October 15, 2006

We've got to talk about the election.

This is a big day for pre-election analysis, and I suppose the people who write this sort of thing really do get excited about it. Me, I'd be despairing. How can I make a story out of this? All these little elections. Perceive some pattern, some trend, some hovering spirit of things. This is the first time I've blogged through a non-presidential election season. Let me look at how the major newspapers handle the task.

One way to focus is to look at the President anyway, like The Washington Post with: "White House Upbeat About GOP Prospects: Self-Assurance of Bush, Rove and Others Is Not Shared by Many in the Party."
The official White House line of supreme self-assurance comes from the top down. Bush has publicly and privately banished any talk of losing the GOP majorities, in part to squelch any loss of nerve among his legions. Come January, he said last week, "We'll have a Republican speaker and a Republican leader of the Senate."

The question is whether this is a case of justified confidence -- based on Bush's and Rove's electoral record and knowledge of the money, technology and other assets at their command -- or of self-delusion. Even many Republicans suspect the latter. Three GOP strategists with close ties to the White House flatly predicted the loss of the House, though they would not do so on the record for fear of offending senior Bush aides.
Public expressions of confidence. Okay. Isn't that exactly what you'd expect? Or is this really another one of these occasions to get exercised about delusions? This is another boring article about the election. In a desperate attempt to spice it up, WaPo collects quotes from Chuck Schumer, who's always got something quotesy to say:
"The bottom line is that people are tired of the president and his policies, and he has been unable to escape it."...

"Most candidates don't want to show up in public with him, and those that do are embarrassed... If Bush were popular, these races would not be close."
All right, let's switch to the New York Times. Its main article is "Democrats Have Intensity, but G.O.P. Has Its Machine." (In the paper NYT, the word "Fervor" replaces "Intensity.") Here, the focusing concept is the party. When it's not a presidential year, you lack the big human personalities, but you can try to talk about the two parties as big personalities. I've been hearing this sort of talk in personal conversations, and I've found it stereotypical for Democrats to express the idea you see in that headline.

This article mainly uses quotes from some voters, like the angry 89-year-old Clif Kelley. I Google "Clif Kelley" and come up with this NYT article from the '04 election, by the same journalist, Robin Toner! Both articles begin with the words "Clif Kelley, a retired economist...."

Here's the gist of the article:
Two major factors drive the Democratic intensity, analysts say: anger about the war in Iraq and other Bush administration policies, and optimism about their chances this year....

The flip side to the Democrats’ optimism, of course, is that the prospect of Democratic control is a powerful motivator for many Republicans.
So the big question is which of these two aggregated personalities -- Democrat or Republican -- feels more like voting. The Democratic entity is motivated, but the Republican entity could rouse itself if it starts to think the Democratic entity might take over Congress.

There's a danger -- assuming you want the Democrats to win -- to writing about how passionate, angry, and energized the Democrats are, since the picture of passionate, angry, energized Democrats is one thing that gets Republicans passionate, angry, and energized. You want them to stay placid if not depressed and remorseful, don't you?

14 comments:

Ricardo said...

"How can I make a story out of this? All these little elections. Perceive some pattern, some trend, some hovering spirit of things."

The media (since they spend most of their time on this) would like us to believe that it's all about "winning elections". It's not. It's all about "good governing". And as long as we follow meekly along with the media, we fall into the same trap as we did in Vietnam where we counted killed trucks, and dead bodies, until we finally lost the war. If we want to really contribute to political analysis, think about (and write about) where we should be going as a nation over the long-term (say thirty or fifty years), and whether we're moving in that direction. A fixation on the short-term (with neverending "numbers games") won't get us where we want to go.

Simon said...

Unless we see anything radical happen in the next month, my predictions would be --

I think McGavick will win Washington, and Kean will win New Jersey. Talent will squeak home in Missouri. Burns may win Montana, but it's close. Virginia is really close, but I think Allen is probably gone. Chafee will likely lose Rhode Island, and Santorum is toast in Pennsylvania. Maryland, Ohio and Tennessee? Tough to call. The revelation that Corker had employed illegal immigrants hurts him a bunch, so if I had to gues, I'd say we'll lose Tennessee. After watching Meet the Press today, you really have to hope that Kennedy pulls something out of the bag to obliterate Klobuchar. She seems just awful ("let's balance the budget by massively raising taxes" - because it worked out just great for the Hoover administration). All in all, we'll keep the Senate, but don't expect any more nominees like Sam Alito.

To some extent, I can live with losing Tennesee and Pennsylvania if the effect is to bolster the ranks of pro-life Democrats in Congress. I think it's quite healthy to bring greater prominence to the point that abortion is not a liberal-conservative issue, and that just because you're a liberal doesn't mean that you have to close your mind and buy the pro-choice line hook, line and sinker.

And the GOP will lose the House by anything between two and a half dozen seats.

Kirk Parker said...

Simon,

"I think McGavick will win Washington"

From your lips to the King County Election Board's ears! I'm not so optimistic, in large part because they are, if anything, worse then before.

George said...

Here's Rep. Murtha in today's WP:

"Our military has done all it can do in Iraq, and the Iraqis want their occupation to end. I support bringing our troops home at the earliest practicable date, at a rate that will keep those remaining there safe on the ground."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/13/AR2006101301425.html

"At the earliest practicable date, at a rate that will keep those remaining there safe on the ground."

"At the earliest practicable date"

"Practicable."

I can just see that word on peace rally T-shirts now.

Revenant said...

I expect the Democrats to take Congress this year and lose it again in 2008. They have a serious problem, which is that they're running against the Republicans' ideas, not for their own ideas. You can be an opposition party with that sort of approach, but you can't be a ruling party.

The big mystery is which party will win the Presidency in 2008.

Dawn said...

Simon, I sure hope you're right about Kennedy beating Klobachar - regarding her political ideology, she's just awful; she's publicly stated that her 'hero' is Mark Dayton (or Brave Sir Robin, as he's known in our house).
She's another tax the 'rich' liberal, who has done nothing as county prosecutor here in Hennepin County to help decrease the rate of violent criminals let out on the street.

AJ Lynch said...

Ann:
Good detective work on the reporter using the same old economist to frame her own worldview (must get Bush).

I think the Dems will take at least one house if the polls and the MSM are to be believed. Howeever, I have looked closely at a couple and noticed there seemed to be a lot of people claiming to be republicans but voting for Dems.

That said I think the MSM is working OT to put out every negative story it can on the Republicans (did you hear the Post printed more than 50 stories about Macaca- I saw the video and there was no malice in what Allen said).

And,re Mr. Clif Kelley, I don't see how the NYT can print this type of re-cycled crap and think we will take them seriously.

Simon said...

Dawn,
I think Kennedy hit just the right note on Meet the Press - "when someone says they're going to soak the rich, the middle class usually end up getting drenched, too." Which is both funny and accurate. I think we all agree that balancing the budget is a good idea, but balancing it her way will balance it today at immense cost tommorow.

MadisonMan said...

The big mystery is which party will win the Presidency in 2008.

I'm dreading a race between two Senators.

Simon said...

MadisonMan said...
"I'm dreading a race between two Senators."

You would prefer a race between Senator Clinton and Governor Romney, perhaps? I could see a Clinton/Warner vs. Romney/Gingrich battle.

Elizabeth said...

I'm narrowly focused only on the two House races that matter to me, with regards to New Orleans. The city and district level Democrat committees have endorsed Dollar Bill Jefferson, to their everlasting shame, while the state party delegates have endorsed challenger Karen Carter. I'll be putting up a yard sign for Carter pronto, and talking her up to all and sundry. Fortunately, I know of any ethical complaints against her in her substantial-enough years as as state rep. I assume the mud will fly soon, though, as that is what the Jefferson machine is good at.

The other is race is Bobby Jindal's house district; I'd like to see support go to the Libertarian challenger in that one. I have no illusions that Jindal won't win, and that's a shame, but I'd be happy to see enough votes challenge him now to make him nervous.

Elizabeth said...

D'oh! that should be "Fortunately, I DON'T know of any ethical complaints against her"

Sloanasaurus said...

Asking Bush if what he thinks about the election is a loaded question. There will be negative spin on anything Bush says. If he is pessimistic, the media will jump all over him for his lacking leadership. If he is overly positive, the media is all over him for being naive.

Eli Blake said...

Uh, it was the pollster talking about 'passionate angry energized Democrats,' not Democrats.

Frankly, as Democrats we are trying to get away from the 'angry' label, because it does us no good.

Democrats are a party ready to exercise leadership in the House and I think that they will have that opportunity in January and you will see that.