The New Direction
I've watched entirely too much election coverage by now, but I have some random, probably disconnected thoughts.
• The Democrats won in spite of the Democratic leadership, in spite of their reticence to make the election about the war, in spite of their somewhat muddled message (though they didn't do a horrible job), in spite of making many of the same mistakes they've made in elections past. They won because the voters figured it out all by themselves, and they had some great Democratic candidates out in the states to help them figure it out. People like Jim Webb and Claire McCaskill and Chris Murphy and Paul Hodes and Tim Walz and Jerry McNerney were good people who did wonders for the Democratic brand in their areas, against whom it was impossible to make the same charges raised against evil libruls for the last 6 years.
• And it cannot be dismissed that extremism in government was roundly rejected. South Dakota rejected the near-total ban on abortions. Arizona rejected a gay marriage ban (thanks but no thanks, John McCain), the first state in the country to do so, an historic moment in our new civil rights movement. Missouri approved the measure backing stem cell research, and it probably did much to get Claire McCaskill across the finish line. Minimum-wage laws passed across the country.
• There's going to be a pounce by both centrist and liberal Democrats to define "who won" last night. There is no argument to be made that Democrats won as Republicans in sheep's clothing. Harold Ford ran as conservative a campaign I've ever seen for a Democrat in a statewide race, and he lost to the nondescript Bob Corker. Now, the lingering tinge of racism could be a factor in that race (we're not over it in America), but there are other examples. I agree with Ezra Klein:
The ideological spectrum is a tricky thing. Take Heath Schuler, exhibit A in the rightwing Democrats meme. He's a cultural conservative, no doubt. But however far right he drifts on those issues -- which, under a Democratic Congress, he won't be voting on because they won't be brought to floor -- he's notably left on economic issues. Today, for instance, he's giving a press conference under the auspices of the United Steelworkers with Great Liberal Hope Sherrod Brown, where they'll discuss the need for new trade policies and their success in making active opposition to NAFTA a winning issue. That's not centrist Democrat. It's not moderate liberal. That's populism, kids, and it's leftier than polite company has allowed for quite some time.
The return of populism is great for America. I don't think it's any surprise that North Carolina, home to a huge manufacturing base that has fled in recent years, may have flipped two seats to the Democrats.
• Enough with the conspiracy theories already. As I've been saying all along, Karl Rove is not a genius (in fact, he looks pretty pitiful right about now), he doesn't hold all the strings, he can't change all the voting machines. Awareness of electoral issues is incredibly important, and I'd like to see a voter bill of rights in this country. But the most extreme concerns of many Democrats were simply unfounded, to a degree. Malfunctioning machines are a far greater concern than vote-switching. This is largely because there are noble people paying attention to this stuff, including Brad Friedman. Winning, however, will cure a lot of the hyperactivity.
• In the biggest election news, with the most wide-ranging effect, Democratic Secretaries of State won major victories across the country, in Ohio and Minnesota and Iowa and Nevada and New Mexico and California.
• Tim Walz, Patrick Murphy, Chris Carney, and Joe Sestak - 4 Iraq War veterans - are headed to Washington. I couldn't be happier with the effort of the Fighting Dems this year.
• This was an election where big change was in the realignment of the Northeast, but the biggest change came from middle America. In the House, the big victories were in Indiana (3 seats), Iowa (2), Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Credit needs to go to Evan Bayh, who hunkered down in his home state and really delivered, offering staff to the various campaigns.
• Reading the righty bloggers today is not only satisfying but has a familiar ring to it.
I'm sure I have more, but I'm still trying to process all of this. We'll continue later. But I do want to call your attention to my prediction: 28 House seats, 6 Senate seats, and 7-8 governorships. Right now we have 29 House seats, 6 Senate seats, and 6 governorships.
I'm just that good.