Thursday, November 09, 2006

Skip the champagne

Of course the election results were heartening. They are satisfying not just to me, who identifies with neither party, but also to those Republicans who have been extolling the benefits of divided government for some time.

Further reflection is less reassuring. For some time now the RINOS, the Rockefeller Republicans in the Northeast, have been on the endangered species list. Now Senator Chafee of Rhode Island has gone down. With the engoing trimming away of centrists, the Republican Party--based on its office holders--has moved to the right.

So too, paradoxically, have the Democrats. In Pennsylvania the views of Bob Casey scarcely differ from those of Rick Santorum. And Heath Shuler's victory in North Carolina suggests that the only way forward for Democrats in the South is to ape Republicans as completely as possible.

There will be tensions in Congress as the ageing liberal lions, such as Rangel and Frank, face an increasingly skeptical cohort of so-called centrists. The leadership of the dim-witted Nancy Pelosi, an affirmative action appointment if there ever was one, is scarcely encouraging. (If only she actually merited the sobriquet of Lugosi awarded her by the attack dog Michael Savage!) She was afraid to get out in front on the Iraq War, so she got Murtha to do it. Under Pelosi the Democrats will back symbolic issues like the minimum wage. This is largely meaningless since most states have already passed such legislation. Raising the level of the minimum wage will have the perverse effect of making cheap, illegal labor even more appealing to cost-cutting employers. And guess what California representative is alleged to be employing illegal aliens in her vineyards.

Of course the Democrats will continue their cowardly policy of dithering about the Iraq War. The only way to have any influence in that disaster is to make a credible threat to cut off funding, but they are too scared to even consider this. Instead they will hide behind the commission being headed by the old Bush operative Baker. Since its report is likely to be anodyne, that will be a further reason for waffling.

Dismissing Rumsfeld offers emotional satisfaction, but nothing more. He did maximum damage in the early stages of the war, by not putting in enough troups and by having no plan for post-invasion administration of the country. Getting rid of him now is too little and too late. Time will tell, but my guess is that the appointment of Robert Gates will turn out to be just a device to continue the failed policies by other means. Bush is determined to hand Iraq over to his successor, who will (he thinks) get the major share of the blame.

Other news was also mixed, if not downright discouraging. Seven more states passed initiatives defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Only Arizona held out.
This means that we now have even more antigay legislation to content with.

Last night some pundit expressed the cliche that the pendulum of American politics switches direction every 20 years. Well, it doesn't. We have only had Republican rule for six years (or fourteen if you count Congress). What is actually happening, alas, is that, except for minor glitches, the country is moving more and more to the conservative side. This development cannot be a good one for individual freedom.


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