The Democrat Party won control of both House of Congress in what the Democrats are calling a “landslide” (and analysts call a weak “six-year itch” comeback).
With all the cheering about the number of seats picked up by the Democrats, it is worth noting how razor thin the margins were. Virginia gave the Democrats control of the Senate by a margin of less than 0.5 percent.
But whether one sees it as a landslide or an expression of voter discontent, the bottom line is two years of split government.
I am not sure if split government is a bad thing or a good thing in the long run. A divided government can’t get much done, which is generally a good thing in peacetime. The markets like a divided government. It keeps lawmakers from inventing new regulatory laws.
It can be argued that our government works better when it is divided, in the sense it gets less work done and therefore does its work less badly, so to speak. The government was divided during much of both the Eisenhower and Clinton administrations, both of which are admired as periods of peace and prosperity.
The Cato Institute’s William Niskanen noted the benefits of divided government recently. “”Government spending has increased an average of only 1.73 percent annually during periods of divided government,” he writes in the October Washington Monthly. “This number more than triples, to 5.26 percent, for periods of unified government.”
But it is worth noting that during the Eisenhower years, the government was flush with cash following the massive defense spending increases from World War II.
And the first few years of the Clinton era were occupied with trying to figure out what to do with the “peace dividend” left over following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Why is that important?
Because we are not in the middle of a peacetime expansion, having just emerged victorious from a global conflict. We are in the middle of a global conflict, one that has already gone on longer than World War II, sapping our energy, our blood, our treasure and, if the election results are any indication, our will to fight.
The majority of voters reported to the exit pollers that the war with Iraq was the most important factor in deciding how to vote. Of those, 60 percent reported voting for the Democratic candidate.
Overall, 60 percent of all voters opposed the war in Iraq, the exit polls showed. About 30 per cent of those polled said their vote was an expression of dissatisfaction with the administration’s war policies.
Abroad, European politicians voiced their satisfaction at the outcome of the election, saying it vindicated their own opposition to the war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Undoubtedly, the terrorist leaders are also voicing their satisfaction with the election results, since they believe it means a U.S. pullout is on the horizon.
That is what the new speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, promised at every opportunity. And since the terrorists have the same goal as that of Speaker-elect Pelosi, it seems only reasonable that they should share in her jubilation.
Jordanian editor Nabil al-Sharif said many Arabs believe U.S. policies under Bush are “dangerous to the region and to the world. … We are delighted that the American voters have at least disassociated themselves from these dangerous policies,” he said.
“President Bush is no longer acceptable worldwide,” said Suleiman Hadad, a lawmaker in Syria, according to an AP report on Arab reaction to the news.
On the heels of the Republican loss, President Bush “accepted” the resignation of (or, if you prefer, ‘fired’) Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. In practical terms, Rumsfeld is as out of action as if hit by a terrorist missile. Abu Musab al Zarqawi is avenged!
The election means two years of gridlock as the new congressional chairs begin to wield their new subpoena powers and hamstring the administration and military further with endless hearings and oversight commissions.
The election turned on the desire for change, any change, so long as there was change. We handed the reins of power over to the people who promised change and a new direction, without ever finding out what changes they have in mind or what direction they are planning to go.
The people have spoken. America is a house divided in a time of war.