Some thoughts on 2006

The 2006 Election(s)
By John J. Fitzgerald

The 2006 Election cycle has come and gone. Just like the 2006 Hurricane season it has not performed exactly as predicted, but it has left some changes in its wake. We might actually have experienced several different elections rather than just one. A lot of decision-making got formalized on the 7th of November.

Here are some of the highlights:

Deval Patrick became the first African-American elected Governor of Massachusetts. He is only the second black to win a Governorship in American history. L.Douglas Wilder of Virginia was the first in 1989. Massachusetts is a liberal state, but it has had its share of racism in the near and distant past. Patrick’s win represents the triumph of organizing welded to progressive idealism. He represents a break with traditional Democratic politics. Translation: A network of good old boys largely out of Boston and other cities of Irish and Roman Catholic background. Their politics is and was the politics of patronage and cronyism. Patrick did well in the cities, but his real core support came from college-educated voters in the suburbs. A good number of his key workers were veterans of the civil rights/anti-war movements of the 1960’s.

Nancy Pelosi of California became the first woman to be Speaker of the House of Representatives. She is now 3rd in line to become President after the Vice President in succession. More importantly she will now serve as a serious check on the Bush administration’s policy positions. With her Democratic majority and her election as Speaker comes a new set of committee chairmanships that will tilt the House more towards the liberal side. This is especially important in setting up Congressional investigations of Bush policies. Pelosi will be joined by at least 70 other women in the House, a new record.

The Senate will be under Democratic control by a margin of 51 to 49. In the 100-member Senate, Democratic women scored victories in Missouri and Minnesota, pushing the total number of female senators to 16, the most ever. Hillary Clinton’s re-election and her husband’s work for a number of Democratic candidates give her extra credentials for a future Presidential run. (Hillary Clinton is not a progressive and only barely a moderate.)

The number of black and Hispanic members will stay the same in the new Congress. There will continue to be 40 black House members and one black senator – Democrat Barack Obama of Illinois. The number of Hispanic House members will stay at 23 and the number of Hispanic senators will remain at three.

Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group in America, making up nearly 15 percent of the population, but they account for only 5 percent of Congress. Blacks make up a little more than 13 percent of the population, but just 8 percent of Congress.

The old House was: Democratic = 203 Republican = 232
The new House is: Democratic = 229 Republican = 196

The old Senate was: Democratic = 45 Republican = 55
The new Senate is: Democratic = 51 Republican = 49

Returns are still being counted but across the nation the number of blacks, Hispanics and women holding elective office has increased. This is the ongoing result of the civil rights movements of the 1960’s.

Voters have returned to a concern about economic issues. They do not trust the Republicans to handle the economy. This reflected in the total number of new Democratic candidates elected to the House and Senate. Not one new Republican was elected to the House or Senate. Some incumbent Republicans were re-elected.

Karl Rove’s reputation as a Wizard of politics is seriously diminished. Many of his Get Out The Vote (GOTV) tactics were adopted by Democratic campaigns with considerable success across the country.

The role of the Internet in electioneering is continuing to grow. Moveon.org and similar organizations played a major role in contacting and motivating voters to turn out. E-mail and cell phone message traffic was at a fever pitch in the weeks and days leading up to the election. Television ads played a role, but money did not trump political organization in 2006. Several millionaire candidates with big TV budgets, but no field organizations, saw their campaigns wither and die. Providing us all with a reminder that some people have too much money!

The war in Iraq was a factor in 2006. The firing of Rumsfeld is testimony to this. But the policy has not changed, and it will probably not change unless the Democrats give it a major shove in a more peaceful direction. Committee interrogation of Gates and the power of the purse will enable anti-war Democrats to get their message across. Conservatives like Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton will be obstacles to peace. McNamara stepped down in 1968, but the war in Vietnam went on until 1975.

One major casualty of the election cycle is John F. Kerry. His stupid and inept performance terminated any chance of another run by him for the White House. Who wants to listen to yet another explanation from him about what he really meant? His flip-flop image will haunt him to the grave, as it should. His career was built on his anti-war image of 1971 and he threw that away with his vote for Bush’s war in 2002. He will have a challenge for his Senate re-election in 2008. He might survive, if the Republicans of Massachusetts file for bankruptcy.

The power of the Christian right was seriously damaged and diminished by the actions of 2006. Corruption and sexual hypocrisy cost a good number of Republicans their seats. A large number of working people started thinking about economics instead of the Second Coming in 2006!

In many ways, 2006 was a perfect storm of a campaign year. Corporate corruption from Enron and Hewlett-Packard to political corruption from Jack Abramoff to Tom Delay got mixed into sexual hypocrisy and misconduct in the case of Foley. This provided the set up. The Republican Party looked and acted like they were the party of sleaze. The war in Iraq had been disintegrating into a civil war with no end in sight and George Bush appeared every day, and in every way, to be more clueless than he was the day before.

Increasing the pressure on this brimming toilet of excrement and foul bodily fluids (Stirring it, if you will!) was the superb use of new campaign techniques to identify and target voters. These techniques largely came from the Dean campaign of 2004. They basically involved computers, the Internet and cell phones. The computers generated master lists of potential voters with phone numbers and the cell phones allowed “phone banks” to be set up in any house or home.

Targeting potential voters and identifying supportive voters, precinct by precinct, gave the advantage to a number of Democratic candidates on Election Day.

If they learned nothing else in 2006, a number of Democratic organizers and voters re-learned how to play the game of politics. This time the good guys won!

And now it is on to 2008!

Happy Days are here again….

One comment

  • Jonathan Teller-Elsberg

    Other notable new members of Congress: surely our first Representative to be an expert on wind power, and founder of a wind generator company, Jerry McNerny (D-California). The frosting on the cake is that the Republican he ousted was chair of the House Resources Committee. Maybe McNerny will be able to put Congress’s hot air to good use at last.

    And then there’s Senator-elect Jon Tester, who must be Congress’s first organic farmer since they invented modern agrichemicals. As Grist reports, there’s a noticeable amount of green in this light at the end of the election tunnel.