Quick post-election analysis

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

- Last night the American people made it clear that they had grown weary of the failures and partisanship of the Bush era, wanted a new direction, and got one. After giving Republicans the nation in 1994, the American people just gave the nation back to the Democrats. Democrats now have a majority in the House, among governors and state legislative chambers, and apparently the US Senate.

- With these Democratic gains in all regions of the country the American people have not only choosen a new direction, but a more progressive one. While many of the newly elected Democrats will join the Blue Dog and New Democrat caucuses, in almost every instance the Democrat who won their race was ideologically to the left of the Republican they beat. Every type of Democrat won last night, Northeastern, Midwestern, Southern, Texan, Western, liberal, moderate, conservative and many whose ideology defies easy description and should be best described just as a Democrat.

- The Republicans can no longer be called the dominant party in American politics, as Democrats are now clearly competitive in all regions of the country. 42 of the 50 states either have a Democratic Senator or Governor (The 8 states without a major statewide Dem are AK, AL, GA, KY, MS, SC, TX and UT). The country remains, however, very evenly divided. Both parties now competitive in all regions of the country, with Republicans largely holding on their advantage in the South and Democrats making gains in Florida, the North, Mid-West and West. It is fair to say that heading into 2008 neither party hold a significant advantage, and the GOP/conservative ascendency has ended. It is a "jump ball" for control in 2008 with both parties starting out evenly matched, without a great advantage and Democrats perhaps having a little more wind at their back.

- It was a day of reckoning for the conservative movement. As we wrote yesterday in an election day essay, "Given the extraordinary failure of conservative government to do the very basics - keeping us safe, fostering broad-based prosperity, protecting our liberties, balancing the books and not breaking the law - I think history will label this 20th century conservatism a success as a critique of 20th century progressivism, but a failure as a governing philosophy. It never matured into something more than an ivory-tower led and Limbaugh-fed correction to a progressivism that had lost its way."

- The exits showed that voters had many issues on their minds - Iraq, corruption, terrorism and the economy. There was no one single issue driving the outcome, but the unexpectedly high number of people citing "corruption" or "scandals" signals to me a real desire for leadership that focuses on solving the people's business rather than playing politics. In many ways this is the most important message of the election, and from listening to Pelosi and others last night one Democrats clearly understand. The Republicans lost because their government did not what it needed to do for the Ameican people. To succeed Democrats will have to focus not on politics and positioning but doing everything they can to work with the Republicans to solve the many problems facing the nation.

- Most of the gains for Democrats in the House came in the Mid-West and Industrial North, the older and more settled regions of the country. Democrats won two Southern seats, two in Florida and three in the Southwest but overall did not make major gains in the Sunbelt. More gains in these areas may come with the 8 or so races in recounts right now. Democrats got their new House majority without making major gains in the South, and are now the first non-southern based Congressional Majority since 1955. The Senate followed a similar pattern, with most of the gains in the older regions of the country.

- The new Democratic Congressional Majority has all the attributes one normally associates with majorities - ideological, generational and regional diversity. This new Democratic team is a diverse lot, from all regions of the country, from rural, exurban, suburban and urban areas. Leading this team isn't going to be easy, nor will it be easy to predict where it goes on major issues. An early test of Speaker Pelosi will be to guide her new team towards consensus on Iraq and the budget.

- Looking ahead to 2008, it is clear that Democrats have strengthened their position in the electoral college. Their base in the North has deepened; the great swing state of Ohio has become much more Democratic; they continued to make gains in the West; add an angered and trending Democrat Latino population, and an already trending-Democratic Southwest looks much more Democratic.

- The Republican Presidential field took a big hit last night. Allen and Frist now seem damaged beyond repair, but the big loser of the night was John McCain. He has hitched himself to the President's failed Iraq policy, which will be seen today as the main reason why the Republicans did so poorly at the polls.

- Even the two good stories for the GOP last night, the CA and FL governor's races, have bad news for Bush and his brand of Republicanism. Both Arnold and Charlie Crist publically distanced themselves from Bush, with Crist doing it very publically just this past Monday before the election by not showing up at a Bush rally designed to help him.

- The Democratic bench has gotten much deeper and stronger in the past few years. Not only are there many more Democrats elected to offices across the country, there are many more powerful and compelling leaders emerging. In addition to already successful Democrats like Warner, Edwards, Napolitano, Granholm, Richardson and Sebelius we now can add Deval Patrick, Eliot Spitzer, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Martin O'Malley, Bob Menendez, Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama, Artur Davis, Antonio Villaraigosa, Gabriel Giffords, Gavin Newsom and many others to the growing pool of exciting, next generation leaders with a big future ahead.

- A sign of changing times. Our new Speaker is a woman, the Democratic frontrunner for President in 2008 is a woman, and the possible Presidential candidate with the most buzz is a young African-American Senator from the Mid-West.