No rogue wave

Posted: Jun 10, 2006 12:05 AM

Ever the optimists, Democrats remain convinced that they are riding a wave to victory in November. If Tuesday's California special election results mean anything, then the wails and screams that ultimately come in the wake of any so-called November tsunami are more likely to come from the Capitol Hill offices of Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emmanuel than they are from the Republican leadership.

Even after Francine Busby's loss to Congressman-elect Brian Bilbray in California's 50th Congressional District the so-called election experts are spinning wildly to proclaim what an achievement it was to have come so close. But close doesn't matter. To quote Vin Diesel's character in the movie The Fast and the Furious, "Ask any racer, any real racer. It doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile; winning's winning." At the end of the day control of Congress will be decided not by how close the elections are but by how many seats are actually won. Consider that in 2004 Republicans exhibited an audacious power-play by re-electing every single incumbent in Congress. What statement are Democrats expressing with this pattern of consistently coming up short in clutch races?

Not withstanding the losses, Democrats say they still expect the political equivalent of a "rogue wave" to overthrow the Republicans and install their party in power. Once dismissed as a nautical myth, oceanographers now claim that freakish or "rogue waves" do exist and can rise as tall as ten-story apartment buildings in the midst of otherwise calm ocean settings. In many instances these freaks of nature are able to destroy even the sturdiest of ships. Democrats would have us believe that even without any clear signs the rogue wave is coming and this November Republican majorities in the House and Senate will be washed out.

But there's little hard evidence to prove it. While rogue waves in the ocean can be tracked by geostationary satellites orbiting the globe, where is the evidence of a subterranean storm of apocalyptic strength brewing in the political arena? In fact doesn't the latest setback demonstrate just the opposite? Not if you're a true believer. Proving Dick Armey's axiom that "Conservatives believe it when they see it, and Liberals believe it when they believe it" Democrats and their amen choir in the mainstream media are absolutely positive that despite this latest loss, a cataclysmic victory await them in November.

In their explanation, nearly winning in the very seat where the former incumbent is the actual convicted criminal -- Duke Cunningham -- is strong proof of actual wins in the future of seats elsewhere. Just last week, former House Democratic Whip Tony Coelho crowed, "This is a psychological race. If the Democrats won it's a foregone conclusion" of a House takeover in November. He added, however, "If they lose closely, it will continue the paranoia among Republicans to separate themselves from President Bush." Salon magazine contributor James Verini boasts, "If a liberal women's studies professor can win a congressional seat in this conservative bastion, November could be a GOP nightmare." Not to be undone Gary Jacobson, political scientist at the University of California, San Diego predicted, "If Republicans lose a district that is this Republican, they ought to be real worried." And even the candidate has bought into the hype. In an interview in the closing days of the race, Francine Busby exclaimed, "If I get close, then we've made the point that this is no longer a safe seat." Hype or no, a loss is still a loss.

Amazingly, this is the same script they delivered after their last two special election losses. Think back to Ohio last year. You may recall that in that race Republican Jean Schmidt beat Iraq war veteran and Democrat Paul Hackett in southwestern Ohio 52-48 percent. The seat which opened up when Rep. Rob Portman (R) resigned to become U.S. Trade Representative was to be the opening salvo for Democrats in their efforts to retake the House. You may not recall, but it was Paul Hackett who was the first to campaign against what he labeled the "the Culture of Corruption." In Paul Hackett's case he was using it as a description of the Ohio Republican party. And like many others who shared the high hopes at the time, Huffington Post contributor and Professor Steve Burt crowed then that "If a Dem can win here, Dems can win anywhere." But that's just the point, they didn't win.

And let's not forget last fall's open seat race in California created when Chris Cox resigned his House seat to join the Bush Administration. In the run up to the race, Daily Kos' website proclaimed that a victory would "send a California sized Earthquake through the Republican Leadership and energize The Netroots and traditional Democratic channels!" Memo to Markos, we're still waiting. Earthquake or not, the Democrat in the race barely managed to finish second in a three-way against the Republican victor and a one-issue anti-immigration independent candidate.

But astonishingly, this no-agenda, no-vision strategy to fight the "culture of corruption" that failed in Ohio has been adopted lock, stock and barrel by the Washington Democrats and now it's their theme for November. It must come as a major disappointment that ethical stalwarts Cynthia McKinney, Robert Kennedy, Robert Mollohan and William Jefferson have made that cry ring even more hollow than it might otherwise.

For the realists, the reality should be dawning that there is no there, there. For a refresher in knowing what signs evince an actual political tsunami consider the 1994 Republican election. In the run-up to November of that year Republicans ousted Democrats in two special elections in Oklahoma and Kentucky. And ultimately they went on to defeat 34 incumbent Democrats.

Then, unlike now, Republicans had both a unifying vision and a plan called "The Contract With America." And instead of waiting to manifest itself on election day, it's noteworthy to recall that the pro-GOP tailwind existed as much as a year before revealing itself first with the run-off victory of Paul Coverdell in the Senate race in December of 1992 and gaining steam with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's win in Texas and Richard Riordan's mayoral win in Los Angeles in June of 1993. The romp in the off-year state races by Christie Whitman in New Jersey, George Allen in Virginia, and Rudy Giuliani in New York set the stage for 1994. And notably the best-selling non-fiction hardback book that year was "See, I Told You So" by Rush Limbaugh. In November 1994, Republicans would gain 52 Seats in the House and pick up 8 seats in the Senate.

Today, Democrats have no string of wins against Republican incumbents, no unifying platform or agenda to take to the American people, and on the night of their latest election loss Markos Mousilitas' book, "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics," was ranked 996 by Amazon.

Rogue wave, I doubt it.