November 9th, 2006

Virginia is looking like Webb is going to take it; with 99.88% of precincts reporting, Webb is ahead by 7000 votes, just above 1/4 of a percent–but enough to make a recount unlikely to reveal a change. [Update: AP has called it for Webb. NBC has too, and both say Dems control the Senate.] Rumors are flying that Allen is being advised to concede the election and not call for a recount. Meanwhile, Montana is looking more and more like a lock; many have called it for Tester, and with virtually all of the precincts reporting, Tester leads by .8%, or about 3000 votes. Burns has so far not conceded yet, but even a paid recount won’t be possible; Burns or the canvassers would have to come up with compelling reasons for a recount beyond the fact that the vote was close.

So it is looking pretty certain now (though not absolutely certain) that the Democrats have beat the odds and run off with both houses of Congress–a clean sweep. The majority is only marginal, filibusters could still be easily managed by Republicans (so long as they don’t mind being flaming hypocrites, which has never been a problem with them), dissent among moderates could still swing votes their way on some issues, and there is always the presidential veto–something Bush has only used once in 6 years, but is likely to use a lot more from now on (obstructionist!).

However, the shift is big enough for two major changes: first, the shock of the change and the shift of public support away from Republicans, while not exactly worthy of the term “mandate” (I am not prepared to wield that term as casually as conservatives have been), is still a clear indication that “stay the course” is not what the people want. And second, and this is really the big one, the Democrats will now be in full charge of the agenda of Congress–committee heads and leadership–which means that they, and not the Republicans, will now decide what comes up for a vote and what does not. Not to mention oversight: Dems will now be able to call for investigations, and you can bet there will be a lot of them. And about time.

Rumsfeld is icing on the cake, the cherry on top, the bow on the package, the pièce de résistance. (Though here’s a question: was the timing of the announcement arranged so as to take the edge off of the inevitable weakening of Bush? Had Rumsfeld waited another week, polls might have showed Bush taking a palpable hit; Rumsfeld’s resignation now will either help Bush’s numbers in the wake of the election, or can be used as an excuse for low numbers, thus blunting any claim that Bush’s emasculation has any support in the public as a whole.)

And there is another bright point for Democrats: as you may recall, Republicans made dire predictions were the Democrats to win even just the house. We would raise your taxes through the roof. We would appease the terrorists. We would crash the economy. We would bring ruin and devastation, a veritable plague of biblical proportions.

Bush once noted that he is a “master of lowered expectations,” and he was correct: Republicans have often played on “misunderestimations” before elections, but this time, they have unwittingly played that exact card for the Democrats. Just like Bush in presidential debates where simply not looking like a moron would be perceived as a “win,” all the Democrats have to do is not bring about the apocalypse, and they will be a success to anyone who feared that any of the right-wing’s dire warnings had anything to them. This is reinforced by the fact that, in fact, many did not vote for the Democrats as much as they voted against the Republicans; if the Democrats do even marginally well, they will suddenly appear to be palatable alternatives, and may build on this week’s victories in the next election.

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  1. Tim Kane
    November 9th, 2006 at 11:55 | #1

    I think, all the Dems need to do is conduct their role with professionalism and common sense and pursue reasonable civic policies.

    That shouldn’t be too hard.

    But they should also use the election as a mandate to fight corruption and exercise oversite. They should do this very professionaly and without rankor. The Republicans will supply that.

    And if they have behaved truly awfull these last six years, well then the Dems professionalism will have them pinned to the mat.

    The public will award them two years later – big time.

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