A Majority for a New America

A new poll by the Buffalo News in NY-26 now shows NRCC chair Tom Reynolds losing 48-33 to Democrat Jack Davis. That race is by no means over, but at this point I think it is reasonable to start favoring Davis, which is mind-blowing and indicates just how many Republican-held seats are currently in play. Funny that the last Democratic Speaker of the House was named Foley, and the Florida congressman who seems to have driven one of the final nails into the Republican House majority's coffin in also named Foley. Time has already declared the Republican Revolution dead:Every revolution begins with the power of an idea and ends when clinging to power is the only idea left. The epitaph for the movement that started when Newt Gingrich and his forces rose from the back bench of the House chamber in 1994 may well have been written last week in the same medium that incubated it: talk radio. On conservative commentator Laura Ingraham's show, the longest-serving Republican House Speaker in history explained why he would not resign despite a sex scandal that has produced a hail of questions about his leadership and the failure to stop one of his members from cyberstalking teenage congressional pages. "If I fold up my tent and leave," Dennis Hastert told her, "then where does that leave us? If the Democrats sweep, then we'd have no ability to fight back and get our message out." That quiet admission may have been the most damning one yet in the unfolding scandal surrounding Florida Congressman Mark Foley: holding on to power has become not just the means but also the end for the onetime reformers who in 1994 unseated a calcified and corrupted Democratic majority. That is about the most damning meme I can imagine for Republicans right now: their only ideas are holding onto power.

If Democrats sweep Congress this year, it will be the first time in history that Democrats will have a congressional majority without also having a majority of congressional seats in the south. In the post-election aftermath, we will also have an opportunity to shift the center of political discussion in this country significantly to the left. If the coming Democratic landslide is accurately recognized as largely originating from the netroots and the progressive movement, Republicans of all stripes will, at least briefly, try to team up with LieberDems. If Joe Lieberman thus becomes to icon of the American right-wing, the center of political discourse in this country will have dramatically shifted in just six years. From 1990-2000, people like Joe Lieberman were supposed to be the savior of the American left, or so we were told.

Perhaps because it is happening so quickly, I am not sure if people realize how much a post- New Deal, post-Dixiecrat, and post-DLC Democratic majority would represent a significant shift in power in this country. I am not sure if I grasp it yet either, but I think it would represent the first real break with conservatism this country has seen since the days of FDR. No matter how much further the progressive movement would still need to travel, a Democratic victory on November 7th would be no small event in the history of our movement or the history of our country.

Tags: Clean Elections Laws (AZ, Conservative Coalition, Court Packing, CT, Democratic Party History, Democrats, FDR, House 2006, Jim Farley, John O'Connor, ME), Proposition 89 (CA), Public Funding of Federal Elections (all tags)

Comments

38 Comments

Devastating.
   That Time article really hurts.  I hope it catches on.
   Have you read what Zogby said in the link to the poll you posted?
'"There is no enthusiasm for Democrats either, because they offer no alternatives on the issues," he said, adding anything they achieve in November will result in a kind of "Forrest Gump" victory'
  Can we really trust a pollster who says things like these?  He is still hanging on to the "Democrats are not an alternative" theme.  He just gives Democrats no credit at all.  Maybe he's bitter he picked Kerry.
by cilerder86 2006-10-08 10:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Devastating.

The Zogby statement is an overgeneralization but it is consistent with the netroots criticisms of DLC Dems. The Lieberdems don't offer alternatives to Repubs on the issues.

by FishOutofWater 2006-10-08 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Devastating.

The Zogby statement is an overgeneralization but it is consistent with the netroots criticisms of DLC Dems.

Indeed.

In the past Zogby was described as a liberal Democrat while beloved of rightwingers.  His criticism is not so far off the mark.

Would that he were a better pollster than commentator.  Hope he is right about Reynolds but I wouldn't take it to the bank.

Jack Davis by the way ain't no liberal by a long shot.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-10-08 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Devastating.

The Dem running for Foley's seat is no liberal either. Congress will not become progressive if we win in Nov. However, the right wing advance on the courts will be slowed and the Bush administration won't have a rubber stamp Congress.

by FishOutofWater 2006-10-08 11:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Devastating.

The Dem running for Foley's seat is no liberal either. Congress will not become progressive if we win in Nov.

It won't become liberal for sure.  Nobody knows what a progressive is except a revulsion at being called a liberal, most of whom seem not to be.

Historically inaccurate is Chris' contention that this might be the "first break with conservatism" since FDR.  Chris might as well have called Newt Gingrich a liberal.  FDR was a rightwing Democrat.  He arrived in Washington with a pledge to save money, advising hungry, desperate hungry people not to be be afraid.  Then FDR deepened the Depression until World War III pulled us out of it.  Not every economy chose to participate.  Lord John Maynard Keynes returned to London in disgust after discussions with FDR, declaring FDR was an economic illiterate.

Mythology has a powerful attraction even to some of the more enlightened souls.

I don't know that it is all bad that Davis is a conservative.  I do think it is not pleasant to learn that he is particularly worried about those dang Mexicans in this country.

Hopefully the fellow running for Foley's seat is not a sexual predator.  Now that is truly progress wouldn't you say?

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-10-08 01:02PM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

"If the coming Democratic landslide is accurately recognized as largely originating from the netroots and the progressive movement, Republicans of all stripes will, at least briefly, try to team up with LieberDems."

It's disheartening to see you so eager to sow the seeds of the progressive movement's destruction in this way.  Whatever gains the Democratic Party makes next month, those gains will predicated on either a decline in overall Republican turnout or movement among Independents and moderates from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party.  There is no data to support claims of a growth in progressive party ranks or a liberalizing of the electorate, which means it won't be progressive votes turning the tide.

I'm all for progressive involvement.  I also recognize the commitment of progressives to bettering our country and our world.  But slapping yourself on the back and claiming that you're the cause of what has in fact been a long, slow sea change, is a mistake.  You're setting yourself and people who respect your opinion up for a fall, rather than building on your current successes.

And if you think I'm kidding, ask Kos.  He's been through the entire process you're going through right now, and he learned some tough lessons along the way.

by MarkB 2006-10-08 10:02AM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

MarkB, I am not sure I follow your logic.  Unless I have misread you (which is possible), the netroots are both a) incapable of making the sort of sea change in politics that you have been observing for some time, but simultaneously b) capable of sowing the seeds of the destruction of the progressive movement by celebrating some electoral good news.

So the netroots are simultaneously impotent and infintely dangerous.  Have you considered that they may be neither, i.e. an influence that is part of a larger set of influence, neither impotent nor catastrophic in their capacity?

by Bruce Godfrey 2006-10-08 10:10AM | 0 recs
He also fails to acknowledge

that any Democratic majority in the House will come through the likes of Heath Shuler, Gabrielle Giffords, Baron Hill, Ken Lucas, and the like. These are not the type of unabashed liberals championed around here.

There is no big "swing to the left" in these victories. These candidates are primarily representing swing-to-red districts and are championed by "the establishment", not the netroots.

by OfficeOfLife 2006-10-08 10:39AM | 0 recs
Change in the South and West

There is a huge Hispanic influx into the south. The west is becoming more progressive. Dems need to be responsive to demographic shifts to develop a base for the future.

by FishOutofWater 2006-10-08 11:18AM | 0 recs
Realignment?

I think this election is more a revulsion to the Repub abuse of power than any realignment.

The American public is fickle. There are many cross-currents and its not knowable what the situation in 2007 or 2008 will be let alone in 10 years.

We should not read too much into a Dem sweep this Nov, if it happens. (I certainly hope so).

I'll be happy with a Dem majority in the House and Senate that leads to investigations and sunlight into the Repub abuse of power and the prevention of a complete takeover of the Supreme Court.

by ab initio 2006-10-08 01:37PM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

We have the opportunity to run a large number of congressional committees without making compromises to conservative (ie Southern) Democrats.

by kmwray 2006-10-08 10:29AM | 0 recs
Run Cmte's without compromise ...

... and you'll get tossed right out again.

You won't even have to wait until 2008.

And in the bargain, you will have proven you don't believe in democracy.

by RonK Seattle 2006-10-08 10:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Run Cmte's without compromise ...

that's bs which you haven't backed up. Saying it doesn't make it so, no more than Chris's posts make what he says so.

by bruh21 2006-10-08 02:27PM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

We have the opportunity to move every part of the country forward by working together.

by FishOutofWater 2006-10-08 11:12AM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

Chris, I think you're exactly right about what the power shift could represent.  But it occurred to me this morning just how important it is that if the Democrats take the Senate, they do so by more than one vote.  Lieberman may not defect, but the price of having to placate him will make us all nostalgic for the "good old days" of Zell Miller...

by David Bender 2006-10-08 10:30AM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

David, this assumes that Loserman will win! Don't be too certain about that.

by ab initio 2006-10-08 01:39PM | 0 recs
1993

remember all the tricks the GOP used in 1993 to throw Clinton off track.  What sorts of things might they have this time, and how might we counter?  I for one feel that having a democratic majority in the house and a popular wind at our backs would at least allow us to push some legislation through a narrowly divided senate, and Bush might even sign it to avoid pariah status.  

by gobacktotexas 2006-10-08 10:54AM | 0 recs
Huh? Dem's held the majority in 1993

... and Dem's threw Clinton off track. GOP just closed in for the kill.

In the end they didn't get Clinton, but they got 12 years in control of the House.

by RonK Seattle 2006-10-08 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Huh? Dem's held the majority in 1993

Okay, to a large extent, you are right.  It was really a combination of both.  Sydney Blumenthal's book, The Clinton Wars lays out a pretty good description how lack of communication along with some GOP procedural moves were at fault.  But it was only at the end that the Republicans closed in.  

by gobacktotexas 2006-10-08 11:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Huh? Dem's held the majority in 1993

That's not how I remember it.  Republicans threw him off track.  Specefically over gays in the military and health care.  Religious Right special interest groups, Limbaugh, and local Limbaugh wannabees drummed up big protests, call-in and blast-faxing campaigns and so on that caught Clinton off guard.  I don't think he was expecting that kind of opposition.  He completely changed course and spent the rest of his administration pushing things which he knew the Republican base was divided enough over that they wouldn't be able to successfully raise such a stink - such as NAFTA, Brady Bill, the Clipper Chip, Telecommunications Act, DMCA and so on.

by ACSR 2006-10-08 11:38AM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

An interesting point, but this premise relies on those who are the makers of the common wisdom recognizing it...  The DLC could just as easily find a way to analyze the results to prove the "3rd path" is still nirvana.

by DanD 2006-10-08 11:01AM | 0 recs
Hold on one cotton-picking minute...

I think it would represent the first real break with conservatism this country has seen since the days of FDR.

I think it's way too soon to predict something like that.

I think all options are open: quite likely, 2006 will resemble 1946: both parties shambolic, but the GOP is better able to rebuild in time for the next presidential election, and sustain a long period of dominance across the Federal elected branches.

My suspicion, though, is that we're entering a period of short cycles - after 1868-1932 and 1933-94 - of alternating party control and predominantly divided government.

But - let's suppose that the Dems are in for a sustained period of control: what difference will that make?

To take two key areas, one process, the other substance:

The fundamental cause of the extent and depth of corruption in the Federal government is the wall of money that pols have to raise. And it's a curse that afflicts pols of both parties.

Clearly, the solution must lie in public funding; but how can the voters be persuaded to give taxpayers' money to said pols? And how can the constitutional objections be met without an amendment? (We've seen how effective McCain-Feingold has been!)

And - the top priority in domestic policy must be a system of universal health care which both ensures a high uniform standard of care (no doughnut holes!) and curbs the spiralling costs.

With the ghastly experience of Hillarycare and Harry and Louise haunting their dreams, how can pols be brought to believe that the risk is worthwhile? (A first-rate scheme - and where is that? - is only the start.)

Now, neither of those reforms is particularly radical, as viewed from outside the US political system. They wouldn't be seen as socialist, for instance, in most European countries. Universal health care, in particular, is supported by parties across the spectrum in those countries.

Yet, looked at right now, there is no chance at all of either reform coming to pass in the foreseeable future, even assuming sustained Dem success.

by skeptic06 2006-10-08 11:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Hold on one cotton-picking minute...

In terms of taxpayers not wanting to pay for public funding, apparently it would only take $6 a year from each taxpayer to fund all federal elections.

by forecaster15 2006-10-08 02:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Hold on one cotton-picking minute...

Schemes like this (I'm only working from a quick squint at the Case Statement) have been enacted in AZ, CT and ME.

But, in CA, Proposition 89 - which looks much the same idea - is dead in the water, polling 61% against. (Initiative fatigue is no doubt a factor, but can't explain all of the opposition, I'm thinking.)

Pelosi is on the list of endorsers of Prop 89 - but I'm not aware of any leading Dem raising a similar idea for Federal elections.

For one thing, one party promising to cut off existing donors' chances of snagging corporate welfare would tend to cause said donors to switch their giving to the other party...

by skeptic06 2006-10-09 12:27AM | 0 recs
On second thoughts...

...I come off dismissive of the potential of a Clean Elections scheme for Federal elections, whereas I meant merely to say I'm woefully short of the information needed to opine on the substance.

In fact, I can see that, in principle, it would be a excellent, populist cause for an insurgent prez candidate - Feingold, to pick the obvious name - to take up. (So long as he was prepared to say goodbye to fatcats' donations, natch!)

If it were to come anywhere close to the Dem Congressional agenda - I think it's nowhere near now - it would be worth a little burning of midnight oil to get to grips with the ins and outs.

My suspicion, though based on the track record of the personnel involved, rather than the merits of the scheme, is that the Dem Congressional leadership would run a mile. (Even Prop 89-supporting Pelosi.)

(There's the scheme for presidential elections, of course; but I get the feeling that, given that both Bush and Kerry happily gave it the finger in the primaries, there won't be that many takers in 08. I can't see the Clinton printing press stopping operation - perhaps not even for the general, assuming that she's the nom (not a popular thought round here!).)

by skeptic06 2006-10-09 02:17AM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

     Certainly there was a decisive break from conservatism in the years 1964-66, when the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, and the Voting Rights Act were passed. The really productive progressive era of the New Deal didn't last much longer than that, and almost nothing was accomplished in FDR's second term.

by Ron Thompson 2006-10-08 11:24AM | 0 recs
New America

Check out this article in TIME.  This is extraordinary.  Republican spinmeister Frank Luntz is throwing in the towel on the GOP.

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/ 0,8599,1543860,00.html

by global yokel 2006-10-08 11:29AM | 0 recs
Beat Holy Joe

If you want credit, this is the one--and goddamn near only one--thing you have to do.

If Kos is the kingmaker, name the king.

You need one word answer. A living breathing symbol in the club. Then, and only then, have you crashed the gate.

Believe me. I know about this shit. Ask around. See what people say about me.

Even if the Dems do not take either house, which remains a possibility, beat Holy Joe, and you've done something you said you would do.

Otherwise my friends, you are feather merchants.

Beat Holy Joe.

Beat him bad.

by stevehigh 2006-10-08 11:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Beat Holy Joe

Steve is completely right.

by Kimmitt 2006-10-08 12:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Beat Holy Joe

Yep.  It may be a democratic wave but its not a progressive revolution by any means.

Lamont would represent a major victory but in Maryland Mfume, Edwards and Perez all lost in the primaries.  And Hackett quit before his time.

Duckworth, DeWine, Cardin and Wynn may coast to victory but...

The powerbrokers who will take over for Hasert and co. will not be progressive.  They will be the same ole, same ole.

We have a long way to go.

by aiko 2006-10-09 04:46AM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

Am I missing something?  The Democrats are probably going to win 12-18 seats and this "wave" will bring 25 tops.  While that's huge considering a 98% re-election rate for incumbents, its a far cry from a revolution.  As others have mentioned, Ken Lucas, Heath Schuler, Baron Hill, and others are not progressive.  It will be nice to have people like Lois Murphy in the House but this election is about two things.  Stoping the tide of Republican destruction and setting the stage for 2008.  2006 isn't even going to be another 1994 and 1994 was no 1932, 1964, or 1980, perhaps the three most important elections of the 20th Century.  To compare this to a revolution shows the true naivete of the "netroots" movement.  1980 and Ronald Reagan still define the political environment.  Most Americans want lower taxes, less government, and more defense.  Until we win the Presidency with someone who can change the frame of mind, and not just the agenda, we aren't going to have any revolutions in America.  Let's take this election for what it is, taking back one or maybe both of the houses of Congress as a consquence of the Hubris and failed policies of the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans.

by wjr24 2006-10-08 12:26PM | 0 recs
The Realignment Calendar is Askew

My favorite college professor, an old friend of Sam Rayburn, was fond of the 36-year realignment theory of American politics:

1788 (ok, '89): Washington, Federalists vs. Democratic-Republicans era to begin soon

1824: Splintering of the Democratic-Republican Party into Jacksonian Democrats vs. Whigs

1860: Birth of Republicans, election of Lincoln, enough said.

1896: McKinley defeats Bryan in a recasting of the GOP as the business establishment party and the Dems as the populists

1932: FDR. Enough said.

1968: Nixon wins, realigns the South for the GOP.

Here's where it breaks down, as obviously 2004 was a disappointment for any positive bounceback from the Nixon realignment. But Nixon's realignment was a slow-motion event, with Congress remaining fully Democratic for another 12 years, and with no full Republican control of government for 32! I think Watergate had something to do with this, as well as the slow speed of local realignment in the South. Whatever the cause, the sluggishness of the previous realignment is also slowing down the current one.

That said, I think Chris makes an important point about the new Democratic majority: no hegemony by entrenched Southern conservatives. Congress hasn't been been run by liberals (or non-conservatives, at least) since Reconstruction. This is a truly momentous development and one which is likely to fuel the flames of Southern rightwing paranoia again, so our side has no room for self-congratulation or complacency of any sort. But it's possible that without that historical barrier to reform, some major changes may finally become possible in this country if we fight hard enough. We can do this.

by southpaw chris 2006-10-08 01:04PM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

I think a minimum of 25 House seats & 5 Senatorial seats are neccessary for a "revolution". Although I'm much more partial to 51 seat revolutions.

by Epitome22 2006-10-08 01:29PM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

Funny that you should mention that this will be the first time the Democrats have ever had a House majority without holding a majority of seats in the South.

Being a resident of the South (but decidedly not a Southerner), I've always thought that the South plays a much bigger role than it deserves in our political process.  The South essentially controls the nominating process for President in both parties.  By controlling the dialogue on "faith" in this country, the South has essentially made sure that both parties will attempt to nominate candidates who "speak their language."

But I digress.  John Kerry, who had nothing in common with the average Southerner, very nearly was elected President in 2004 without winning a single electoral vote in the South.

Now, if this takeover of the House happens, it will be without the South.  Sure, there are a few remaining Democrats from the South -- most of them elected from black-majority districts -- and a few key races for us are there.  But this election will be about shedding the past of the Democratic Party and embracing the future.

What is the future of the Democratic Party?  Here's a key: If Ed Perlmutter and Bill Ritter's leads hold up, Colorado will have a Democratic governor, a Democratic Senator, and a majority of their House members will be Democrats.  And Colorado looked lost to the Democratic Party in the late 1990s.

by Tom 2006-10-08 04:12PM | 0 recs
Re: A Majority for a New America

In his classic, "The 100 Days", Joseph Alsop describes FDR's court packing attempt.  In the aftermath of the 1936 election, Roosevelt had gigantic majorities in both houses of Congress.  There were only 16 Republican senators.  One of the points Alsop makes is that a goal FDR had -- in the wake of what he saw as a massive mandate -- was to purge the party of its southern conservative Jim Crow wing.  But his monumental loss on packing the court so sapped FDR's power that he had to give up on his plan to purge conservative Democrats. (And FDR never got another major piece of New Deal legislation passed either.)  

One way to look at Democratic Party history post 1964 is that the Party slowly ditched its southern racist Confederate wing.  In a sense Democrats have reluctantly accomplished what FDR set out to do in 1936.  It's been a long time in the wilderness.  LBJ said the south was lost to us for a generation. It's already been more than a generation.

So to a large extent, you're right, Chris.  If the Democrats take power and can hold onto it for a cycle or two, American politics will have been transformed in a very fundamental way.

Too bad that with global warming, it's probably too late to do any good.

by kaleidescope 2006-10-08 04:23PM | 0 recs
Not to nitpick, but...

...the Alsop book was The 168 Days.

(Not that I knew that before Googling, of course...)

My theory - for which I have yet to see any support in what I've read of the literature on the subject - is that FDR's insistence on failing to consult with big Congressional egos (as Politics 101 students would have pointed out), and on later refusing all attempts at compromise, signals a deliberate attempt to produce an alienated and hostile Congress for whose inaction FDR could blame the then brewing Roosevelt Recession.

(I've just pulled up The President and the Court: Reinterpreting the Court-packing Episode of 1937 from Political Science Quarterly (a JSTOR link), which puts the FDR strategy down to post-landslide hubris and a lack of appreciation of public attachment to an independent Federal judiciary.

I like my theory better - but...)

On the purging of conservatives, FDR did try in the 1938 primaries, without notable success. The only guy (I think I'm right in saying) that they did get rid of was O'Connor of NY, Rules Committee chairman and hate figure for FDR's patronage czar Jim Farley. (According to his Congressional bio, after losing the Dem primary, O'Connor snagged the GOP nom - but still lost.)

In fact, the so-called Conservative Coalition emerged very slowly during the New Deal period, came together with different personnel strictly on a bill-by-bill basis, and could never overcome the ties of party to operate coherently as a bloc.

The real turning-point for junking the South (as determined in retrospect) came in 1948 with the adoption of the civil rights plank; but the civil rights legislation enacted under LBJ would not have happened, I'd say, without the critical intervention of Bull Connor, Lee Harvey Oswald and Everett Dirksen.

And that lost for a generation quote was wrong: because party allegiances in the South were so strong, and the power of incumbency even more potent than in other sections, it took a generation (to 1994) for the South to return to two-party government.

And, even now, the South is nowhere near as Solid for the GOP as it was for the Dems in the first half of the 20th century.

by skeptic06 2006-10-09 04:06AM | 0 recs
You're Right

I was working from memory, having read it almost 20 years ago.  Obviously, my memory ain't what I thought it was.

by kaleidescope 2006-10-09 06:17AM | 0 recs
Excellent point

I don't feel, as many do, that a country with such a large religious infrastructure will ever become more than a sliver center-left, but you are certainly right that replacing wingnuts with moderate Dems is an excellent change.

by OfficeOfLife 2006-10-08 10:55PM | 0 recs

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