Not a slap on the forehead? .. democracy in America 2006: ya gotta believe its some step ahead

Nov 8th, 2006 | By | Category: USA Today

UPDATED NOVEMBER 9. According to Canada’s self-confessed national newspaper, as originally reported by the indispensable Associated Press, the “best face” George W. Bush’s spokesman Tony Snow could put on the (now altogether clear) results of the US mid-term elections was “some people saw it coming. It was not a a slap-on-the-forehead kind of shock.'” Just slapping the president and his friends on the forehead would not get their altogether serious attention in any case. You’d have to at least take a 2×4 to the tops of their heads. And the Democrats’ conquest of the House of Representatives, and their now razor-thin control of an almost equally divided Senate, is nothing quite like that. Yet the news that Donald Rumsfeld has resigned does suggest that something has changed at last.

Shedding some northern light on the subject …

Canadians are bound to notice that states closest to Canada tended to vote heavily Democratic, reviving the age-old axiom that “Canadians always vote Democratic in American elections” (as do the Americans who live closest to Canada).

In New York, e.g., (currently the third most populous state of the union), there was one Senate race (Ms. Clinton’s), and of course the Democrats won, with 67% of the vote. The crusading Eliot Spitzer won the gubernatorial race for the Democrats with 69% of the vote. And the Democrats took a full 24 of the 29 New York seats in the House of Representatives.

Deep in the heart of Texas down south, on the other hand (currently the second most populous state of the union), there was one Senate race, which Kay Bailey Hutchison won handily for the Republicans with 62% of the vote. The Republican Rick Perry was only re-elected as governor with 39% pf the vote, because of an especially strong Independent challenge from Carole Strayhorn. But Republicans took 20 of the 32 Texas seats in the House of Representatives.

President Bush himself, at his post-election press conference on the early afternoon of November 8, urged that when you look at all the details of the results his team had not really done all that badly. But that of course was also true of his opponents in 2000, 2002, and 2004. And such nuances did not impress him much back then.

President Bush still doesn’t sound as if he’s ready to change much himself. And he is still president, as even the conquering Democrat congressional leader Nancy Pelosi has said.

Times have nonetheless started to change in 2006. Whatever else, the next two years in American politics are bound to be more interesting than usual. And that probably has to be some kind of good thing.

Earlier report: NOVEMBER 7 ELECTION TOOLKIT .. democracy in America 2006 .. what you see is what you’ll get

The details of US politics can sometimes astound you. As some apt analyst in Washington said on CBC TV yesterday, one of the most astounding things is that among the 435 seats in the House of Representatives up for grabs in theory on November 7, 2006, there are only 35 so-called “contested House races.” (I.e., seats where increasingly entrenched political professionals have not already engineered certain victories for one party or the other.)

Among the 33 seats in the Senate on which those “mid-term” registered voters who care enough to show up get to cast ballots, there are only nine contested races. Even so, many people around the world are expecting some big political excitement in the USA today. Read on for a short and simple toolkit, that may save you from a mental breakdown caused by sudden exposure to too many confusing factoids, as you watch the results on US TV.

Why is this “mid-term” election suddenly so important?Usually mid-term elections are not so important. In a nutshell, it seems clear enough, Nov 7, 2006 is important largely because it has become a kind of referendum on the George W. Bush administration policies in Iraq. (President Bush himself is not running for anything. That is what “mid term” means. It’s in the middle of his four-year term. But the Republican Party he allegedly leads is running, and will be, so to speak, standing in for him, like it or not.)

Some commentators on US TV even seem to be suggesting that if the Republicans do badly enough, even the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq will start to change. And some of the people suggesting such things are actually Republicans. Whatever else, if you are any kind of political junkie such thoughts can only make watching the results on TV more interesting.

Washington Post guide to contested House and Senate races …

To keep up with the 35 contested House races and nine contested Senate races check out Dan Balz & Chris Cillizza, “Congressional Countdown” in the Washington Post. Print their piece with its helpful two charts, and keep this by your TV.

The last-minute wisdom from the media punditry seems to be that the Democrats will most likely win enough of the 35 House races to gain majority control of the House. The big question is just how many they will win.

At the same time, even staunch Democrat commentators are not so sure their party will win enough of the nine contested Senate races to gain control there too. If the Democrats do somehow manage to capture control of both the House and the Senate, the media will no doubt be talking about a landslide – even though the results in 93% of all the Congressional seats involved are already known.

(But if it does turn out that even this 93% number is wrong, then that really will be news, as unlikely as that may be. The other really big news would be if the Republicans managed to maintain their current control of both the House and the Senate, despite everything. And then there would probably be almost no chance that George W. Bush Iraq policies will change, maybe.)

Washington Post guide to races in the 50 States of the Union …

The referendum on Bush policies in the US mid-term elections this year will include many other questions of vast detail at the state and local level. Will Massachusetts, e.g., get its first black Governor? And will Proposition 87 win in California, and start taxing oil companies to pay for innovative and creative new green economy stimulation programs?

More generally, will the rising popular unease with what has been happening in Iraq prompt some kind of devastation for Republicans in state elections too? To fill out your toolkit here, consult the Washington Post‘s extensive coverage of “The 50 States.”

(And of course one of the things that’s easier about life in Canada is there are only 10 provinces to forget the names of. Another thing is that Canadians who speak English can still pay some attention to BBC News. And for some excellent basic background try the BBC “Q&A: US mid-term elections 2006.” E.g., “This time, there are also races for 36 of the 50 state governorships, known as gubernatorial elections.” )

Greg Palast’s comic relief if everything really does go wrong after all …

Finally, if you sense mental breakdown coming on in spite of all this help, as you try to decipher the cryptic rumblings emanating from your TV set, check out Greg Palast on “How They Stole the Mid-Term Election.”

And if they – i.e. the dreaded Republicans – do wind up stealing it again, despite everything, Greg’s final comments will only be that much more apt:

“Add it all up – all those Democratic-leaning votes rejected, barred and spoiled – and the Republican Party begins Election Day with a 4.5 million-vote thumb on the vote-tally scale.

“So, what are you going to do about it? May I suggest you steal back your vote.

“It’s true you can’t win with 51% of the vote anymore. So just get over it. The regime’s sneak attack via vote suppression will only net them 4.5 million votes, about 5% of the total. You should be able to beat that blindfolded. If you can’t get 55%, then you’re just a bunch of crybaby pussycats who don’t deserve to win back America.”

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