I suppose most of us would like a respite from electoral politics for a moment. Unfortunately, nowadays elections never really stop. We have a few months before the serious campaigning begins, but here are a few questions we should keep in the back of our minds until we get sucked back into the maelstrom.
- The Presidency. This one will be the first to shove it's way into our lives. Heck, the pros started handicapping possible contenders two years ago. Santorum and Allen have already been knocked out of the running by their disastrous Senate races. The press narrative is already portraying this as a Clinton and McCain race with the primary anti-Clinton and anti-McCain yet to emerge. When I look at the potential Democratic slate, I see a lot of great vice presidential candidates and no outstanding presidential candidates.
- The House. I see two questions here. The first is what will the party do to protect its new members and help their re-election. This is highly dependent on what the final convention wisdom from the election is. If it's the victory of common-sense conservatism, expect a very cautious House and an agenda to the liking of the pundits and DLC. If the lesson is seen as the rejection of Bush and the far right, expect a little more liberal and adventurous House. The other House question is which seats will be the main targets of both parties in two years. We can expect a few Republicans, who don't want to be in the minority, to announce their retirement and we can expect a few more to resign in disgrace as some of the current scandals play out. Other than that, the House is way too early to predict.
- The Senate. Since only a third of the Senate runs in each election, we will have a completely different slate next time and it's a small enough group that we can begin handicapping them now. One wild card is who might drop out to run for the Presidency. Kos has handicapped the seats already and I pretty much agree with his evaluation. A Franken / Coleman race in Minnesota is sure to be the most fun. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is probably the most endangered Democrat, John Sununu in New Hampshire the Republican. The only thing that will remove Ted Stevens of Alaska would be retirement or death, and even the latter is iffy since Alaska is one of that select group of states that has elected a dead man to congress (Nick Beigich in 1972). Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma is the Republican I most want to see eliminated.
- The States. This could be interesting. The Democrats picked up six governorships and a couple hundred state house seats this year. The governors elected in '08 will be the ones in office during the redistricting following the 2001 census. I think both parties are now forward-thinking enough to plan for that.
Besides picking our candidates and races, I think the most valuable thing most of could do is to help shape the conventional wisdom. We blog, we write letters to the editor, we talk up our relatives, neighbors, and co-workers. We should try to take down the straight talking St. McCain and the weak-on-defense Democrats narratives. It's never too soon to start casting doubt on the Republicans we plan to target; broken promises are the most effective critique. And, of course it's never too soon to start talking up the candidates we support.
Outside of actual election campaigns, the best thing any of us could do would be to work to clean up the whole election process and help restore confidence in the system. Get rid of touch-screen systems. Even if no one was cheating, the systems are still crap; they don't work as advertised. Get rid of partisan redistricting and off-decade redistricting in all states (it has to be all states, just reforming our states and letting them cheat in their states is suicide). Reform registration and voting processes to help the largest number of citizens vote, not to disenfranchise the "wrong" voters (according to the party in power).
There's lots to do, but first we need to take a few days off. I'm going to go read about mammoths and Nazi flying saucers.