Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mid-Term Election Results [Updated]

[UPDATE: I started this post last night -- big mistake. Things changed overnight.]

Well, damn, the Dems took back the house by a huge margin and are close to making the Senate an even affair (with two left-leaning Independents giving them control should those other two races turn out to be in favor of the Dems).

MSNBC has the Senate results here and the House results here. The House actually swung from the Dems being 32 seats down to the Dems being 33 seats up -- I can't imagine a worse defeat for the GOP that than.

In Arizona, Jon Kyl (Sen-R) won again -- in one of the ugliest, meanest campaigns by both sides that I have ever seen. For the House, the incumbents held their seats, except for J.D. Hayworth (R). We replaced Jim Kolbe, the long-time log cabin Republican (not sure he ever called himself that, but he was openly gay) with an enviro-loving liberal named Gabby Giffords. Her challenger was a one-issue bigot, but this district is big (conservative) money and redneck small towns, so he had a chance.

We overwhelmingly made English the official state language (and passed two other immigrant-hating laws). We created a lottery to reward people for actually doing their civic responsibility and voting [UPDATE: turns out this one lost]. We voted to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.75 an hour. We passed a hard-line ban on smoking in all public spaces [UPDATE: I had this one going down on earlier results] and defeated a more lenient initiative financed by Phillip-Morris. Arizona might become the first state in the nation to reject a gay-marriage ban (too close to call), but then it's already illegal for gays to marry in AZ and this bill would have taken away all rights for non-married couples, gay or breeder. [UPDATE: we also defeated a measure to make all elections use mail in ballots.]

By most accounts, the Iraq War and GOP corruption decided this election. Here is some of what MSNBC was saying:
By the end of the campaign, Republicans were airing ads distancing themselves from Bush's wartime leadership, and the president himself abandoned the phrase "stay the course." The White House is placing hope on a study group headed by former secretary of state James A. Baker III, a longtime Bush family intimate, to offer a new approach to the war. Yet Vice President Cheney laid down a marker last week, saying "it doesn't matter" if the war is unpopular and vowing to continue "full speed ahead."

During a victory speech last night, Pelosi made clear that would not suffice: "We cannot continue down this catastrophic path. And so we say to the president, 'Mr. President, we need a new direction in Iraq. Let us work together to find a solution to the war in Iraq.' "

The results represented the first defeat at the polls for Bush politics since he came to power after the 2000 presidential election ended with a recount battle. In back-to-back elections after that, he defied conventional wisdom to pull out victories, tapping into a strain of anxiety that has flavored the national electorate since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Bush and senior adviser Karl Rove tried to replicate that strategy this fall, hoping to keep the election from becoming a referendum on the president's leadership and instead make it a choice between two parties with different governing philosophies. "One thing that's true is this will have been a referendum election," said Gary Jacobson, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego.

Overall, 59 percent of voters surveyed in a news media consortium series of exit polls yesterday expressed dissatisfaction or anger with the Bush administration; 36 percent said they cast their vote to express opposition to Bush, compared with 22 percent who were voting to support him. Fifty-six percent of voters support withdrawing some or all U.S. troops from Iraq, which will embolden Democrats pushing for a pullout.

Corruption proved to be a more potent issue than it had appeared even weeks ago. After 12 years in control, the Republicans who took power with Gingrich promising to sweep out a calcified and ethically bankrupt Democratic leadership found themselves perceived as becoming what they had tried to expunge. Exit polls found 41 percent of voters rated corruption "extremely important" to their decision.

"What you saw was the voters speak out very loudly on the way Congress conducted itself," said Rep. Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.). "We really have to take stock of where we are and we have to go about doing things different." Cantor said this includes a renewed emphasis on fiscal discipline and ethics reform.

The question now is whether the Dems can do any better. They need to show fair, decisive leadership right out the gate. Pelosi is promising a major push in the first 100 hours. We'll see if that actually plays out.

The GOP hates Pelosi and made her a poster-child of liberal evil. But she is much more realistic than they gave her credit for being.

"The only way to deal with Bush is as a co-equal branch of government," Pelosi told Reuters last month. "He's in denial."

Pelosi has rejected calls to attempt to impeach Bush and drive him from office. But she has said Democrats would hold congressional oversight hearings, which could include such matters as whether he manipulated the facts to build early support for the Iraq war.

With a majority in the House, Democrats would chair all House committees, set the legislative agenda and have subpoena power in their investigations.

Pelosi has vowed to clean up how Congress does business in wake of influence-peddling scandals and an Internet sex scandal involving a former Republican congressman.

"Maybe it will take a woman to clean up the House and a new speaker to restore civility," Pelosi said.

On the other hand, the right is freaked out. Here is one blog headline from this morning:

Evil Speaker Pelosi To Make Lesbians Of Us All!

Is that some far right wacko blog? No, it's the ever head-up-her-ass Wonkette. Actually, the original nitwit who ran that site is gone now, I think -- off to be a novelist or something -- but they try to imitate her trademark ignorance as much as possible.

Anyway. Glad this thing is over. I'll likely have more to say as this week shakes itself out and we see the real results of the elections.

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