News & Politics

Election Day Still a Long Way Off

I'm not close to calling this election, and I'm sure not into celebrating anything yet.
Stunning coincidence. The verdict in the long-running trial of Saddam Hussein in Iraq is now due two days before our congressional elections in November. Astounding. How ineffable.

Sometimes you know the Republicans have just lost the rag completely. This week, Dick Cheney said to Rush Limbaugh regarding the Iraqi government, "If you look at the general, overall situation, they're doing remarkably well." The vice president also acknowledged there's some concern because the war wasn't over "instantaneously." We have now been in Iraq just one month shy of the entire time it took us to fight World War II. Seventy Americans dead so far in October. Electricity in Iraq this year hit its lowest levels since the war started.

What infuriates me about this is the lying. WHY can't they level with us? Just on the general, overall situation.

Put me in the depressive Dems camp. We always look good going into the last two weeks, until we get hit with that wall of Republican money (though I do think Ohio is beyond political recall at this point for the R's). Of course, both sides always complain about unfair advertising, but I must admit that almost all political advertising strikes me as ludicrous and I don't notice the D's looking simon-pure. A little shading, a little emphasis here and there -- I'm hard to shock on political ads, but I do get more than miffed when they take the truth and just stand it on its head.

For example, if ever there has been a friend to Social Security it would be Rep. Chet Edwards from Waco, Texas, a D loyal to the FDR, LBJ and government-exists-to-serve-the-people tradition. So what are the R's attacking him on? Not supporting Social Security. All this kind of thing does is render political debate completely meaningless.

The argument now is that D's have a seven-point structural deficit going into any election. I see the problem, I just have no idea what the actual numbers are.

Let's start with the easy end, the Senate. From the book "Off Center" by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, as recently quoted by Eric Alterman in his blog: "The mismatch between popular votes and electoral outcomes is even more striking in the Senate. Combining the last three Senate elections, Democrats have actually won 2.5 million more votes than Republicans. Yet now they hold only 44 seats in that 100-person chamber because Republicans dominate the less populous states that are so heavily overrepresented in the Senate. As journalist Hendrik Hertzberg (of the New Yorker) notes, if you treat each senator as representing half that state's population, then the Senate's 55 Republicans currently represent 131 million people, while the 44 Democrats represent 161 million people."

OK, we all know about the small-state advantage in the Senate. How did the People's House get so far out of fair? Paul Krugman explains: "The key point is that African-Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, are highly concentrated in a few districts. This means that in close elections many Democratic votes are, as political analysts say, wasted -- they simply add to huge majorities in a small number of districts, while the more widely spread Republican vote allows the GOP to win by narrower margins in a larger number of districts."

I should also point out that Democrats used to pack minority voters into the same districts when they drew the redistricting lines because of simple racism. Minority candidates need more votes to win, as polling consistently shows them several points ahead of where they actually finish because some people still cannot bring themselves to vote for black politicians even if they agree with them.

For instance, race is a factor this year in Harold Ford's Tennessee Senate contest -- even though political people keep pretending it's not.

I'm the one who has been writing for two years that the American people are fed up with the war in Iraq and with the Bush administration's lies and incompetence. I'm the one that keeps beating the Washington press corps about the head over how out of touch it is. I'm the one who has been insisting there's a Democratic tide out here, and that the people are so far ahead of the politicians and the media it's painful to watch.

So how come I'm not thrilled? Because I watched this happen two years ago -- same rejection of the Iraq war, same disgust with Bush and Co., same understanding Republicans are for the rich, period, same polls showing D's with the lead going right into Election Day. And the same geographic gerrymander and same wall of money in the last two weeks. I'm not close to calling this election, and I'm sure not into celebrating anything yet.