Thursday, November 09, 2006

Well, Bush has admitted defeat by getting rid of Rumsfeld, and the Democrats took both the Montana and Virginia Senate seats for a 51-49 majority, so I'm going to throw in the towel and do the same thing. The Democrats won, and one must accept the verdict of the voters. What it's time to do is learn some lessons from the Republican defeat and move on. Bush is going to meet with Nancy Pelosi, the new Dem Speaker of the House (who is a left-wing nut that the Spanish progres are going to love), in order to reach some sort of consensus on how to run the country for the next two years. That's a good first step.

Election comments:

1) Pro-war Democrat Joe Lieberman's victory over anti-war Democrat Ned Lamont in the Connecticut Senate race--and Connecticut is of course one of the most liberal states in the country--shows that while the election gave a verdict on the Republicans, it didn't give one on the Iraq war.

2) The US is not going to bug out of Iraq. There will be policy changes, possibly significant, but there will be no cutting and running.

3) The Democrats quite wisely moved toward the center; most of the new representatives and senators are moderates, not far-out lefties (e.g. Bob Casey). The Republicans might learn a lesson, and should turn a deaf ear to those cultural conservatives who claim the Reps lost because they weren't conservative enough.

4) I don't think the Mark Foley scandal had much effect, but I do think the other corruption scandals, mostly involving Republicans, did. Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff, and Bob Ney helped do in the Reps. (Tom DeLay is not guilty of anything but angering the Austin DA.) And if the Reps are smart, there will be a thorough house-cleaning.

5) If we look for the silver lining, a shakeup like this will help the Reps by getting rid of some deadwood (cf. Lincoln Chafee, George Allen) and bringing in some new blood. This election wasn't a wipeout; the Reps came close to holding the Senate and maintained 200 seats in the House. If some new, young candidates are able to step up in 2008, the Reps have a very good chance of winning back both houses.

6) If Bush attempts to cooperate with the Dems, and they refuse, they're the ones who look bad. Legislative gridlock, which is likely to happen, might backfire on the Dems.

7) Maybe this will prove once and for all that the Republicans do not steal elections, and most certainly did not do so in 2000.

8) I also hope it proves that the conservative Christians, while an important social group worthy of respect, don't run America, as Andy Robinson seems to think.

9) Bush's domestic programs, like making all his tax cuts permanent, are going to be held up and probably shot down. Also, of course, so will his judicial nominees. The one thing I would do, if I were the Republicans, is warn the Dems that unless they play ball on our nominees, we'll block all their judicial nominees whenever they get a chance to make some.

I was going to translate some anti-American crap by Manuel Castells and Andy Robinson, but, hell, you've heard it all before. Instead, it's time for a very reasonable blog post by Washington correspondent Eusebio Val from the day before the elections.

Covering the legislative elections for La Vanguardia, I took a coast-to-coast trip across the United States for 12 days. From Connecticut, on Long Island Sound, to the beaches of Los Angeles; from the poverty-stricken Afro-American neighborhoods of Detroit to the exhibitionist opulence of Beverly Hills to the Indian reservations in Montana. The goal was to take the pulse of the country's state of mind, to escape from the over-politicized and deceiving (engañosa) atmosphere of Washington and to talk to ordinary people in different environments. I have seen strong contrasts, heard contradictory opinions, some measured and others extremist.

The first conclusion is that the war in Iraq concerns the Americans a great deal, although only a small fraction is affected directly. Other questions--the economy, moral values, immigration, health insurance--are secondary at this moment. There is wide and deep unhappiness at the way the administration has managed the Iraq crisis. The Democrats say it openly and rancorously. The Republicans admit it discreetly and with some bitterness.

It is difficult to synthesize average opinion. I would say that it is moderate and centrist, which could be represented by either the Democrats or the Republicans. The American soul is not with either the left which is pressing for a rapid retirement, or with the rhetoric of an administration that is too discredited by its mistakes and its obstinate resistance to admitting them. Differently from Europe, these centrists were in favor of the war in 2003 and contributed decisively to Bush's reelection in November 2004.

This calm, non-strident America that does not flourish in the surveys and public opinion is the key to understanding the United States. That America is anguished and disappointed, but be careful! It doesn't want a hurried and irresponsible pullout, either. They are sincerely patriotic Americans, with patience. Their fathers or grandfathers fought in Vietnam, Korea, World War II. They know the United States is playing for high stakes in the Middle East. This sector will support a consensus formula seeking a gradual withdrawal.

The great virtue of democracies is that, through simple mathematical logic, when such a wide mass is consulted, frequently the people's common sense is thereby distilled. The complicated thing is turning that into a governing majority with concrete policies. The farmers, the people tied to the earth and its natural cycles, also have that common sense. Perhaps that is why one of the most revealing interviews of the entire trip was not with a politician, analyst, or intellectual. It was in the cabin of a tractor in a recently harvested corn field in Waseca, Minnesota.

Peter Zimmerman, 43 years old and the father of four children, told me that his family is from a Republican tradition and believes in conservative values. Despite being well-off farmers, with 800 hectares of land and investments in Brazil, his brother Paul is a lieutenant colonel in the Minnesota National Guard, a voluntary, part-time force. Paul is risking his life now in Iraq, where he is serving for one year.

I was impressed by Peter's clarity in explaining his ideas. He confessed his disappointment with the Bush administration. In his opinion, the president "is a good man," but has made the mistake of surrounding himself with too many people that think like him and of not being capable of creating a solid international coalition. Despite everything, Peter is going to vote Republican in this election because he trusts the Democrats even less. I have the feeling that this farmer has a lot of company in the US, as do the numerous Democrats who would not like an exaggerated backlash in Washington. No matter what the results of the elections are, the US is calling for moderate, bipartisan, public-spirited politics.

If all European correspondents were as fair as Mr. Val, Europe would have a much better idea of what the US is really like.

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