Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Vote count disaster for Bush, GOP

Few Republicans expected this year’s mid-term elections would go their way, but Tuesday’s results are worse than any of the polls had predicted. Add to that the Democrats’ sweep of all the constitutional offices in Arkansas, including the Governor’s Mansion being vacated by Mike Huckabee after a decade, and you can see why Democrats are singing, “Oh, what a night.”
“I dreaded this possibility,” said Dick Armey, the former Republican majority leader in the House who’d predicted a difficult time for the GOP this November, but not a disaster of this magnitude.

Sure, the Democrats had a good shot at the U.S. House of Representatives — that was a foregone conclusion weeks before the election — but Democrats captured more House seats than most analysts had expected and are within a whisker of taking control of the Senate, where some major Republican figures were ousted, and which seemed way beyond reach just a week ago.

The country also has more Democrats as governors than the Republicans (who were supposed to take over most of the country because of their vaunted management skills), and you find the Grand Old Party dispirited and in disarray. What happened? The electorate turned in a protest vote against the war in Iraq and the associated spin and smoke and mirrors that are the mother tongue of Washington.

In a word: Corruption. As Armey put it last night, “The party got off track. Earmark excesses. Personal problems. The war. A lot of chickens are coming home to roost.” Arkansas is about where it was 35 years ago: A Democratic governor, two Democratic senators and three Democratic congressmen, with one Republican congressman representing northwest Arkansas apparently holding on to his seat. The more things change, the more things stay the same. Well, not exactly: The state Legislature has more Republicans, while there were almost none in 1971, but the Democratic tide is unmistakable.

Do you remember term limits? That was the Republicans’ mantra a decade ago, and it took root in Arkansas when that was the trendy thing to do, but when Republicans took power in Washington, they dropped the whole idea of term limits. They liked power so much that candidates who had pledged to serve no more than three terms in Congress said, “Never mind. Washington is too much fun. We’ll stick around 20 years.”

Many of those double-crossing politicians lost last night, and they lost badly, which is why the Democrats have regained the House today. But they’ll get used to power again and one day they may take the White House, too, and when they’re too comfortable and full of themselves, the voters will kick them out again. That’s the genius of American democracy. May it long prevail.