Into a Dark Crystal Ball

Posted: Nov 03, 2006 10:41 AM
Into a Dark Crystal Ball

It’s always dangerous to make predictions.

Back in 1980, self-proclaimed consumer advocate Ralph Nader claimed the Love Canal environmental disaster was merely the tip of an iceberg. He predicted the future would feature the discovery of a series of “cancerous, toxic cesspools left by callous corporations.”

This seemed to make sense. After all, there were thousands of industrial sites where dangerous waste had been dumped. Surely all those toxic chemicals would eventually come back to haunt us.

Well, Nader didn’t foresee that the on going economic strength of the U.S. would solve our pollution problems.

As people become richer, “they insist upon a clean-up of local environmental damage,” journalist Martin Wolf noted in his book Why Globalization Works. “There is no doubt that environmental standards have been racing to the top, not the bottom, over the last two or three decades. Local air and water quality have improved enormously, in response to tighter regulation.”

So let’s consider what the political professionals are saying about the upcoming election. All predict a Democratic landslide.

Charlie Cook, editor of The Cook Political Report, recently wrote this could be “one of those once- or twice-in-a-generation elections when a party enjoys unbelievable gains or endures horrendous losses.” He writes that 50 Republican House seats are “in jeopardy.” His counterpart Stu Rothenberg adds, “The national political environment currently is worse than it was in 1994, when the Democrats lost 52 House seats, eight Senate seats and 10 governorships, and when Republicans won GOP control of the House for the first time in decades.”

On Oct. 10, “the nation’s newspaper” explained why Democrats are likely to ring up these gains. “A Capitol Hill sex scandal has reinforced public doubts about Republican leadership and pushed Democrats to a huge lead in the race for control of Congress four weeks before Election Day, the latest USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows,” began a story by Jill Lawrence. But that story actually explains not why the Left will win, but why it will lose.

In the end the Mark Foley scandal will matter less than last week’s ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples. That decision gave the state legislature 180 days to rewrite its marriage laws.

Why will Foley fade? Because his story is a true “October surprise,” a political attack dressed up as a news story. Just last week the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, fired the employee who ginned up the scandal by posting Foley’s inappropriate instant messages on the phony Web site

The political Left depends upon this sort of attack because it doesn’t have any ideas. Or, at least, no ideas that enjoy majority support. That’s where the New Jersey decision comes in. It’s the perfect encapsulation of two liberal policy positions: They’re in favor of gay marriage, and they’re in favor of unelected judges making policy decisions and telling elected lawmakers what they must do.

Suffice to say we won’t be hearing any Democratic candidates running on either of these positions this year. As even The New York Times observed, “Democrats have turned to conservative and moderate candidates who fit the profiles of their districts more closely than the profile of the national party.”

But gay marriage is on the ballot in some places. Virginians, for example, will be voting on a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. Back in 2004, a similar amendment helped turn out voters in Ohio, and many think those conservative voters gave President Bush his margin of victory in that critical state. So even if polls show Sen. George Allen trailing today in Virginia, expect a big turnout on Tuesday that will put him over the top.

The New Jersey decision, meanwhile, helps the right. It’s as if the political left had put out a white paper laying out two of its most unpopular positions. Except few people read political white papers, while conservatives everywhere are likely to be energized to vote against allowing unelected judges to tell them what to do.

Of course, some disagree. “In the United States, and perhaps beyond, the political pendulum is swinging left,” former Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers wrote in the L.A. Times Oct. 31. That’s exactly wrong.

The tide is clearly moving to the right. A recent CNN poll found that 54 percent of Americans believe the government is trying “to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.” That poll, incidentally, also “showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans perceive, correctly, that the size and cost of government have gone up in the past four years, when Republicans have had a grip on the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House,” CNN wrote on its Web site.

Next week, newspapers may be writing the obituary of Republican leadership. There’s little doubt that Republicans, dragged down by their anti-conservative spending policies, are going to lose seats. But no matter how the election goes, it’ll be a victory for conservatives.