Mulling over the midterm elections nearly a week after the event, one of the most striking facts is how few surprises there were. The voters clearly wanted to express their dissatisfaction with the course of the war in Iraq, and the only available gesture was to vote against Republican control of Congress. That was a little unfair to Congress (which, after all, has had very little to do with the conduct of the war), but only a little, since this Congress has its own sorry record of overspending and corruption, for which it richly deserved a spanking.
The remarkable thing is that the spanking wasn't far worse. The number of seats the GOP lost, in both the House and the Senate, were astonishingly close to the average losses suffered by the incumbent party in the sixth year of a presidential term. And the margins by which they were lost were, in many cases, excruciatingly small. In one case after another, the winner just barely squeaked by. The Democrats were simply lucky that, this time, it was mostly their candidates that did the squeaking.
So let us hear no more about the supposed long-term consequences of the Democratic victory -- "party realignments," and the like. The Democratic Party still suffers from fundamental structural problems that prevent it from being a truly viable national party. It is scarcely a party at all. It has become, instead, a coalition of separate minorities (blacks, gays, feminists, environmentalists, atheists, etc.), each with its own little agenda and sharing a common hatred of the American majority. These can, collectively, add up to a lot of votes, but they find it extremely difficult to unite on any of the broader themes that animate the American people.
It will be interesting to see how the Democratic leadership conducts itself in the next two years. Some of the early signs have been encouraging. There has been a lot of talk about working with President Bush on a "bipartisan" agenda. On Iraq in particular, it appears to have dawned on the Democrats that now they will be expected to come forward with proposals of their own, rather than simply condemning the administration's conduct of the war. If so, it is possible that agreement can be hammered out on various steps to bring about a better result there -- perhaps along lines to be suggested by the Baker commission.
William Rusher is a Distinguished Fellow of the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy and author of How to Win Arguments .
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