Thoughts (and Yours?) on the Mid-Term Elections

[Update:   An Instalanche is always some consolation.  Thanks,  Glenn, and welcome to everyone.]

[Update 2:   On the other hand, Rumsfeld’s resignation may have a significant effect, less so if Richard Lawless stays on.]

[Update 3:   Of course, I could be wrong.  Bill Richardson has a long history of dealing with the North Koreans  going back to  the Clinton era, and we’re all familiar with how that worked out.  And as I’ve said again and again, we’ve only been pretending not to have bilateral talks with North Korea.  What can you offer someone who will never agree to your bottom line?  The North Koreans will never let anyone take their nukes away.]

[Update 4:   Two significant congressional results for Korea policy.  Rep. James Leach of Iowa lost in what I’m guessing was a liberal district, 51-49.  Leach is Chairman of the Subcommitee on Asia-Pacific Affairs.  He was filling in for Chairman Henry Hyde on the day he introduced  his first “webmaster” — me —  the day  I testified before the International Relations Committee.  Leach is a liberal Republican who voted against the Iraq war, supported direct talks with North Korea, and opposed sanctions and talk of regime change.  Yet for all of those disagreements, I admired Leach for his sincerity on human rights, his reputation for integrity,  and his knowledge of the subject matter.  He is a good man, and he will be missed.  Less so, Curt Weldon, also a strong advocate of making deals with North Korea, who lost by 12.  Readers, of course, will remember Weldon from this incident.]

On Korea policy, I tend to agree with Gordon Flake:  I  really don’t think it will make much of a difference.  Nobody in Congress really seems to love either of the Koreas anymore.  My impression from my various field trips to Congress was that some of the Dems were more hawkish than some of the Republicans, although the Republican staff made a far better impression for the depth of their knowledge and concern.  If International Relations goes to Tom Lantos, I certainly won’t cry in my beer. 

Here are some  past mid-term results to consider, just for context:

1958:  Republican President (Ike), second mid-term, Dems gain 16 in the Senate,  48 in the House.

1966:  Democratic President (LBJ), second mid-term, Republicans gain 3 in the Senate,  47 in the House.

1974:  Watergate.  Republican President (Ford), sorta-second mid-term, Dems gain  4 in the Senate, 49 in the House.

1978:  Democratic President (Carter), first mid-term,  Republicans gain 3 in the Senate, 15 in the House.

1986:  Republican President (Reagan), second mid-term, Dems gain  8 in the Senate, 5 in the House.

1994:   Democratic President (Clinton), first mid-term,  Republicans gain  2 in the Senate, 54 in the House.

2002:  President’s party actually gains 2 in the Senate, picks up 8 in the House.

Today, we have a likely  net switch of 26 House seats and 6 Senate seats.  It’s a solid win, more so in the Senate,  but not a blowout  in light of  the historical trends.  Dislike of the governing party turns voters out for mid-terms, and governing parties tend to lose seats as a result.

Nobody I voted for won, and that seems to have been my wife’s first experience with American democracy, too.  To me, about all that mattered was that the Dems wouldn’t win enough seats to defund the Iraq war or invoke the War Powers Act.  I think the Democratic margins are narrow enough, and Democrats sufficiently divided, that hopefully, I’ll get my wish.  The Dems picked up 26 seats; in 1994, the Republicans picked up 54 seats.   In historical terms,  this result  is pretty unexceptional.  We’re at war, the Republicans had far more seats up in the Senate, Bush was never a very good speaker or campaigner (Kerry was just so much worse), and there’s always a lot of buyers’ remorse six years into any president’s term.

In fact, part of me hoped the Dems would win.  Now, instead of just hearing a few of them carp about the fact that things are tough  in Iraq  (no kidding), we’ll get to hear their constructive suggestions for improving matters.  I also think we need more serious thought about the consequences of “bravely run away.”  It seems pretty obvious that at a bare minimum, that means Iraq  would become  the new Cambodia, and  Afghanistan would become the new Iraq.  It chills me too much for words to ponder what Washington, DC and New York would become.  I believe there are enough Democrats in Congress who are statesmen, as opposed to, say, John Kerry, to see that.  As for the rest of them, if Charlie Rangel wants to go for impeachment, I think the national reaction will probably be a muted version of what it was in 1996.  I don’t think voters here like impeachment any more than they do in Korea.

I’m glad Joe Lieberman won.  I liked him even before he ran with Gore (whom I never liked much, and like even less now).  I’m even more glad that he’ll be a king-maker in the Senate after the extreme, defeatist left purged him from the party. I’m also somewhat sad that Harold Ford, one of the best of the Dem candidates, lost.  You may recall that he fought Nancy Pelosi to be the House Democratic leader in 2004.  Nancy actually sounded pretty statespersonlike last night, but I give her very little time to get shrill.  I don’t think she makes an appealing face for her party, and I question her ability to unite a her party and prevent chaos on the floor.  Harry Reid?  I think he’ll be a disaster.  He looks like a mortician.

The real winner of the night might be John McCain, particularly if the Senate (as appears likely) goes narrowly Democratic, and if, as I suspect, the Democrats allow themselves to look defeatist or ineffective.  Politicians need something to run against in 2008.  I think his stock  and Guiliani’s have risen because of their crossover appeal; that would matter less to a Republican Party with an unchallenged majority.  I’m sure he relishes watching the Dems run Congress for a while.  It will be a good chance for him to rebuild his stature among conservatives.