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Post Election Thinking

November 13th, 2006

Welcome back after our Election Week hiatus. Not exactly planned, but the break did provide me the opportunity to sit back and reflect on the politics of a Democratic Congress. First, a brief pause to enjoy the fall of Senator “Split the 9th Circuit” Burns and Senator “I Hate Gay People” Santorum. I realize that several radical House members have also ridden off into the sunset, but as senators these two pushed policies especially divisive to those of us on the West Coast. Good riddens to bad rubbish.

Next up, quick review of initiatives. Washington State proved to be wiser than originally expected by failing the “give property owners more rights than citizens have over their bodies” initiative and the “rich dead people’s heirs are more important than poor people” initiative. Here in California, the state adopted a slew of bond measures designed to upgrade the state’s infrastructure (a decidedly unsexy topic), rejected a parental consent for abortion initiative, and adopted yet more draconian sex-offender policies (hello GPS trackers!).

Santa Cruz, notable bastion of liberal politics, soundly rejected Measure G, a proposal to raise the minimum wage an additional $1.25 over the already $1.75 increase approved by Sacramento this year. Like I’ve already said, I’m not opposed to minimum wage increases, but it has to be done with more study on the economic impact. Policy decisions of this scope should not be made on feelings alone. Hopefully the sponsors of G will come back in a few years with numbers on the State-wide change and we can go from there.

Now, onto the big news… a one seat majority in the Senate and a confirmed 11 seat majority in the House (10 seats remain undecided… but many will end up breaking Republican). I’ve been reading a lot about the Democrats policy proposals and how they want to govern. It all sounds very good, in abstract… but I wonder how well their ideals will fair once the minority remembers it can use open governance to help position the party to reclaim the majority in 2008. Will ideals prevail over politics?

Of course, now the Democrats have to carry the burden of governing in a divided country. The liberal wing of the party is going to be out for blood, just as the conservative wing of the Republicans have been since ‘94. Of course, many blame the Republican loss on the conservative wing… I imagine the Democrats are just as susceptible. So, how does one govern to appease their base yet mindful of America’s delicate political balance?

Anyone who thinks that question is an easy one has another thing comin’ to ‘em. Look back at the Vietnam War and see how the Democrats, who held the Congress and the White House, tore itself apart trying to appease both the anti-war faction and the pro-war faction. How exactly are the Senate Democrats going to accomplish anything on the war with a one seat majority where that one seat is held by Senator “Bush is Right on Iraq” Lieberman? And let us not forget the Republican filibuster remains a potent tool.

In other words, I’m not convinced the “American nightmare” is over. The nightmare is not Republican control… it is a bitterly divided body politic, many of whom cannot stand the other side. Fighting over seats in the Congress is important, but it’s not going to heal the divisive politics of the Bush Administration. I’m not saying the cure is a Democrat as President, but a President who tries to lead from the center (instead of the extrems) would go a long way.

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