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.


  1. We’ve got what any Libertarian loves in Congress: Gridlock. I love it. The less laws, bills, spending plans, taxes, and regulations Congress can pass the better! Though with Democrats in control of the House I’m going to have to hold onto my wallet a lot tighter than normal.

    Republicans got what they deserved. Unfortunately, Democrats got what they didn’t deserve. As in many elections, America lost.

  2. Democrats were the ones directly betrayed by North Korea’s decision to begin cheating on the Agreed Framework in 1996 or so, well inside the Clinton era. I can’t see them giving Pyongyang much of anything. And, as you said, Lantos knows of the evil of which he speaks.

  3. Slim- I don’t get it. The Democrats want to give N. Korea everything it wants for now, which is bilateral negotiations. Not that is really matters. If a dictator has a country as a plaything, there’s not much you can do to stop him from doing whatever he wants. Not much- except kill kim, of course.

  4. @Rob; but we can kiss permanent tax cuts goodbye, which means the old rates will be back.

    @Slim; still, they’ll blame Bush for everything, despite the fact that estimates put them with 1-2 Pu-239 nukes in the late 1990s.

    @Joshua; I think they will only make more noise about useless bilateral talks.

    As for Pelosi; I’ve already given notice to my boss that I may be start using some my hundreds of hours of sick time, now that I’ll have to listen to that hag more often, which causes extreme nausea in my case.

  5. I think plenty of people will react to Pelosi the way we have. Either she will have to tone down, or the voters will get to know and love her as you and I do. Guess what I’m betting.

    I agree that the Dems will make noise about bilateral talks, but we’ve heard a lot of that from Leach, Lugar, Hagel, and other Republicans, too. Hyde was really the only stalwart, and he would have retired anyway. And so they call for bilateral talks. On what? That we should accept their counterfeiting and dope-dealing? That we shouldn’t enforce UN resolutions, like 1695 or 1718? That we should do another Agreed Framework, long on payoffs and short on verification? I think that would be a real opportunity for conservatives.

    Frankly, I’m more worried about Bob Gates and James Baker than I am about Nancy Pelosi.

  6. Coming from Instapundit.
    Nice site.

    What Korea needs is for us to do nothing, and to that end, the gridlock might be good.

    Korea is China’s problem, and judging by what I’ve been reading at Strategypage about North Korean annoying their Chinese overlords, I think it’s only a matter of time before ROK soldiers on the DMZ blink and notice that the uniforms have changed on the other side. If we do nothing, China will fix the problem its own way.

  7. Scott, thanks for the kind words, but I disagree. China wants North Korea to remain as an irritant and a distraction to the United States. To that end, they’ll support Kim Jong Il to the last North Korean.

    North Korea threatens us because of its track record for proliferation. China will not save us. We should be undermining the North Korean regime politically, and ironically, reducing our presence in Korea gives us more flexibility to do that.

  8. U.S. reluctance to talk to North Korea one-on-one has been overstated, at least since Chris Hill replaced Jim Kelly and showed up with more flexible marching orders. There have been hours and hours of bilateral sessions during six-party talks. North Korea is so toxic that noone in America will be seen giving Pyongyang what it wants — except the clueless South Koreans, who have already been discounted by all involved — and were the last to know about the outcome ofthe three-way talks in Beijing last week..

  9. Rep. James Leach of Iowa lost in what I’m guessing was a liberal district, 51-49.

    That district is virulently leftist (I was a constituent of Leach’s for some years). Leach held out very well by the dint of his experience, personal affability and his own verifiably leftist leanings. But this year has been a bad year for the remaining Nelson Rockefeller Republicans, a dying breed. It was bound to happen sooner of later.

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