Thursday, November 09, 2006

Election 2006 - That's the ball game!

George Allen conceded defeat in the Virginia Senate race. That makes it official--the Republicans have lost control of both Houses of of Congress. (For the overall picture, Talking Points Memo has a roundup here.)

For good measure, the Democrats now control a majority of governorships and made major gains in state legislatures across the country (see here)--which, among other things, has implications for the next round of national elections, future legislative redistricting, and so on.

=> What slogan best captures this moment? On Tuesday night, as it began to look possible that the Republicans would lose the Senate as well as the House of Representatives, Mark Kleiman (of The Reality-Based Community) wondered whether "Happy days are here again?" On Wednesday, when Webb's victory in the Virginia Senate race was unofficially confirmed, Mark decided that "Happy days ARE here again".

Well, I'm happy--very, very happy, considering the possible alternatives. But, alas, a reality-based view has to temper euphoria with sobriety. As I'm sure Mark realizes quite well, looking forward to "happy days" any time soon is pushing it a bit. It would also be too optimistic to declare, in the words of the old Reagan campaign slogan, that "It's morning again in America" Not by a long shot.

Still, I can't help being reminded of a remark by another Republican President, Gerald Ford, when he took the oath of office in 1974 after Nixon's resignation: "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over." Well, not quite, but at least we're beginning to wake up, and that's a start. There's gong to be a hell of a hangover, though.

=> One piece of information I would like to see is the overall balance of popular-vote totals for the two parties (and affiliated independent candidates in the Congressional elections. Obviously, these never translate directly into specific numbers of House and Senate seats, and the Republicans could hypthetically have held onto both Houses even in the face of Democratic popular-vote majorities. But to the extent that these elections added up to an overall national referendum on the Bush-Republican ascendancy--and to a great extent, that's what it was--these overall totals can help to illuminate the popular mood.

Today's New York Times published a set of preliminary estimates based on exit polls. Polls always have to be taken with a grain of salt, these figures are worth considering. They show an overall 54-46% Democratic majority--which, in most US elections, would be considered a very decisive margin. The Democrats carried majorities of both men and women, though with a gender gap of 4 percentage points; majorities at every age level, with an especially high proportion of young voters; and majorities at every income level except for families making more than $100,000.

Racial, religious, and regional breakdowns are more complex. (I notice, for example, that the Democrats seem to have carried every region except the South.) But overall these figures confirm the impression that these elections added up to a genuine Democratic sweep--or, if you prefer to emphasize the other side of the coin, a sweeping rejection of the Republicans.

Survey of Voters: Who They Were

This is a great outcome, and an essential first step toward repairing the accumulated damage of the past 6 years and starting to address our deeper national problems (which are considerable). So a bit of celebration is in order. But then we have to see what happens next.

Yours for democracy,
Jeff Weintraub