Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Why the Republicans Lost

After six years of one-party government, things here in Washington were getting kind of boring.

That’s already started to change.

The November Election

In past years, I have told you that the chances the Democrats could capture the House of Representatives were low because of all the highly political gerrymandering of districts that took place in the wake of the 2000 census. That redistricting made the vast majority of House seats permanently safe for the party that controlled it. Because of all of this, perhaps only 45 seats would really be in play in any election year.

Those odds made the Democratic victory in the House this month all the more impressive.

But perhaps even more surprising is the Democratic sweep of Senate races giving them a one-vote advantage in that body.

The single issue that dominated the elections was Iraq but it goes even deeper than that.

Marlon Brando and the Republicans
There is this old Marlon Brando movie—“Zapata,” that’s the story of the Mexican revolutionary period at the turn of the 20th century. The movie starts out with the corrupt government shooting the peasants. The movie ends with Marlon Brando’s revolutionary character playing a key role its overthrow and with the new guys shooting the peasants.

The Republicans had their own revolution in 1994. They lost this election because they ended up shooting the peasants.

The Republicans forgot that 12 years ago the electorate threw the Democrats out because the swing voters came to the conclusion that after decades of control, the Democrats were out of touch (the Clinton Health Plan) and had been corrupted (the post office scandal, House Ways and Means Chair Dan Rostenkowski in jail, and various other problems) by their power after many years of unilateral control of the government.

In 2006, the Republicans got the boot because they were seen to be out of touch (Iraq) and corrupted (Folly, Abramoff, and “ear marks”) by the power coming from their almost complete control of the government.

In short, power did to the Republicans exactly what it had done to the Democrats by 1994, and the result was the same.

The toughest criticism of the Republicans has been coming from leaders in their own party:
George Will on why Republicans lost the election in his weekly column on November 12: “Tuesday’s election results were fresh evidence that two events that profoundly shaped American politics during the last two presidencies were episodes of irrational exuberance unrelated to economic behavior.” Later in the piece, “The Democratic episode was the Clintons’ attempt to radically restructure and semi-socialize the 16 percent of the economy that is the health care sector. The Republican episode is Iraq.”
Dick Armey, the former House majority leader and Gingrich chief lieutenant during the 1994 Republican takeover, in a October 29 op-ed in the Washington Post on why the Republicans were on their way to a loss: “The answer is simple: Republican lawmakers forgot the party’s principles, became enamored with politics over policy. Now the Democrats are reaping the rewards of our neglect—and we have no one to blame but ourselves.” Later in the same article, “Now spending is out of control. Rather than rolling back government, we have a new $1.2 trillion Medicare prescription drug benefit, and non-defense discretionary spending is growing twice as fast as it had in the Clinton administration.”

“Zapata” should be mandatory viewing up on the Hill.
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