick Gephardt, and especially the loathsome Democratic National Committee chief Terry McAuliffe. But that might not be so easy- as Andrew Sullivan wrote last night, "when they went looking for new blood, they found Frank Lautenberg and Walter Mondale."
But regardless, the Democrats need not get too discouraged. Bad as Tuesday was for them, 1994's midterm election was ten times worse. But after that the Gingrich Republicans overreached, and two years later President Clinton won re-election in a landslide. Who's to say Bush and his Republican Congress won't go too far, and provoke a backlash that will put John Kerry or John Edwards in the White House?
(sorry, but I don't think there's anything the Republicans could do that would result in an Al Gore presidency...)

FEELING MINNESOTA: I wish that Walter Mondale had not lost the Minnesota Senate election to Norm Coleman, but I'm still too upset about Paul Wellstone's death to get too angry about an election result. I know quite a few people, however, who aren't going to agree with me with me on that point. In fact, let's reprise last week's Wellstone Prediction Contest: who will be first pundit/writer to suggest that Minnesotans have "dishonored Paul Wellstone's memory" by electing Coleman? And who will be the first to take it to the next extreme: "When Norm Coleman/the Republicans won the election, it was like Paul Wellstone was killed all over again?"
I've been a Minnesota Democrat pretty much all my life. In 6th grade I signed "Steve Silver, DFL" on all my school notebooks. But if a state party loses their standard bearer in a plane crash and then goes and tries to win by turning his memorial service into a wild political rally, then maybe they don't deserve the Senate seat after all. Yes, control of the Senate was decided by the time Minnesota was- but who knows how much that rally hurt the Democrats nationally?

SILVER LINING: There was plenty to be happy about in regards to election day though- fears of another Florida were greatly exaggerated, as there were next to no reported voting irregularities or tabulation problems. Despite a screwup by the Voter News Service, the networks made not a single incorrect call of a Congressional or gubernatorial race. It seemed, especially in Massachusetts, that local news outlets projected winners considerably earlier than the cable news channels did. Indeed, the networks were all over the map- CNN would make calls an hour before Fox News and vice versa, and at least two candidates (Jeanne Shaheen and Jean Carnahan) made their concession speeches before any network had projected a winner.
And finally, Congress this year will be saying goodbye to Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, Dick Armey, James Traficant, Gary Condit, Cynthia McKinney, Bob Barr and many others who won't be missed- regardless of party affiliation, in some respects Congress will be a much better place next year than this year.

Posted by Stephen Silver at November 6, 2002 09:20 AM
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