November 21, 2008

Republican Collapse

Josh wonders about two consecutive wave elections, for the same party.  These are as he points out very rare. To have a large number of swing seats fall to one party in one year means there shouldn't be any left for following election, and that some of them should swing back.

Instead, it surged, with the Republicans losing MS-2, Delay's seat and Hastert's seat before the election proper and still more after that.  Nobody predicted 56+1+1 (which still may become 57+1+1) in the Senate in 2006, although people like digby (and myself) were more optimistic than the conventional wisdom.  

Josh wonders about this, which is the key, IMO.

For a brief interlude after the election, it looked like the congressional GOP might move into some sort of quasi-opposition to the president, at least distance themselves significantly from him. If you remember, there was a brief period of equivocation on Iraq. And then, nothing. Within a month or so, it was clear that elected Republicans were doubling down on President Bush, the Iraq War and pretty much everything else. And that decision was reflected in the presidential nominating campaign as well.
Josh wasn't the only person confused by this. I recall, very distinctly, Schumer saying he expected withdrawal from Iraq to receive Republican support by the end of the summer. While this was just one more Friedman unit, the 2006 election had made it clear that the public was very unhappy.  When the Republicans remained in their bloc, and decided they were going to drive their party over a cliff in fealty to Bush, Reid and Schumer were perfectly well pleased.

It seemed crazy that people like Chris Shays and Gordon Smith would risk their seats over an occupation that could be, at best, a foreign policy disaster, one that the public had firmly said they wanted nothing to do with.  The President's popularity was cratering, the undermining of Social Security had failed, and the Republicans could point to not one single success.  It seemed, at the time, that you'd have to be crazy not to start voting against the President if you wanted to keep your seat in a fair number of districts.  Moreso in the Senate, where there were a lot of seats up, immune from gerrymandering.

As one of Josh's reader points out, then came Katrina, which both illustrated and symbolized the Republicans incapacity for governing, at least under this president.  And yet, still, they doubled down.

And still, with their favorability falling to low double digits, the Democrats on the Hill continued to mount feeble protests of "I've fallen down and I can't get up" variety, and let the Republicans control the agenda. Only on issues where there was broad Republican support were bills successful. If the Republicans voted in unanimity, then the bills were killed.

The effect was (and I'm still surprised that it worked) that the Republicans owned every bad thing that happened over the last eight years. People were indeed angry at the Democrats too, as in that link from November 2007 where I also raised this issue, but it's one thing to blame Schumer for Mukasey (and I did, and I do) but Bush nominated him and all the Republicans, from Coleman to Smith voted for him.  

I still don't understand why.  All I can think is that they thought they could suppress enough votes, legally and illegally,  to keep a reasonable number of seats, without having to risk being subject to a primary from the right.   So I guess it's appropriate that Josh Marshall inspired this post. Because it may that when historians look back, they will point to his work in exposing the plans to win the purple states by hook or by crook. Further irony here is that, if this was the case, the blowback was brutal. The response to the problems in 2004 and 2006 was to implement early voting more widely. Early voting is death to the Republican suppression tactics, from the legal (last minute false oppo ad that can't be refuted in time, challenges at the polling place) to the unethical (scaring people into thinking they'll be arrested) to the illegal (phone-jamming, filing false charges) to the beyond reprehensible (putting a governor in jail for having the temerity to win.

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