Democrats take back the House of Representatives and make gains in the Senate. It’s good news, right? So why am I not particularly happy?
One reason is how they won. Republicans were just plain vile: they stunk up the joint with corruption, incompetence, greed, and viciousness, and they are saddled with an unpopular president and an unpopular war. They should have been easy to beat, and the Democrats relied on winning by default. There was little attempt to campaign on progressive values, just an expectation that the discontent of the Republican voters with their ugly party would scrape away enough voters that we’d come out on top. And we did. Rah.
A perfect example: we threw Rick Santorum, one of the worst senators ever, onto the rubbish heap, to gain…Robert Casey Jr, a bland, boring, pious middle-of-the-road Democrat who is anti-choice. Was anyone excited about that candidate? You know he won purely because Santorum was such an idiot.
Local races left me little to cheer about. Bill Ingebrigtsen, the local thug who campaigned on a racist, anti-immigration platform but had loads of money to throw at mass mailings, won the 11th Minnesota senate district against a tepid, conservative Democratic incumbent. Michele Bachmann, creationist homophobe, is going to be one of Minnesota’s representatives. The creepy medieval platform of the Republican party still appeals to many voters—they’re just willing to throw them out after they’ve become associated with a failed regime.
The side of science has seen mixed results. Santorum’s gone, the Ohio races that pitted creationists against pro-science moderates seem to have all broken for the good guys, but Kansas has opted to support their creationist candidates. The fact that Bachmann could get elected in my state is discouraging: she’s a flaming anti-science, pro-god kook. Being an irrational nut is still not an obstacle to getting elected, apparently.
I don’t see a lot of hope to build on for the 2008 election. Here’s my prediction: the Republican candidate for president will run on the position that he is Not Bush, while still accommodating the core Republican constituencies of the religious and the rich. The Democratic candidate will run on the position that he or she is Not Bush, and, as we’ve learned to expect, will avoid being too closely associated with his or her core Democratic constituencies of the secular and the working class and labor in order to try to appeal to Republican voters. All the Republicans who fled their party in revulsion during this election cycle will look at their choices of two Not Bushes, and pull the lever for the one who panders best to their Prosperity Christianist faith. The Democrats will try to stir up a pro forma enthusiasm for their nominated functionary, and we’ll instead spend most of the campaign moaning about what a godawful boring Republican-Lite drone we’ve nominated.
Unless the Democrats actually learn to fight for a cause rather than moping about hoping to pick up voters disaffected by Republican incompetence, yesterday’s victories are only going to be temporary. Does anybody think that will happen in our new Democratic congress?
In the long run, though, the real issues have to be this thundering race between China and the US to see who can puke the most carbon into the atmosphere, America’s attempt to bankrupt itself with debt, and our ongoing efforts to blind ourselves to the problems with religion. The Republican goal is to make the problem worse, the Democrats will continue to bumble about and avoid any conflict, and the media will find Britney Spears’ divorce more interesting. Come back in a century and look at America, and I think what you’ll find is Easter Island with tabloids.