Friday, October 13, 2006

What's Happening Now

Economist's View: Paul Krugman: Will the Levee Break?:
"Here’s what’s happening: a huge Democratic storm surge is heading toward a high Republican levee. It’s still possible that the surge won’t overtop the levee — that is, the Democrats could fail by a small margin... But if the surge does go over the top, the ... Democrats [will]... probably win big."
A powerful metaphor.

Krugman is a numbers man, and what he sees is that this election is very likely to turn into all-or-nothing, a coin-flip where the odds strongly disfavor the coin ending, standing on edge.

here’s the thing: because there are many districts that the G.O.P. carried by only moderately large margins in recent elections, a large Democratic surge — one only a bit bigger than that needed to take the House at all — would sweep away many Republicans holding seats normally considered safe. If the actual vote is anything like what the polls now suggest, we’re talking about the Democrats holding a larger majority in the House than the Republicans have held at any point since their 1994 takeover.
"If" -- now there's a word for the ages. The polls show a Democratic edge of 14%. Polls show a Democratic edge of about 7% in normal times, that is, when the actual vote will split evenly. The Democrats need an actual majority of 7% in the national vote to be sure of taking the House, and that might still leave them without control of the Senate.

Given recent electoral history, no Democrat is going to be anything more than guardedly optimistic.

The storm may yet weaken. ... If that happens, will it mean that Republican control is permanent after all?

No. Bear in mind that the G.O.P. isn’t in trouble because of a string of bad luck. The problems that have caused Americans to turn on the party, from the disaster in Iraq to the botched response to Katrina, from the failed attempt to privatize Social Security to the sudden realization by many voters that the self-proclaimed champions of moral values are hypocrites, are deeply rooted in the whole nature of Republican governance. So even if this surge doesn’t overtop the levee, there will be another surge soon.

But the best guess is that the permanent Republican majority will end in a little over three weeks.

And, then the fun begins?

Given the extent of the corruption and the Presidential overreaching, which has gone on, I would expect Democratic control of either house of Congress to result in multiple Congressional investigations. It will get ugly.

And, I also expect that Republicans will try to maneuver the Democrats into policies that backfire. Job 1 will be to get the Democrats to "force" Bush out of Iraq in a way that allows them to blame the subsequent Middle East catastrophe on the Democrats.

But, that all assumes a Democratic wave washing the Republicans out.

I fear that the levee is the Constitution, and what has topped the levee is the reactionary will to power.

The Constitution created a system of divided government and checks and balances, which results in a pendulum politics, where, for every action, there is a reaction, and where an increasingly radical politics begets opposition from irate moderates.

The Republican Party has been driven for 30 years by radicals, and they've pushed the country and the Constitution about as far as the country can go without breaking. They have been in near total control for five years, and are close to locking down their control, not just of the Executive and the Congress, but of the News Media and the Judiciary, as well.

The Foley scandal has been an odd business, but, typical of the work of our incompetent, right-wing Media, it is as much a distraction as an expose. The economic situation is discouraging only if you are inclined to take the long view; in the moment, most people are doing OK. Gas prices are low. Most people are not on the blogs, and are appallingly ill-informed. The evangelicals will go out and vote Republican as always, vote for torture and corruption and hypocrisy and feel good about themselves, and plenty of Democrats in Massachusetts and California will vote in Districts where it will change nothing.

I see the irate moderates rallying, but I don't see that they have overwhelming strength.

I fear that the Democrats will fail, and should they fail, it won't be just the Party that packs it in, it may well be the Republic.

Only if the Democrats take at least nominal control of the House and close the difference in the Senate to two, so that the remaining three moderate Republicans hold the Senate balance, will the politic process continue. If there are Democrats with the power of investigation, then the tide of reactionary authoritarianism may be turned. Bush will not be able to secure a reactionary, authoritarian majority on the Supreme Court and in the Federal judiciary as a whole. A lot corruption will be exposed; there's a chance that some of the thugs in the Republican Party will be hounded from power.

But, I am not as optimistic that another "storm surge" of opposition will follow, should the Democrats fall short. The pendulum-swinging politic process setup by the Constitution may well have come to a complete stop. Without a Democratic majority returned from the country, the judiciary will not resist the repeal of habeas corpus. Democratic politicians clinging to office will not grow courageous in the face of an unresponsive ballot box or an unfailingly right-wing Media.

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