Friday, November 10, 2006

Election Post Mortem: Democrats

Now the Democrats have siezed control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years, and outright control of the Senate to boot. They were more so beneficiaries of a tired and corpulent Republican majority, as well as fatigue with the perceived lack of progress in Iraq. The Democrats were able to win majorities by not offering any real alternatives, but by aggressively putting out the message that Republicans were wasteful, corrupt, and inept.

Credit needs to be given to Rahm Emanuel, who is largely responsible for the Democratic resurgence. Emanuel recruited candidates that would appeal to red-state voters: pro-gun, nominally pro-life, and adverse to tax and spend politics.

This victory is a great opportunity for the Democrats to become the pro-growth, hawkish party they once were. This election can be seen as repudiation of the Kossites, as their messiah, Ned Lamont was thoroughly thrashed by Joe Lieberman. A democratic majority that would run on a pro-growth, economically populist, and militarily robust party could garner a natural constituency. That, coupled with gubernatorial wins in several states which would provide the opportunity to re-draw more Democratically favorable congressional districts after the 2010 census, could start the beginning of the ascendancy of the party for a long time.

However, should the Democrats not heed the lessons of the Republican defeat and their own defeat of just twelve years ago, they can very well be doomed to repeat it. Art Laffer, the famed economist, said at a lecture I attended that the electorate hasn't really changed over the years, but the political parties have. He said there is a natural majority of the electorate that is pro-growth with a strong foreign policy. From the 30s through the 60's, it was the Democrats that embodied this, while the Republicans were isolationists and anti-growth. Roles reversed in the 70s and 80s. The Clintons managed to co-opt a lot of this during the 90s, but lost it when Clinton left office when the Democrats became infused with Bush Derangement Syndrome. They were rebuffed in 2002 and 2004 because they were seen as anti-growth and weak on national defense.

Thus lies the problem, they must eschew their baser tendencies to tax, spend, and incite more partisan rancor with unnecessary investigations and gridlock. So that means that they will end up infuriating the leftists on their base. But if they're willing to buck them (and they have proven that they have not delivered a single winner yet for the party) and grasp building a greater and lasting majority, the opportunity is there.

My take on it is that the opportunity is there, but it will be squandered. The problem is that the Pelosis, the Conyers, the Rangels, the Waxmans, the Waters of the party are socialists and their baser tendencies will override the bigger picture. I don't think that they can necessarily do what it takes to build that majority, but I can see the Republicans blowing it too.

I guess we'll be able to tell by what they do over the next few months. Stuff like John Bolton comes to mind. If they let him come to a vote, they're looking big picture. If they stuff him in committee and use him for partisan grudge settling, then they're not ready for prime time.

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