Democrats have a working majority in the United States House of Representatives and control of the United States Senate, have gained a majority of the governorships, and generally swept President Bush and the Republicans everywhere. So where were the victories on Tuesday?
All is doom and gloom – right? Democrats have a working majority in the United States House of Representatives and control of the United States Senate, have gained a majority of the governorships, and generally swept President Bush and the Republicans everywhere. So where were the victories on Tuesday?
Recall first that if the Democrats take control of the Senate, it will be by the tiniest of margins with the Vice President having a tie-breaking vote and Senator Lieberman owing Democrats precisely nothing. Also recall that the vast majority of states – and each state has exactly two senators, regardless of size – are conservative and Republican. It is only a matter of time before Republicans gain two Senate seats in Arkansas, one in Louisiana, two in North Dakota, one in South Dakota, one (or two) in Montana, one in Nevada, one (or two) in West Virginia, one in New Mexico, one in Florida and one in Nebraska.
Those Republican Senate seats in blue states are few and far between. If Michael Steele cannot win in Maryland and Rich Santorum in Pennsylvania, then Democrats have extracted all that they can out of the twenty or so Democrat states. The future of the Senate, which Democrats may hold by a tiny, filibustered majority, resides with Republicans, who have a vast advantage because of those constitutionally gerrymandered legislative districts we call “states” and which are overwhelmingly conservative and Republican.
How often have we been told that the “political landscape favored Republicans in the Senate”? That landscape will always favor Republicans. In 2008, Democrats will have to defend Max Baucus’ seat in conservative Montana, Tim Johnson in very conservative South Dakota, Mary Landrieu (who promised to do whatever President Bush wanted to win her runoff in conservative Louisiana), Mark Pryor in conservative Arkansas (probably against popular two-term governor Mike Huckabee), the geriatric Harkin in moderate Iowa, the geriatric Rockefeller in conservative West Virginia.
By contrast, only four Republicans are running in blue states – Norm Coleman in Minnesota, Susan Collins in Maine, and John Sununu in New Hampshire, Gordon Smith in Oregon. All are very popular and all each of those blue states is just barely blue. Republicans will probably re-take the Senate in 2008 (assuming that President Bush does not appoint Joe Lieberman as Secretary of Defense and retake the Senate before then.)
Justice John Paul Stevens is also very ill and will soon have to resign. That means President Bush will have the opportunity to nominate one popular conservative jurist after another, nominate the first black female to the Supreme Court, nominate the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court, well-liked former senators like Rick Santorum and so on. This nomination fight would be unlike the controversial Alito fight for another reason. Stevens may actually die and the seat be vacant. Not confirming a nominee under those circumstances look much worse than in the case of Sandra Day O’Connor. Democrats may end up looking very foolish running the Senate, and they may not hold it for long.
But there is another, hidden story behind the election returns which should bring cheer to the hearts of gloomy Republicans: state legislative races. First, the news that is easy to digest: Democrats nationally lost a net of twenty-one state senate seats. While it is true that Democrats picked up a lot of state house seats, legislatures are bicameral and so more Republican state senators means that Democrats in state lower chambers will need more help, not less help, from Republicans in the upper chamber to do anything.
But that is not the big story. Despite the shellacking that Republicans took in Ohio, they remained in firm control of both houses of the state legislature. What does that mean? It means that when congressional districts are redrawn in four years, Republicans will almost certainly control the Ohio State Legislature and will be able to prevent any Democrat gerrymandering. Because Ohio will lose, not gain, House seats, many of the Democrat House gains Ohio this year will vanish after reapportionment and redistricting.
Despite a shellacking in New York, Republicans still control the New York State Senate and actually gained a seat in the New York State Assembly. Again, that means that Republicans will be able to prevent Democrat gerrymandering entirely in a state that will lose House seats after reapportionment and redistricting.
Despite a shellacking in Michigan, Republicans maintained controlled of the Michigan State Senate and narrowing lost control of the Michigan State Senate. That, again, means that in this strongly anti-Republican year, Republicans will almost certainly control one house of the Michigan Legislature when re-apportionment and re-districting take place (and Michigan also loses House seats.)
Despite a shellacking in Pennsylvania, in which Republicans lost control of the lower chamber of the legislature, Republicans maintained easy control of the upper chamber, losing virtually no seats at all. Like those other three northeast states, Pennsylvania is destined to lose House seats and Republicans will be able to prevent any gerrymandering by Democrats.
How can we be sure that Republicans will be able to maintain control of those critical chambers over the next two election cycles? We can for two reasons. First, the tide this election could not be more anti-Republican; this was the election Democrats were waiting for, and they could not oust Republican control of those priceless legislative chambers that will soon have Democrats fighting amongst themselves about which Democrat congressman will have to lose his seat to protect another Democrat congressman. Second, state legislative districts over the next two elections in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania were drawn by Republicans and so these districts are naturally Republican. It is possible, even probable, then several of these chambers in a normal election year will revert to their Republican drawn condition.
That is half the good news: the crowded Democrat delegation in northeast states that are losing population fast will very soon have to contend with a Republican veto over how the smaller number of congressional districts for an overly large number of Democrat congressmen will be drawn. Translation: fighting among Democrats in these states and congressional delegations with relatively more, not relatively fewer, Republicans in the House.
The other half of the good news is what is happened in the three very high growth states of Texas, Florida and California. Arnold won re-election easily and whatever his conservatism, he has no interest in gerrymandering districts to elect more Democrat congressmen. Unlike the last time California redistricted, when virtually all the shots were called by Democrats, this time Republicans and Democrats will each have an absolute veto. Democrats cannot even complain about the way districts will be drawn because they opposed Arnold’s referendum to rationalize the process last year. What this means is that Republicans after reapportionment and redistricting will have a larger share of House members from California than in the past.
Even better, in the two fastest growing big states, Texas and Florida, Republicans easily held control over both legislative chambers in both states and also elected, for a first term, Republican governors in a bad year for Republicans. What this means is that it is a dead certainty that these states – both of which will gain a number of new congressional seats in a few years – will have both a Republican governor and a Republican legislature to insure that as many new Republicans are elected as possible after reapportionment and redistricting.
What about the “threat” that Democrats will redraw congressional districts, like Republicans did in Texas and in Georgia? Democrats did not gain the state legislative chambers they needed to do that, and beyond that, any tinkering with congressional districts would almost certainly aggravate new congressional Democrats who then would have to fight for re-election in new districts next year.
This is the good news that will not materialize in actual elections for a few years, but the Democrat euphoria now will fade quickly; President Bush will be able to stop Democrats from doing virtually anything, including pork barrel projects, while Democrat federal legislators vainly try to explain how they have made everything better; and the Republican drawn state legislative and congressional districts will strike back with a vengeance in 2008 should Democrats prove the least bit inept in the next two years.
The corruption issues that popped up at the end of the election cycle are good news for Republicans as well. Why? Because Republicans are inherently more honorable than Democrats, who must buy votes to hold power. So all the talk about opposing pork can now be actually put into effect. President Bush can simply threaten to veto any appropriations bills with such pork, saving the taxpayers billions and lowering the deficit.
Also, if Republicans take the advice in my recent article “Calling the Bluff on Ethics,” then they can demonstrate that they are not afraid of ethics by having each federal legislator and his key staff take a polygraph test and sign a lie detector test each year stating that during the prior year he has not abused his office for personal gain or engaged in sexual immorality. Democrats would be terrified of taking such a test, and by doing it each year, Republicans can assure the American people that no more ex-congressmen Cunningham or Foley lurk out there in the Republican caucus.
Finally, Republicans can joyfully return to their conservative values – if any of them have read my articles on the Battleground Poll, the latest of which was this October, and which shows that sixty percent of Americans describe themselves as “conservative” as well as the fact that the gap between self-described conservatives and liberals has never been wider. America is overwhelmingly conservative and every single Battleground Poll (read my articles) has shown this. Now, perhaps, Republicans will turn toward the values which lead them to presidential and congressional landslides in the past.
Bruce Walker has been a published author in print and in electronic media since 1990. He is a regular contributor to WebCommentary, Conservative Truth, American Daily, Enter Stage Right, Intellectual Conservative, NewsByUs and MenÕs News Daily. His first book, Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie by Outskirts Press was published in January 2006.