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2006 Election Thoughts (Pre-Election)

By Brian | November 7, 2006 | Share on Facebook

OK, so I’ve been blogging so much about politics lately, I guess I should say something about the election. It’s hard, though, because my feelings are very conflicted this time around.

If the Republicans hold on to Congress, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect over the next couple of years: continued slow progress in Iraq, tough talk (or worse) with North Korea and Iran, continued tough policies on preventing future terrorism, tougher immigration laws, no change in tax policy, continued over-spending at the federal level, and lots of “sound and fury signifying nothing” over social issues like abortion, stem cell research, and same-sex marriage.

As a general rule, I’ve never bought into the whole “Republicans are evil, especially Bush” meme that the Democrats have been selling. If anything, their decision to constantly pound that message has made it more difficult to stay informed on world events, especially in the last two years. That said, I think the Republicans are drunk with power. And while the criticism flung their way is often distorted or unfair, I hate the fact that they’ve got so good at using it to distract us from valid criticism. I get the sense that this strategy has left them feeling immune to criticism of any stripe, which gives them an “above the law” mentality. Also, if nothing changes today, the 2008 presidential election will be more of the same “vote for us, we’re not them” messages, which won’t help me pick the next president at all. So, on balance, I’m for throwing da bums out.


If the Democrats take control of Congress, I really don’t know what to expect. Their position on Iraq seems to be “Bush is wrong on Iraq.” Their position on immigration is “Bush is wrong on immigration.” Their position on taxes is “the Bush tax cuts were only for the rich.” And the list goes on. With this much time on the sidelines, it’s absolutely reprehensible that I’m not aware of 3-5 bills that will be sent to the President on inauguration day if the Democrats take control. Ironically, I can draw direct parallels to their criticism of Bush in the Iraq war: they have a plan to win, but then no plan for what to do after they’ve won.

Also, there’s this: the level of vitriol coming from the Democrats right now has me worried that if they gain control, they’ll spend the next two years ripping Bush to shreds in the form of investigations, hearing, and possibly even impeachment proceedings.

As I’ve said many times before, one of the unfortunate side effects of defining yourself solely by the shortcomings of your opponent is that you find yourself rooting for your opponent to fail, in order to reinforce your message. When your opponent controls the Presidency and both houses of Congress, though, this amounts to rooting for your own country to fail, which is subsequently perceived by the rest of the world as what Lincoln called a “house divided against itself.” Up until now, I’ve generally bit my tongue and accepted this sorry state of affairs as the price we pay for freedom of speech. Now that the enemy has CNN (and CNN.com) just like we do, our choices are either to crush dissent out of fear of emboldening our enemies, or assume that they’ll eventually understand our bickering as politics and not policy. And so while the consequences are real, we accept them in exchange for the benefits of the American way of life.

When the bickering becomes congressional hearings, though, a whole new legitimacy is granted, and the message to our enemies becomes very different. So aside from my opinions on whether or not the President deserves to be impeached (he doesn’t), I worry that steps in that direction will strongly embolden our enemies – either in the form of additional attacks, or in the form of a recommitment to keep fighting in hopes of America eventually backing down.

The bottom line: the Republicans are the devil known, the Democrats are the devil unknown. I’m sufficiently disenchanted with the Republicans to vote them out, and would probably do so if I could be assured that the Democrats would act like adults over the next two years – governing in the best interests of the country, rather than using the opportunity to institutionalize six long years of Bush-bashing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go vote…

Topics: Political Rantings | 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “2006 Election Thoughts (Pre-Election)”

  1. Jeff Porten says at November 7th, 2006 at 6:46 pm :
    Two thoughts, both fairly morbid:

    1) when I started your essay, my immediate impression was that I’d read several paragraphs of Brian’s soul-searching, followed by an apparently reluctant decision to vote Republican. I’m fairly sure my prediction was borne out, which implies that, at least in part, your voting decision was a foregone conclusion.

    2) I’m trying to get my head around your extreme concern for what we’re communicating to our enemies, and your concurrent lack of concern for what we communicate to our (remaining) allies and to ourselves. Voting with the president, regardless of what the president does, solely for the purpose of worrying about how it’ll play in Tora Bora is an interesting form of self-imposed totalitarianism. “You’re either with us, or you’re against us”, writ large.

    As for the rest of your points, I disagree with nearly all of them, but we’ve argued them before to no avail. So I’m off to an election party/wake, depending on the results, and I’ll save my blathering for re-emergence on my own blog sometime shortly. I’m sure you can’t wait.

  2. jason says at November 7th, 2006 at 7:29 pm :
    Brian, in case you haven’t guessed by now, I count myself as a Democrat and social liberal, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’re going to win big this year. That said, I, too, wish my party had a better-defined identity than “we’re not them.” My concern isn’t so much the possibility the country will get bogged down in another politically motivated impeachment — I honestly don’t see a lot of support for that except among the most extreme of lefties — but rather that, without a plan of action similar to what you mention, the Dems will dither away whatever opportunity they may gain today.

    I’d like to address this issue you raise of Democratic vitriol. It’s a complaint I’ve heard from a number of my conservative friends, that they don’t understand why Dems have gotten so nasty. At risk of sounding childish, the Republicans started it. It isn’t just because of Bush and the war; it’s been building for a long, long time. Democrats have been putting up with an unrelenting stream of insults for well over a decade now, ever since Bill Clinton’s first election, and even before that. We’ve been accused of being unpatriotic, immoral, weak, and stupid. The term “liberal” has been recoded to become a virtual epithet. Any attempt from liberals to refute this nonsense has been characterized as “whining.” And while we can debate over whether or not actual Republican polticians are guilty of saying these things, there’s no doubt that they’ve been said on behalf of those politicians, and that the GOP has benefitted from them being said. The anger you’re hearing from the left now is the end result of all that trash-talking. You push people around long enough, and sooner or later those people get pissed off. Even us bleeding-heart liberals.

    I can’t condone a lot of the nastiness that’s spewing around out there, but I honestly can’t condemn it either. Because I feel it myself, and it’s very, very hard not to give into the desire to wipe the smirk off our tormentors’ faces. It’s what I was trying to get at when I blogged about Mark Foley a few weeks back. What goes around comes around.

    Don’t misunderstand – I agree with you that the Dems should “act like adult over the next two years and govern in the best interests of the country.” I hope they do, because I’m tired of all this trash-talking bullshit. But if they don’t, I’ll understand why.

    Of course, any discussion of how the Dems will govern is still academic at this point. The election’s not over yet…

  3. Brian says at November 8th, 2006 at 1:48 am :
    Wow, my entire loyal readership commented on the same post – what to do?

    OK, Jeff first: I’m not sure what you mean by foregone conclusion, other than I vote with the people who represent my interests best as a default. If that’s the yardstick, though, aren’t all of our votes foregone conclusions?

    As it turns out, I actually voted for an equal number of Republicans and Democrats this year. Maybe I’ll go into why in a different post.

    As to #2, I think we’re back to your foregone conclusions. I didn’t say that voting against the President sends a message to our enemies. In fact, I said exactly the opposite of that. Typically, when you respond like this, I go back & read my original post & look for the ambiguous statement, but Jason got it exactly right, so I’m pretty well convinced it’s you.

    My concern isn’t the Democrats winning (which, at this late hour, it looks like they have – at least in the House; the Senate is still up for grabs). My concern is the Democrats turning the next two years into a public hanging of George W. Bush (a la what the Republicans did to Clinton in ’99). Not only will it take our eye off the ball in many areas, it will leave us perceived around the world as a country turned against itself. The other side of this coin, of course, is that the Democrats have the chance to spend the next two years passing some breath-taking legislation, leading them directly to a romp in 2008. Unlike the registered Republicans you typically hear in the media, I’m very much rooting for that scenario…

    Now, Jason: I hope your right about impeachment, hearings, etc. I do believe that quite a few Democrats vowed to impeach the next Republican president on the day Clinton was impeached, and this would be their first chance. Maybe I’m just paranoid…

    Re: the vitriol, sorry – I honestly don’t care who started it. I understand that most of the country acts like eighth graders most of the time, but these folks are our leaders, and we need them to step up & act like adults. It’s fine if a bunch of micro-bloggers think of the other political party as their tormentors (your word), but just like I need to deal with folks I don’t care for in the office, so to should our leaders find a way to work together, even in the midst of some nasty name-calling.

    Yes, Bill Clinton got a raw deal, especially during the Monica/Whitewater thing. But we’re in a place now where every mistake is declared a lie, every secret is assumed to be a sinister plot, and every failure is pointed to as evidence of incompetence.

    When all of this is on the Sunday morning talk shows, it’s a distraction. If it starts happening on the floor of the House, it’s going to become damaging awfully quickly…

  4. jason says at November 8th, 2006 at 11:59 am :
    I don’t disagree with your sentiments re: the vitriol. I agree that the name-calling has become corrosive and I want it to stop, too. I also don’t want to see Bush impeached, especially if it’s simply motivated by tit-for-tat thinking rather than evidence of a genuine crime. (As much as I dislike the guy and as much as I suspect some shady dealings have gone on in his presence, I’m not convinced Bush is guilty of any crimes. Spectacular mistakes, overweening arrogance, and a disagreeble speaking style do not equal a crime in my book.)

    All I said is that I understand where the anger comes from. I share it, and I struggle not to let it overwhelm my sense of reason. Whether or not I succeed is open to interpretation…

  5. Jeff Porten says at November 11th, 2006 at 7:51 pm :
    I think Jason is being extremely polite. There’s no question in my mind that George Bush has committed numerous crimes that rise to the level of impeachable offenses, and that’s even before one considers that the Republicans lowered the bar on that their own damn selves.

    I could make a list, but I’m sure both of you know what I’ll say, so I’ll save myself the trouble.

    What I find interesting is that both of you are talking about the “good of the nation”, as if everyone being nice to each other in 2007 is the most important issue. My way of thinking, you’ve got to take the long view when talking about the health of the polity, and the imperial presidency is far more dangerous over a period of decades than a vitriolic Congress, which happens on a regular basis.

    For that matter, the idea that we need to weaken our vigilance on our own system’s strength when threatened by foreign enemies is in itself a dangerous idea that needs to be repudiated, right now. It’s not a good thing that our civil rights are based on the proximity and timing of the most recent bomb explosion somewhere.

  6. Brian says at November 12th, 2006 at 2:40 am :
    Well, I guess it helps that I don’t see blatant crimes – only failed policies, poor communication, misjudgements, and a lot of clever lawyering.

    More to the point, though, I think I’d be more amenable to the punitive process if I didn’t think it would completely freeze the legislative process. We’ve “thrown da bums out,” and the Democrats are in power because “they were the only other people standing in the room” (I forget who said that, but it wasn’t me). At this critical juncture, they’re either going to put together a plan for where the country needs to go in the next two years, or they’re going to abdicate that role in favor of playing judge & jury for George W. Bush.

    I wouldn’t mind if they could do both, but I don’t believe they can. Therefore, I greatly prefer to former…


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