When I went to bed the Republicans were taking it on the chin and the computer was acting screwy. When I awoke in the middle of the night, I pondered what the elections might mean. I’d be worried if I were an Iraqi or an African but I’m not sure the immediate effect on Americans will be that great. The economy is perking along; the Republicans weren’t reducing the size of government anyway; change in party dominance usually does something to knock out at least some corruption in the other party. So. Aggravating, but not so bad.
And it occurred to me that it gives the Democrats a chance to do what they complained about when Bush was elected both times: recognize that they are ruling a deeply divided country and attempting to be unifiers. My suspicion is that the closeness of the election, which was their entire reasoning for talking about “sharing government” in 2000, will go unnoticed, and they will immediately operate as if they have a mandate. But hey, I thought. Give ‘em a chance. Maybe they really did mean what they said, or at least, maybe enough of them meant it to make a difference.
I decided then to ask my readers to be hopeful, but alert. The campaign rhetoric had been about voting for change, but campaigns are what they are and people try to sell ideas in dramatic ways. Perhaps, I thought, when the dust settles they will go forth and represent all the people, as they asked Bush and the Republicans to do.
Sometimes it’s just uncanny. When I got in the car and turned on the radio this morning, the first sentence I heard was “2006 may go down in history as the year that Americans demanded a change from their government.” And it was the news announcer saying this. It wasn’t a Democratic candidate or a spinmeister. It wasn’t even a political commentator offering an opinion. It was the news announcer, giving us the proper interpretation of the results, I suppose, because that’s how he sees it. Republicans win 50-49, it’s a divided government, power should be shared, Bush should recognize this. Democrats win 50-49, it’s a mandate for change, the people have spoken. I turned off the radio.
I don’t think it’s just politicking or attempts to manipulate. I believe they really don’t even notice the disconnect. I think that at root, Democrats believe they know best and should make the changes they want to, and only have to wait for some sort of pro forma permission from the electorate. They may believe this in all innocence, as if what they want would be the natural, obvious result of progress. That’s why they don’t think of their ideas as being imposed on the rest of us – they see them as the natural and normal ideas, and an historic inevitability as mankind gets wiser.
Well, that’s a lot to read into a limited amount of campaigning. Time will reveal all.
Maybe this mandate-for-change/the-people-have-spoken-clearly will calm down in a few weeks. But I am more than a little suspicious.
Many libertarians were also grimly pleased at the prospect of divided government, as government grows more slowly in those situations. Well, they’ll get a chance to see if that’s what they really wanted.