July 23, 2005


Democrats Are on the Wrong Battlefield (Colbert I. King, July 23, 2005, Washington Post)

If John Roberts is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, as now seems likely -- barring a shocker in his record or his past -- the reasons he made it won't be solely his résumé or the support of President Bush. The groundwork for Roberts's elevation to the high court -- and the likelihood of success for future Bush Supreme Court nominees -- was laid nearly three years ago in Georgia, Minnesota and Missouri, and last November in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana and South Dakota, when Republicans captured eight Democratic Senate seats.

Today, with Republicans holding 55 seats and having a good chance of landing the votes of some Democrats, the White House enters the Supreme Court fights in excellent shape. That thought alone has some in Washington seized with myocardial infarctions. But they have only themselves to blame.

Self-designated as a government in exile, Democratic Party activists have spent recent election cycles working their fannies off for that glorious day in January when they, as victors, could show the door to a vanquished Republican administration. For members of Washington's Democratic administration-in-waiting, winning the White House has been the only game in town. The presidency, in their view, is the instrument to make the way straight and easy for all who wage war against the heathen right.

So, lo these many years, they have been spending millions of dollars and consuming time and energy treading the primary roads that they hoped would take them to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Meanwhile, far beyond the presidential trails, Republicans have been picking off Democrats on the Hill one by one, making it possible for George W. Bush to fulfill his upfront pledge to govern America from the right, where tax cuts, changing the face of the federal judiciary and making liberals perfectly miserable every waking moment remain the order of the day.

The reality is that with thirty states they barely have to make an effort to carry in presidential races the natural GOP majority is 60 in the Senate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 23, 2005 3:29 PM

I'm going to do the Democrats the favor of assuming that this article is wrong. The Dems should know better than the Reps how important congress -- and particularly the House -- is in controlling the government. After all, the Dems made the modern House.

With the Senate comes power over treaties and appointments. With the House comes that dream political cycle of legislation/lobbying/contributions. If the Dems thought they had a chance of taking back either the House or Senate, they would do whatever it takes. The politics are such that, barring catastrophe (for which they pray nightly), 04 was not and 06 will not result in either chamber turning. Better not to waste the money.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 23, 2005 3:47 PM

Even in 2000, when Al Gore won, George Bush carried 228 congressional districts to his 207. The GOP has a permanent majority.

Posted by: oj at July 23, 2005 4:01 PM

Nothing is permanent. Except change and the hand which guides it.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 23, 2005 4:13 PM

In American politics permanence has tended to last fifty to seventy years.

Posted by: oj at July 23, 2005 4:15 PM

Given the 2004 results, and not counting retirements or people choosing to run for other offices, there are only about 20 seats in the House that can be considered remotely competitive for 2006, and those are evenly split between the parties.

Because 2000 was basically a Democratic year, the 2006 Senate races feature more closely contested seats held by Dems than by the GOP.

I'll let OJ explain the continued political viability of Baucus, Dorgan, Conrad and Johnson.

Posted by: bart at July 23, 2005 4:39 PM

When pressed, "permanent" becomes "50-70 years".

OK, but I still think the underlying long-term dynamics can easily be trumped ... at least for an election cycle or two ... by events and personalities.

And remember, in America there are really only two parties: the Ins and the Outs. Dems may eventually catch on to the lessons of the martial arts. Seems unlikely these days, but stranger things have happened. (They would have to overcome their current psychosis first.)

Now, if you'd said conservative majority ... rather than Republican ... I'd have fewer quibbles.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 23, 2005 4:41 PM

It continues to astound, how the wise seem unable to comprehend that changing demographic and economic circumstances are resulting in profound political realignment.

Of course it is the self-proclaimed "progressives" who are least able to see progress unfolding, but most conservatives are similarly myoptic.

We need to remind ourselves that, unlike the parliamentary system, our institutions depend on voter coalitions, not politician coalitions. When the Republicans forget this they will go the way of the Federalists, Whigs and Democrats. When the worm turns, it will not be back to old-time Democrats, but to something else that we cannot now foresee.

Posted by: Lou Gots at July 23, 2005 5:01 PM


Nope. Republican. And it will last until the next Depression.

Posted by: oj at July 23, 2005 5:25 PM

The House is certainly not going to change hands until the next census (again, barring catastrophe). We should be concentrating on the state legislatures right now in the runup to redistricting.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 23, 2005 8:16 PM

The next census will shift seats from Blue to Red again.

Posted by: oj at July 23, 2005 8:38 PM

Question relating to David's last point - if the amendment that requires direct election of senators is overturned and senators are once again picked by the state legislatures would that hurt or benefit the GOP in the short/long run?

Posted by: AWW at July 23, 2005 8:39 PM

oj -

It will last until the next national trauma that can be pinned on the GOP, provided the Dems have candidiates who are credible under the specific circumstances of the trauma. Depression qualifies.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 23, 2005 8:45 PM

The pinning doesn't matter--it got a second breath out of JFK's assassination with disastrous results.

Posted by: oj at July 23, 2005 9:12 PM


It says something that your best hope for majority lies in the country's "next national trauma". Under normal circumstances, you have no chance. No wonder the party of doom and gloom continues to lose relevance.

Posted by: sam at July 23, 2005 9:16 PM

Sam -

You misread my independent-ness. The last Dem presidential candidate I supported was Jimah in 1976.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 23, 2005 9:34 PM

oj -

Re: LBJ and the Great Society. Quite so. And the Dems tried to do it again under Carter with energy policy. I was personally waist-deep in that sandbox.

But you suggest that the Dems will never learn. I rather hope they do, as persistent one-party rule troubles me no end. Lord Acton was right about power.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 23, 2005 9:47 PM

No power corrupts just as effectively. Power has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: oj at July 23, 2005 10:06 PM

Man is eminently corruptible, I agree. Power is one of those corrupting influences. And the most dangerous to the rest of us.

Acton knew politicians the way Parkinson knew bureaucrats.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 23, 2005 10:59 PM

Acton knew fear, not men.

Posted by: oj at July 24, 2005 1:43 AM

of the thirty states that OJ states the Republicans can win without much effort in a Presidential race, how many have Republican-led legislatures? That's where the battle is in 2011 as re-districting begins.

An example of how important that is: Illinois. In 1990 Illinois was a purple state and could send a Republican senator to Washington and a Republican governor to Springfield. Republicans had one chamber in the state legislature. No longer. Re-districting and the usual Democratic conniviing, along with a spectactular Republican flameout and scandal, have brought the Republicans down. Illinois is now a solid blue state; no chance whatsoever for either a Republican presidential candidate or for Republican senatorial candidates.

Redistricting is where it's at in 2011, and I sure hope that evil genius Karl Rove is already thinking ahead.

Posted by: Steve White at July 24, 2005 3:02 PM

The most telling number about the 2000 election (other than 537) is that Bush won 72% of the counties in the nation. In 2004, I believe the number was 78%. The NYT and WaPo and LAT will never admit those figures have any meaning, but there you are.

Of course, if OJ is right and McCain carries CA in 2008, then he will only need probably 65% of the counties to win 400 electoral votes. But the danger in a McCain run is that he will reflexively run against the GOP (i.e., Bush's 2 terms) rather than taking the fight to the Democrats. He might win regardless, but could he govern? Bush has armor in his base, and with DeLay and Hastert, he has friends. McCain might wake up after a year with neither.

As for the Dems, it appears Evan Bayh, Mark Warner, and a few other "new" faces think that they can woo the red vote to their side, and win the general election. Fat chance. The blue vote is getting more radical every day, and it will be voting against Bush again in 2008, with all the stridency it can muster. And all the candidates, from Hillary on down, will have to pay their respects. One of the consequences of having Howard Dean as chairman is that the party 'organization' will be more "progressive", which spells trouble in the primaries.

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 24, 2005 9:42 PM

W ran against the GOP.

Posted by: oj at July 24, 2005 9:52 PM

Liddy Dole and Gary Bauer?

Posted by: jim hamlen at July 24, 2005 11:22 PM