01 June 2006

2008, A Truly "National" Election ?

With five months to go before the elections of 2006, the unique character of the elections of 2008 is becoming more clear. Already the Presidential contest is expected to be a historical anomaly, whereby the seat is "open", unless by some "miracle", Cheney decides to run after all. (Just don't put him in charge of selecting the nominee and America should be safe from the prospect of making Bob Woodward a prophet. But always remember that power is extremely difficult to relinquish, especially to someone like Richard Cheney)

Current trends not only suggest, but are moving towards near certainty, that the Democrats will succeed, or come very close to, taking control of the House and/or Senate. Next week's special election in California to replace "Duke" Cunningham will be a confirmation of the depth of the current trend. Only some unforeseen pivotal event that results in the GOP gaining seats in the 2006 elections would change the developing dynamic of 2008.

Therefore, when the final votes are counted in November of this year, it is an almost certainty that the party in control of the House and Senate, will be so by the smallest of margins.

That means that on the morning of November 8, 2006, the longest, meanest, most divisive, expensive, and most "national" election in living memory will begin in earnest. Due to the nature of the slim majority by which either party controls the House or Senate, forces,(demographic, financial, and ideological), will compel each party's future House, Senate, and Presidential nominees to conform to much stricter standard, or "message", in order to "nationalize" and unify the race for "working power". The internal struggles, already underway in both parties, over standards and "message", is a by-product of the money-raising and publicity campaigns by potential Presidential nominees seeking desperately to create for themselves, and thus the party, the "aura of inevitability".

The potential for an election in 2008, consisting of two parties with more sharply-defined, unified, and contrasting policies (relatively) and nominees, since 1860, is great. Each will be asking the American electorate to give to them a working majority with which to implement their policies. The results of such a contest could be quite telling.

But of course, there are always the "intangibles". What if Cheney dies or resigns? (Indicted?) Or another terrorist attack? A new leader in Pakistan, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia? What effect will a third-party have on the calculus of 2008?

It is ironic and discomforting that the potential nominees for 2008 with the highest name-recognition and money-raising ability so far, John McCain and Hillary Clinton, are so remarkably similar policy-wise. Both are statists, first and foremost, interested in the preservation, perpetuation, and accumulation of governmental power over the conduct of people's lives in general, and the prerogatives of a "Unitary Executive" in particular. Both are ambitious, irascible, and have gargantuan egos. And both are well known for policies that are antithetical to their respective party's core voters. (Hillary is Pro-War, McCain is Pro-Amnesty)

Will the "Powers That Be" succeed again at foisting a "false-choice" upon the American electorate? The 'tide' against it is heartening.

Would such a "muddled" and "conflicted" set of Presidential nominees, give rise to a powerful and lasting Third Party? Well, we can hope.

Will Hillary or McCain adopt diametrically opposing policies in order to conform to those of their "bases"? Not bloody likely, but always possible.

Will the 2008 election provide a decisive "fork-in-the-road", determining the general direction of U.S. policy for a generation, regardless of which way the results come out? Only time will tell. History suggests NOT.

But there's always a chance.

As it stands now, the best that can be hoped for would be a contest between Russ Feingold and George Allen, whereby whoever prevailed would be constrained by a House and Senate controlled by the opposing party. GRIDLOCK! Though each prospective Administration would be largely peopled by hundreds of the same rotten bastards and bitches from either of the two previous regimes, by setting them in opposition, the American electorate could give the U.S. Constitution's 'checks and balances' derived from the 'separation of powers', a small chance to return to it's historical and proper balance.

It would not be great, but it would be the best that could be done for now. It would take decades of concerted effort to peacefully rectify the mistakes of the past two centuries. Haste would require bloodshed. And the 'unintended consequences' of anything other than purposeful, incremental change, would be immeasurable.

Opportunities must be taken when they appear. Let us hope that 2008 becomes such an opportunity. You never know, it may well be the last 'best chance'.

stephenhsmith 31May2006