Thursday, November 09, 2006

American election thoughts

Pretty much as I expected, although the cards fell the right way in the Senate. Nathan Newman is right that this is a stronger Democratic majority than in the past when numbers were inflated by Southerners who were effectively Republicans. I wonder if Harold Ford's political cross-dressing came across as insincere. The policy ballots haven't received much attention. The anti-gay marriage wave continued but it is definitely ebbing as shown by the defeat in Arizona, and the lesser margins for the bans that passed. There is a good analysis here at the conservative-ish Volokh Conspiracy. The task is to continue to stress economic issues and to turn down the volume on social issues.
Should the Democrats write off the south and focus on the mountain west which is shifting from the Republicans? So argued Thomas Schaller just before the poll:
There seems to be a developing narrative which suggests that expected Democratic victories this year are somehow the result of Democrats "running as conservatives." Republicans, and conservative Republicans in particular, have an obvious stake in perpetuating such a narrative. But it is patently untrue. Pull back the lens and what appears to be happening this year is a regional-ideological partisan correction in which Rockefeller-Ford Republicans are purged from the NE/NW Rust Belt, and prairie progressives pick off selected seats in the Far West. The regional realignment over the past 40 years, which slowly converted Dixiecrats into Republicans, has now entered its final stage, as voters north of the Mason-Dixon line and west of the Mississippi provide a countervailing response to the southern-led Republican majority. This transformation is occurring at the Senate, House and gubernatorial levels. Indeed, because Rust Belt Republicans will be replaced by progressive Democrats, regardless of the final totals tonight, the 110th Congress, in both chambers, will become more progressive as the Democratic shares grow and less conservative as the Republican shares shrink. As just one indication of this trend, consider this stunning fact: If Pelosi gets her majority, for the first time in 52 years, the party with a minority of House seats in the South will the majority party.
There is a spirited argument against this on The Nation blog. The debate has relevance to Australia and the question of which constituency Labor should be targeting. Chuck Todd describes the regional realignment:
Forget "red" and "blue." The country is basically divided into four voting blocs: the Democratic Northeast, the Republican South, the populist Midwest and the libertarian West. Democrats probably have a decent grip on those populist Midwest voters for a while (at least until the area transforms completely into a new economy). As for the libertarian West (home of the first state -- Arizona -- to reject a gay marriage ban), this is a region that is more up for grabs than it should be. And it's because the Republican Party has grown more religious and more pro-government which turns off these "leave me alone," small-government libertarian Republicans.
One conservative spin is that many of the new Democrats are 'moderates', yes they are but a moderate Democrat is well to the left of a Republican (even most moderate Republicans). The neo-conservative Fred Barnes is partially right:
The media, however, is exaggerating the number of these unconventional Democrats. They are a handful, and the pattern of moderate and conservative Democrats when they get to Washington is to pipe down. Or, as losing Republican Congressman Chris Chocola said of his victorious opponent Joe Donnelly, they become "Nancy Pelosi."
The task for 2008 is finding a presidential candidate who strikes the right balance of being middle of the road on social issues with a populist economic agenda: John Edwards perhaps? For 2007 here the question is where is Australia’s equivalent of the American Midwest?


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