Friday, November 10, 2006


John Judis of the New Republic offers an interesting analysis of how the Democrats won back Congress. The critical term is…independents (surprise!).

An illustrative excerpt:
But Democrats also won in a host of districts and states that George W. Bush carried in the last election. In some cases, Democrats won primarily because the seat had been held by a Republican implicated in a personal or political scandal. But, in many others, Democrats benefited from the reemergence of political trends that had been suppressed after September 11--or, even before that, by Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. The most important of these trends involves independents.…In the 1980s, these voters generally supported Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; but, in 1992, many of them abandoned Bush for Ross Perot, who received 18.9 percent of the national vote.…In 1996, Clinton and the Democrats won back many of these voters, but, after September 11, they gravitated toward the Republican Party, helping to account for Republican success in 2002 and 2004. In this election, however, independents flocked back to the Democrats. Nationally, the Democrats won independents by 57 percent to 39 percent. In the East, the margin was 63 to 33 percent; in the Midwest, 56 to 41 percent; and, in the West, 58 to 35 percent. Democrats also did well in many of those Western and Midwestern states where Perot had won over 20 percent of the vote in 1992: Arizona, Colorado, Kansas (where the Democrats won two of four House seats and the top state offices), Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
If Judis is correct, Republican strategist Karl Rove's promise of the ever-lasting Republican majority was impossible all along. The growing number of self-identified independents would always contribute enough turbulence to keep a permanent majority out of anyone's reach.

Already a great deal of fun has been had reflecting on the "genius" of Rove who, according to President Bush in his less-than conciliatory press conference the day after the election, was not working as hard on the campaign as the President.

As Judis described, many independents came to the Republicans following 9/11. That rally and the desire for stability and continuity contributed greatly to Republican success in the 2004 election. The Iraq war was still young and it dominated the environment. Criticism was mounting, but the momentum was greater.

This time, the costs have surpassed the benefits for most Americans. Once dissatisfaction with the war reached a tipping point, dissatisfaction in other areas such as the economy added the straw.

An additional point that Judis makes very well, is that this election represents a step in the final realignment that became brightly visible in 1994 with the Republican takeover of the South.

- Murphy

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