The predictable predictions
I do not think I have ever been so eager for an election to hurry up and be over. Elections are my spectator sport. Normally, I enjoy the dirty tricks, the sudden revelations, obsessing over the numbers, and the suspense. Not this year. My team has an amazing ability to pull defeat from the jaws of victory. Each of the last two elections I have gone into election night thinking my team is set to gain at least two seats in the Senate and we have lost at least two seats in the Senate. I could go on about this scandal or that poll, but I just want it to be over.
I'm a Democrat. I'm a liberal Democrat. I'm a Western, liberal Democrat. The only way this could be worse was if I was a Western Alabama, liberal Democrat. I reached political maturity during the last gasp of Western progressivism. The most involved I ever was in an election was 1980. I was a paid staffer on a Senate campaign slated to go to Washington as a significant staffer. That was the year Western progressivism died. I spent election night at the headquarters watching every Western progressive Democrat in the Senate (except Alan Cranston) die. As the time zones rolled West, George McGovern was defeated, Mike Mansfield was defeated, Frank Church was defeated, and Warren Magnuson was defeated. As the tide continued westward, I sat on the phone trying to think of some good news to give Robert Byrd who was on the phone begging for a silver lining. And I had nothing to give. We were crushed that year.
Elections are no longer a game. Each of the last two elections has raised the stakes. The Bush camarilla and its rubber-stamp allies in both houses of Congress have been throwing away all the values that make America America. They have gutted the Bill of Rights and destroyed our image abroad.
So what happens after the election?
I predict that the Democrats will take control of the House and will end up within one vote one side or the other of a majority in the Senate. I would rather it was the other way around. Of course, I would really rather we get a Lieberman-proof majority in both houses.
I won't risk predicting numbers because A) I'm usually over-optimistic and B) I don't have a clear sense of what will happen even though I'm watching more individual races than I ever have before. The top contributor to my uncertainty is that too many elections are polling within the margin of error for the polls. That not only means the polls might be wrong; it means a small nudge, like the right lying, last minute ad, might shift the election. It means that a small demographic, like evangelicals who lie or opt out of the poll might give a false result. It means cheating might work. The only real defense against cheating is a landslide. Razor thin margins can be beaten by ruthless legal teams and the last few elections have shown the Republicans out-lawyering the Democrats.
What happens if we win, if we beat their last minute dirty-tricks, cheating, and lawyers?
Even if we gain a Lieberman-proof majority in both houses we haven't beat Bushism. The Republicans in both houses will engage in a scorched earth retreat on every point. They will block investigations. They will obstruct legislation. Most of all, they will engage in one of the most sophisticated propaganda campaigns this country has ever seen.
We will not pull the troops out of Iraq, because Bush will still run the Pentagon. Any reduction in the budget or attempt to lower or troop level, beyond what Gerorge Bush and his mouth-pieces want, will be met with accusations of not supporting the troops and cries that each new death is a result of that lack of support. Naturally, all further failures in Iraq and the greater Middle East will be blamed on Democrats not letting the genius of Bush, Cheny, and Rumsfeld have their way.
We will not restore constitutional rule, privacy, assumption of innocence, and respect for inalienable rights, because any attempt to do so will be met with cries that we are favoring terrorists over Americans.
We will not restore regulatory protections, environmental regulations, or patch the tattered social safety net because all of these laws are enforced by agencies under the direct control of the executive branch.
The best we can hope for will be that the worst crimes and failures of the Bush administration will finally be investigated. But expect every investigation to be accompanied by an expensive and expansive campaign claiming that this is just Democratic vindictiveness.
We might block some of the worst appointments of the Bush camarilla if we take control of the Senate, but expect the same expensive and expansive campaign claiming that this is Democratic obstructionism--that is if the Liebermans of the Senate even allow bad appointments to be blocked. At present, the administration can count on a large enough fifth column among Democratic Senators that they can push their reactionary nominations through for any position without a thought toward compromise.
My prediction for this election is that the best hope of liberal Democrats like myself will be that we slow the damage of the Bush administration. Turing the tide and restoring the moral greatness of America will be generation long effort, if it is possible to accomplish it at all.
No sports metaphor really suffices any more. At worst, the game has been destroyed and we should stop watching. At best, we might slow any further damage and start setting the conditions under which the game might be worth watching again someday. Is it any wonder that I just want this election to hurry up and be over?