Paul Greenberg

Dear Bewildered,

It is wholly a pleasure to answer your question about what that close congressional election in California last week augurs for the midterm elections come November.

You've come to the right place.

Not only can I give you a short, simple, expert answer but a couple of them - none longer than a headline - from two of the country's more esteemed wire services:

GOP Heartened by Calif. Congressional Win - The Washington Post

Electoral Victory Hardly Soothes GOP Nerves - Los Angeles Times

There you go. Take your choice.

Glad to have straightened that out for you. Come back any time you need clear direction about American politics.

My own take on what that election portends?

To borrow a line from Mark Twain, I am gratified to answer your question. I don't know.

Because it's much too early to tell. Anything could happen between now and November; it's a fast-moving world. The American electorate is fickle, mercurial and yet somehow in the end it can show remarkably good judgment. How it does that has long been a mystery to rational minds.

My own highly scientific theory is that God looks after fools, drunkards and the United States of America. What other explanation can there be?

For what worldly, rational European thinker a few centuries ago would have looked on these little colonies strewn along the seaboard of a distant continent and foreseen what they would become? Faith explains more than political science can.

I can offer you only a couple of half-formed hunches about the upcoming midterm joust. Some of them have even been tested by recent experience.

For example, cultural/ethnic patterns will continue to matter more in this year's elections than economic issues, political theories or foreign policy. Which explains why abortion and gun control - excuse me, gun rights - will excite more voters than class or ideology come the fall.

My always highly fallible intuition tells me the big issue this year won't be Iraq or the economy but immigration. Immigration is going to be what the race issue was back in the bad old days - unless by some miracle, namely common sense, the politicians in Washington can come up with a comprehensive reform that defuses the issue. Even then demagogues will still try to re-ignite it.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.