Archive for November 11th, 2006

Reading the Tea Leaves

by Matt Singer

I’ve offered my thoughts on what 2006 tells us about 2008. The news is mostly good for Democrats. That’s not to say we’ll definitely win in ’08. We’ve still got to be smart, but the news is mostly positive.

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by Jay Stevens

Here’s another reminder: We didn’t get much of a chance to scream and drink and clap backs on Tuesday, so now’s our big chance. Matt and I are organizing a bash right here in Missoula at the Shack tomorrow night from 7 to 9 pm, and everyone is invited.

Those that volunteered or donated are encouraged to come. I want to thank all of you for all the hard work that went into this campaign, especially here in Missoula.

Where: The Shack Cafe. 222 West Main Street, Missoula.

When: Saturday, November 11, at 7 pm.

Since this is a slap-dash last-minute celebration, all I can promise you is a place to hang out with access to alcohol. Hopefully Jon can give us a call or drop a note, and maybe we can get some recently elected Democrats to make an appearance.

There’s not much time: get the word out! And I know you’re pretty good about that!

by Jay Stevens 

There’s been a lot of spin from the right about the whuppin’ they received on Tuesday from…well…just about everybody, men, women, seniors, first-time voters, and especially Hispanics, who did a 30-point flip against their party.

Here are some of the excuses: The GOP wasn’t conservative enough. The election was part of a normal power shift in Congress during a President’s sixth year in office, except that it was a minor one compared to other elections. The electorate was given a raft of conservative Democrats to vote for, so their victory is really a reaffirmation of conservative values.

Yes, and Detroit was a better team than the St. Louis Cardinals. Their five-game loss was a result of the Tigers team beating itself; which just proves they were better in the end.

Huh?

There were a number of reasons for a Democratic win. Abramoff. Iraq. W. And let’s face it: the Democratic party put forth better candidates. Jon Tester or Conrad Burns? Larry Grant or Bill Sali? Somewhere along the line the Republican Party started throwing warm bodies in into power without regard to quality or competency, especially in the reddest areas of the country.

But the bottom line is that these new Democrats aren’t conservative. Instead, traditional Democratic issues have become the center of the American electorate:

In fact, the Democratic freshman class of the 110th Congress includes a few conservatives, but overall it is made up of candidates who held traditional Democratic positions. While some races have yet to be decided, we know a few things about the new Democratic members. All of them support increasing the minimum wage, and all oppose privatizing Social Security. Nearly all support embryonic stem cell research. All except a few are pro choice. And all of these positions enjoy majority support.So Democrats didn’t win because they moved to the right or ran conservative candidates. Many of the more conservative Democrats who ran in red states actually ended up losing. Those who won did so by opposing President Bush, questioning the war in Iraq, and carrying the Democratic banner. It was Republicans who were afraid to put their party identification on their lawn signs and in their ads.

I think something else was going on, too. Call it a “move to the center.” Call it a refocus on economic and foreign policy issues. Call it a time out from cultural wars. This was the theme, anyway, of last night’s episode of PBS Now, which featured an interview with Salon.com editor, Joan Walsh.

Check out the graph towards the middle. The three most important issues for those that voted Democratic (about 53% of the electorate) were, in order, “corruption/ethics,” “Iraq,” and “economy.” “Values” is down on the list, as is “terrorism,” and “illegal immigration.” It seems then, that the electorate has identified the most crucial areas confronting them (and rightly so, IMHO), and voted for the party that seemed better equipped to tackle the issues.

The economy is the Democrats’ strong point. For months now, we’ve been hearing how the economy is booming; but the results of the increasing stock market aren’t actually affecting everyday Americans. If you’re not a stockbroker or CEO or trust fund child, your wages are rising slower than inflation and your health care and housing costs are sky-rocketing. Worse still, if you’re skilled labor, your jobs are disappearing; your unions are breaking up. If you’re unskilled, well, your starting pay has been frozen for over a decade.

Here, to win the confidence of voters, the Democrats should roll back the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, increase cuts for the middle class, cut payroll taxes, and generally give a big break to the economic strata that need it the most. And raise the minimum wage.

Admittedly on ethics and Iraq, Americans see Democrats as more qualified than Republicans because of massive GOP screw-ups. The Republican Congress has been historically corrupt; and they and their President absolutely bungled every step of the Iraq War, from inception to occupation.

On ethics, the Democrats desperately need to act fast. They should institute earmark reform. Dismantle K Street. Pass comprehensive lobbying reform. And weed out from important committee positions the worst of their own. This will be their most difficult task, and could decide the 2008 elections.

On Iraq, the situation has already benefited the Democrats with Rumsfeld’s resignation coming only days after the elections. (And only hours after Tester’s declared victory.) They need to appear conciliatory with the President’s new shift in policy and supporter of James Baker and the rest of Poppy’s gang who are riding in to save the situation. If Iraq goes better, if withdrawal occurs in reasonable fashion, the Democrats will get the credit. If it doesn’t, it’s easy enough to blame the President. All the Democratic Congress has to do is push W towards Baker and wait and watch with the rest of us.

But the bottom line is that people are tired of the bullying, divisiveness, and hate that emanated from the “cultural wars” and bitter partisanship that marked the recent single-party rule of Republicans. They’re ready for mature leaders tackling the problems that matter most to them.




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