Monday, November 06, 2006
If, tomorrow, Bob Casey wins his election and becomes the senator-elect from the state of
But Bob Casey will vote to raise minimum wage and will help to put Democrats in control of the senate. Plus, he’s not Rick Santorum. In fact, that has been virtually his entire campaign strategy – he is not Rick Santorum. Santorum has clearly had presidential ambitions and would love nothing less than to deliver the
But, in a year in which a lot of the Democratic challengers are moderates, Bob Casey is about as indigestible an alternative as one can imagine. That’s the nature of choices in the election in 2006. Governor Ed Rendell made a conscious political decision to force virtually every other credible candidate, most notably former Congressman Joe Hoeffel, from the race. He could do this because Rendell functionally controls so much in the way both of campaign funding and party endorsements. The lone plausible alternative who could have mounted a campaign without relying at least partly on Rendell was MSNBC Hardball host Chris Matthews, one-time aide to former House Speaker Tip O’Neill. But Matthews, who is no liberal, chose not to run in a year in which his brother is the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor.
Rendell’s logic is simple. Casey enjoys tremendous name recognition because of his father, the late governor (and also an anti-choice well-to-the-right-of-center Democrat). Having finally won a statewide race (after a few attempts, one of which saw him lose the Democratic nomination for governor to Ed Rendell), Casey has shown that he can plausibly win. Also he did endorse Rendell after losing to him in 2002. With his record so far to the right, there’s no way really for Santorum to gang up on him as a gun-controlling abortionist. So Casey, who is largely ineffective as a speaker, has been able to run against an incumbent using something very much like a “rose garden” strategy, keeping debates to a minimum. This race thus is nothing more than a referendum on Santorum. And people in
And, yes, there are no third party candidates on the ballot. Santorum actually tried mightily to get a pro-choice Green Party candidate certified, just to split the Democratic vote.
My biggest fear is that tomorrow, Democrats will win 49 seats and the GOP will win 49 seats, with independents Bernie Sanders & Joe Lieberman taking the other two. Sanders, a progressive, will line up with the Democrats, but I can just imagine Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee in 1998, opting to line up with the GOP, so that our friend Dick Cheney will end up casting the vote that determines that the GOP continues to chair (and govern) committees in the senate. My second biggest fear is a voting machine debacle, less because of conscious fraud – I think that comes later unless we get systems that keep a paper trail – than because the offices in charge of administering elections are typically small operations that get big just once or twice each year for one day, and that the probability of systems not operating correctly, or key cards being missing, that sort of thing, seems very high in a year when so much of the country is using automated voting machines for the first time. I’d recommend that you get to the polls early and bring a book.
It will be interesting to see what the new Congress does once it arrives in session. I wouldn’t count on very much. If only the House is in Democratic hands, I think its focus will turn to investigating the shenanigans of the past six years – there is fertile ground there. If both houses are in Democratic hands, I think there will be serious discussions about whether or not there is more political advantage to be gained by impeaching Bush or using him as a whipping boy for two more years – I expect the Democrats to do the latter, frankly.¹ By then, it should be patently obvious that Bush is the only American president ever to lose two wars. Functionally, he already has, but so long as he can pour in fresh bodies to get blown apart in
By now it should be beyond obvious why it is important to elect the next president and not get bogged down in the narcissism of Ralph Nader. 2008 will also be the strangest political election this country has seen in a long time, with no president or vice-president in the mix (save possibly for Al Gore, which was awhile ago). One thing that makes it hard to gauge what might happen in two years is that the political media is unbelievably unreliable on this subject. For example, virtually all of the major news outlet pundits will end up, as they always do, favoring one or another senator. They all live in D.C. and this is all they know. They all know these guys (and a few gals) and who doesn’t want to be on speaking terms with the next president of the
However, because of the particular nature of this election, with no candidate carrying the record of incumbency, it just might be different. Just this one time.
But the second thing to keep in mind is that window for running for the presidency is incredibly narrow. The Democratic frontrunner Senator Sam Nunn decided not to challenge George H.W. Bush in 1992 and to wait until 1996. But by 1996, tho, people were already forgetting about him since he played no role in the
What all this means is this: if Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John McCain don’t get elected in 2008, they will never be president. Period. End of story. It doesn’t mean that they could not subsequently be nominated. But it does mean that they would be running the same sort of handicap as Bob Dole had in 1996.
As it is, being a senator is a heavy negative and it still will be. The last time we had a genuinely open election like this, in 1952, we got the governor of
But for such a race to happen, of course, the front-runners, Clinton & McCain, will have to stumble. They have organizations, name recognition, and money, lots of it. However, both are wearing huge bull’s-eyes for the other candidates (and Fox News) to aim at for the next two years. History is littered with the failed campaigns of front-runners. Watching the feeding frenzy around John Kerry this past weekend when the so-called botched joke wasn’t funny mostly because it was true – economic disadvantage kills you – reminded me of what piranhas these folks will be, given the slightest chance. We’re going to get to see that game played out again a few times between now and the fall of 2008.
I would like to think that the Democrats winning tomorrow would change the tenor of the election in 2008 by ending the war in
¹ For one thing, you would have to impeach both Bush & Cheney, since he controls American foreign policy. And one thing no Democrat in the U.S. Senate wants is for another Democrat, whether its Nancy Pelosi or any other Democrat to become Speaker of the House, to be an incumbent president come primary time in 2008. So while it makes far more sense than the impeachment over a blowjob of the