A Desultory and Distressing Campaign

Posted: Nov 07, 2006 3:01 PM
A Desultory and Distressing Campaign

By the time you read this you may have voted. The intelligence I am receiving from around the nation would indicate a Democratic landslide. In recent weeks various incumbents had closed the gap in their races or pulled ahead. Inexplicably, they more recently fell behind. A few may have narrowed the margin through good organization but that usually provides only about four additional points. If one were ten points behind good organization would not help.

This has been the most disappointing race in my political lifetime. Much of the autumn was spent arguing about the scandal involving Representative Mark Foley (R-FL). The real issues rarely were discussed. Some at the grassroots level have argued that we should send the Republicans a message of disapproval by voting for Democrats. Interesting. That would be like a mother who has an unruly child spanking herself to improve the child. Republicans say that in two years they will retake Congress. Really? It is likely that no Democratic incumbent will be defeated in this election. Who is to say that Democratic incumbents will be defeated in the next election? If the Democrats will have won by a large margin, Republicans would need a 1994-type of event to retake the House of Representatives, which does not happen often. It also is possible that the President will be a Democrat in 2009. If that occurs and Democrats control Congress it may be difficult for conservatives to win an election.

Congress and the President in 2009 or thereafter may shut down talk radio as we know it. To do so, they simply would need a majority on the Federal Communications Commission, something they would obtain within two years of the next presidency. They also may make further changes to electoral laws to favor political parties and weaken grassroots efforts. All they need to do so is a majority on the Federal Election Commission. Republicans are naïve if they believe that liberals once in power would play by the rules.

It is possible that we have seen the last Republican government in my lifetime. We had four years and four months of government under one party's control. That is the longest such run for the GOP since the 1920s, when Calvin Coolidge was President and had a Republican Congress for his entire presidency, as did Warren G. Harding for Harding's brief presidency.

The heartbreaker for this election has been Rick Santorum (R-PA). I know there are people who are angry with him because of his fiery primary endorsement of Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) in 2004. Pat Toomey would have won the primary over Specter had it not been for Santorum, who based his judgment on the narrow Republican margin in the Senate. He told confidants that had he foreseen that the GOP would pick up four seats he would have handled the primary differently. Data shows that Santorum's continued deficit over State Auditor Robert Casey, Jr., is due, in part, to bitterness over Santorum's perceived betrayal.

However good punishing Santorum may make some voters feel, his loss will be felt in Washington for years. He has been a leader of social-issue conservatives in the Senate. Santorum is the conscience of the Senate GOP Conference. Casey, on the other hand, has switched positions on a number of subjects, the latest being embryonic stem-cell research. But the worst part of the campaign is that Casey has dodged almost every controversial issue. Far from the conscience of the Senate, Casey will be a monument to political expediency.

Another campaign I truly admire is that of Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael W. Steele. From the beginning, his television commercials have been the most original, refreshing spots ever seen in the Washington area. Those commercials, all written entirely by him, have made him a serious contender. Steele secured the endorsement of many high-profile Black leaders, including boxer Mike Tyson and boxing promoter Don King, Kwesi Mfume, Jr., son of the former head of the NAACP, the majority of Prince George's County Supervisors, as well as Wayne Curry, the recent County Executive in Prince George's County. These Black Democrats agree that the Democratic Party has taken them for granted and it is time for a change. Representative Benjamin F. Cardin, Democratic nominee for the Senate, has had Michael J. Fox, Senator Barak Obama (D-IL) and former President William J. Clinton campaign for him.

The momentum clearly is with Steele. Unfortunately, he may have begun too far behind Cardin in this bluer-than-blue State. It would help both parties if a Black conservative were elected. The other two who are running seem to have little chance of winning.

Many of the other races lack substance. There has been far too little debate about real issues. In Missouri, the very able Senator James Talent has suffered and may be defeated for that reason. People in the State are not aware of what his opponent represents. While I am given to believe that I will be very unhappy with the results, I am thankful this awful campaign, with few exceptions, is nearly over.