I hesitate to claim victory prematurely. Yet with less than 100 days to go before the midterm elections, it is getting harder to see how the Democrats can fail to recapture the U.S. House of Representatives in November. Even the U.S. Senate, once presumed off limits, may be looking Blue again. Could it be that beltway insiders, who are often notoriously wrong on elections but like to echo conventional wisdom, may be right this time? Could it be that I am engaging in wishful thinking? On the other hand, perhaps I really am hearing an approaching stampede of pissed off voters of all stripes.
Whatever. I have my fingers crossed. I have my toes crossed. I am glad to hop on one leg if that will improve the odd that Democrats will retake the Congress. Mainly, I just feel the coming change inside of me. I smell it in the hot, fetid, ozone-laden air that is resting here over Northern Virginia tonight. I hear it anecdotally at the office water coolers. What I am hearing is, “This country is royally screwed up. It is time to throw the bums out.”
One reason I do not think my prognostication is a result of all the glue I have been sniffing lately is this report from Charlie Cook. Cook is non-partisan and well respected. His outfit pays careful attention to the numerous House and Senate races out there. His judgments have an excellent track record.
In the latest Cook Political Report/RT Strategies poll, conducted last Friday through Sunday among 809 registered voters, only 27 percent said the country was headed in the right direction and 63 percent said it was off on the wrong track. In polling for NBC and the Wall Street Journal, conducted July 21-24 and for CBS and the New York Times, taken July 21-25, the right direction numbers were 27 and 28 percent, respectively, while wrong track results were 60 and 66 percent respectively. These numbers are about the same as they were at this point in 1994 and going into Election Day that year.
Out of touch. That is what I hear the most. I bet you are hearing it too. The Republicans controlling government have severed their connections with real life and in particular their constituents. Having control of all three branches of government, they simply no longer care what the voters think. A most recent and egregious example was the so-called increase in the minimum wage bill. It was passed in the House only because it was tied to estate tax cuts, which would exempt the first $5 million in estate taxes for singles, and $10 million for couples. Never mind our already stratospheric federal deficits. Who cares if these tax cuts would only worsen the deficit? This is compassionate conservatism in action. When fully enacted, the new $7.25 an hour minimum wage would still not come close to providing a living wage, but this bill would allow multimillionaires to pass on even more of their wealth to their heirs, who never earned it. Can you feel their love?
The Republicans whole approach to government has become faith based. It has become not just surreal but downright bizarre. You cannot make up this stuff. It reads like something in The Onion. President Bush is saying we cannot have an immediate cease-fire in Lebanon because it will not solve the long-term problem security problem. Instead, we must allow both sides to keep killing in order to ensure peace. Big Brother has been proven right: War is Peace, at least according to George W. Bush. We can cut the deficit by taxing less and spending more. We need to give public school students vouchers to attend private schools even though a Department of Education report shows that public schools and private schools perform equally with the same class of student. We can solve global warming by allowing corporations to choose if they want to meet emissions standards. Medical savings accounts will solve our high cost of health care, even though most people simply do not have the disposable income to contribute to such an account. Of course the biggest, baddest, most egregious and most insidious lie of all: we are winning the war on terror. If winning the war on terror equals Armageddon, it is time to throw a victory parade.
It would have been nice if Americans had sobered up in time for the 2004 elections. My belief is that they are fully sobered up now. All signs point to governmental incompetence on a level never seen in this country. Perhaps Americans would have preferred to keep their heads stuck in the sand. It is no longer possible. This current sensory overload can no longer be ignored. The country is badly off track and the current crew in charge does not even realize the country is off track. They think things are just fine. The lunatics are running the asylum.
I do not seeing it getting any better for Republicans before the election. Indeed, Republicans should be praying their house of cards does not fully collapse before then. Household savings rates are in negative territory: we are living off credit cards and our equity. Could a recession be in our near future? Iraq, if it is not yet is civil war, is likely to devolve into large-scale sectarian genocide, and our troops will be in the middle of it. Housing starts are down, and house prices are going down too. This means the equity on which we depend to live beyond our means is shrinking too. Interest rates are up. Stocks are trending down. Arguably, the NASDAQ is in freefall. Domestic car sales are off sharply. If Republicans are lucky, gas prices will not increase, but they too are likely to go up before November.
It is too bad that the Democrats, for the most part, do not have a plan. Actually, there is a Democratic plan out there; it is just that it was badly marketed. Most Americans have no clue as to what the Democrats would do if they recaptured the Congress. In such a situation, most political parties would loudly be marketing solutions that would assuage the public’s concerns. The public is now ripe for a real solution to health care costs. They want to hear that we will get out of Iraq on a rapid time schedule. Yet my party cannot seem to say these things. It does not believe that the tide has turned in their favor. It does not know how to capitalize on the moment. Here is the truth: one hard smack to the Republican Party and it goes down. Winning through intimidation has been their preferred tactic. All Democrats have to do is laugh at them and the whole country will laugh with them. Their mojo is gone.
It may not matter that the Democrats do so little to win this election. There is no other path out there other than to keep the current pillagers in charge of the government. Perhaps there is hope that once in power again the Democrats will develop something resembling spine. Instead, they seem more worried about being Swift Boated.
Billmon has said he does not want the Democrats to win. He argues that this mess is so big and so deep and so tall that Democrats will be blamed when they cannot clean it up. It is not often that I disagree with Billmon, but I do on this one. Democrats have a responsibility as citizens to put our country back into order again. We need to be a respected country in the world again. Someone has to throw out the bums out on the street. Someone has to take out the trash, sweep the floors, patch the window screens and tidy up the yard. Someone has to cut that national credit card in half and throw it in the trash.
If not the Democrats, then who?