Monday, November 20, 2006

It's All Over Including The Shouting

The Maricopa County Recorder finished with the last ballots on Sunday afternoon, and while the percentages between Mitchell and Hayworth narrowed (by 0.2 percent), the number of votes separating them increased to over 8,000. But because Hayworth refused to concede for so long, his congressional office in Washington wasn't made available in the office lottery -- and Harry inherits it. So as a freshman, he gets a Rayburn office with a view of the Capitol dome, and assuming reelection in 2008, he has to move to a much less nice office; but for now, he has quite the DC spread.

Of course, now that the last vote's been counted, Harry will have to declare victory, and the gloating season officially ends. Darn. I was really enjoying gloating.

In the state legislature, the D's picked up one seat in the Senate and 6 in the House--and the 1 in the Senate is a big one, because we also swapped a squishy D for a strong one, and in the seat we picked up, we traded a squishy R who usually voted the right way, but it was always a pain-in-the-butt struggle, for a strong D as well. It's only a one-vote swing but it's a LOT less work for the good guys. And in the House, the D's have enough numbers now to have some fun if there aren't enough R's on the floor. Onward and upward.

East Valley Tribune, Nov. 19, 2006

Sometimes free advice is worth even less than what you paid for it, especially when it comes from people with a strong interest in your failure. So lots of conservatives are racing to explain to Democrats why we won and what we need to do now that we’ve won -- and we’d be nuts to listen.

These same people told us that after losing the popular vote in 2000, George Bush would have to govern from the center and find bipartisan cooperation if he hoped to succeed, and we know how that worked out. These folks also said after 2004 that Democrats were doomed by gerrymandered districts, the GOP’s fundraising edge, and the Republicans’ top secret early voting and get-out-the-vote efforts, the tactics that led to Harry Mitchell actually increasing his lead over J.D. Hayworth. They also predicted that the Republicans would win a veto-proof margin in the Arizona Legislature so they’d finally be able to show Janet "63 percent" Napolitano exactly who was boss.

There’s a bit of irony in people who have been so spectacularly wrong in the past getting to make such fresh, new predictions that, when reduced to their essence, translate into "I was right all along" -- despite what the scoreboard says. Apparently, as a pundit, you spin the failure of your predictions as confirmation of your wisdom.

So we have the effort to pretend that the incoming Congress is somehow more conservative than this one, because both moderate and conservative Democrats won and supposedly only moderate Republicans lost. This fallacious argument is a tougher sell in Arizona than elsewhere, because it takes world-class spinning to pretend that new District 8 Rep.-elect Gabrielle Giffords is more conservative than Randy Graf and that Mitchell is more conservative than Hayworth. (If you define "conservative" as "less obnoxious," then maybe, but otherwise forget it.)

It also requires ignoring that a lot of what happens in Washington isn’t ideological, but rather personal and institutional. Lots of people outside the House Democratic caucus were hyperventilating over the contest for majority leader between Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., as a battle for the Democratic Party’s soul between moderates and fire-breathing liberals. Murtha was the great liberal champion, yet he’s a decorated Marine Corps vet, a committed hawk, and a pro-life Catholic. Never mind "litmus tests," what are the odds that Republicans would seriously entertain making a pro-choice politician one of their key legislative leaders?

Even more absurd are the explanations of Republican defeat that manage to mention all sorts of issues, missteps, and scandals that plagued the GOP, except one itty-bitty problem: Iraq. Isn’t it remarkable how the "central front in the War on Terror" is suddenly no longer worth talking about? Before the election, the war was supposedly the most important part of the supposedly most important issue, but now it’s not worth even a mention in the post-election post-mortems.

I realize we’re patiently waiting for the wise men on the Baker-Hamilton Commission to come up with a bipartisan fog of plausible deniability for everyone with any responsibility for the war, but the unwillingness of Republicans to mention Iraq at all is deafening. They’re already excited about the next war against Iran, apparently -- with their plan for Iran resembling the planning for post-war Iraq, where we went in with the first two soundbites and thought we’d wing it from there.

Then there’s the "conservatism hasn’t lost, conservatism hasn’t been tried" trope. I look forward to Republicans going to the American people for support for "real" right-wing ideas, like Social Security privatization, rolling back environmental protections, and convincing people who haven’t gotten tax cuts that we need to give renewed tax cuts to those that got them already. These people think Republicans lost because what Americans really wanted was, yes, "uncompassionate conservatism."

On behalf of those Democrats elected this month, here’s my worth-less-than-its-cost advice for Republicans: Please, please, please be even more conservative -- and thank you for your support.

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