05 November 2008

The Day After

On election day, I canvassed for eight hours, until fifteen minutes before it was too late to vote. In truth, almost everyone I spoke with had either voted or was on their way to vote anyway. Short lines made efforts to keep people in line unimportant. I had enough energy to glimpse at the results afterwards, but not much more. The Denver Election Division, predictably, suffered a sustained "critical error" at its website as results came in, although the results came in sooner than anticipated due to better pre-election day counting and better staffing and space resources. The Rocky Mountain News has bar charts that contradicted the vote numbers it was slinging for most of the night.

This morning, I took the kids to school. It was wet. The rain storm had held off until after voting was over. In the elementary school yard, a group of boys playing around with a football spontaneously broke out into a rousing cheer of "O-bam-a, O-bam-a" for a minute or so, before returning to their game.

The newspapers were sold out at the local gas station. I was going to buy a Denver Post to pour over numbers with, but I will have to go to a newspaper box instead.

I collected the ghost cutouts, the luminaries, and a Day of the Dead banner and brought them inside. I hauled three jack-o-lanterns to the dumpster. I took down all of my campaign signs, except for the Obama-Biden one, and put them in the garage, to be salvaged for parts next election season.

Until an election is over, campaigning is about anxiety, real or imagined. You work as hard as you can to avert the worst case scenarios, the sudden twists and turns in public opinion, bad weather and bad advertisements. You prepare for dirty tricks and apathy. Now, the votes are cast and mostly, the results are in hand.

Democrats have a couple of years, at least, in control of the Presidency and Congress. Obama's win was unequivocal, only the margin by which the Democrats have improved their standing in the federal government remains to be determined. Democrats have a couple more years, at least, in control of the Colorado General Assembly and the Governorship (as well as picking up the Secretary of State's office, and already holding the position of state treasurer). Years of toil by Democrats to regain power have paid off. Our long national nightmare is over.

Most of the bad ballot issues that could have passed have been defeated. A couple, one to discontinue affirmative action, the other to ban participation in politics by government contractors and government unions, are very close right now. The affirmative action ban looks poised to fail. The campaign restrictions look poised to pass -- but all the results are not in yet, and a 1st Amendment challenge will no doubt follow in the courts and may narrow its scope.

Ironically, Amendment 54 may end up hurting Republicans. Many government contractors are conservative Republican small business owners whose money could be kept out of politics if the measure is upheld. Colorado Republicans tend to favor transportation spending (which will be down 33% in the Governor Ritter's 2009 budget due mostly to weak gas tax collections) more than Democrats. And, I'm not convinced that loopholes won't be found in the ban on contributions on union political money with parallel labor oriented fund raising groups.

Denver has funded its schools again, by a 2-1 margin, this time for half a billion dollars of capital improvements.

Republicans have lost not only their political power, but some of the high profile personalities that defined them. Xenophobic hot head Tom Tancredo known for his anti-immigrant stances left voluntarily. Gay hating Marilyn Musgrave was trounced, winning only about 44% of vote in a heavily Republican rural district, in favor of a Democratic woman (Besty Markey) cut from the same moderate political cloth as Ken and John Salazar. Wayne Allard, a man in a gray flannel suit best known for his extremely conservative voting record and strong support for the President's prerogative to torture people has retired. Bob Schaffer's defeat to Mark Udall, in part, is a rejection of his voting record when he was in Congress as the 15th most conservative person to serve in Congress since World War II, and also of his brusque personal manner.

Republicans continued to tarnish their brand this election cycle. Mike Coffman was the center of multiple scandals during his brief tenure as Colorado Secretary of State. Schaffer's associations with corrupt lobbyists, junkets to Pacific Islands and a fraudulent energy company compromised his image as a man of integrity.

The ugly campaign ads, dirty tricks, deceptive robocalls and tolerance of violent racists that distinguished the McCain campaign undermined his calls for civility in stump speeches. McCain's inexplicable move to the right during the general election, emphasizing his closeness to President Bush on many issues and his unwillingness to be open to the press as he was as a Senator, undermine his image as a moderate maverick. McCain's decision to pick Palin as his running mate, despite the fact that he barely knew her and had vetted her even less (she was found to have committed ethical violations by an Alaska ethics panel mid-campaign), undermined any sense that he had good judgment.

Dishonesty and ugliness was rank in many Republican campaigns. Musgrave attempted to paint Markey is a criminal. The ham handed attempt failed. Elizabeth Dole, whose imagine is that of a compassionate conservative, undermined herself with an ad trying to label her opponent, a Christian who is now Senator Hagan, as godless. Guilt by association campaigns with Barack Obama's pastor and a campaign supporter didn't work either.

One of the few ballot measures to come even close to passing in Colorado, Amendment 54, which was designed as a union busting measure, did far better than its union busting companions, Amendments 47 and 49, because it was viewed as an anti-corruption measure, and Americans are sick of corruption in their government.

While the Democratic party was not without ugly or inaccurate campaign advertisements, Republican ads were consistently more deceptive and vile nationwide, and while Republicans don't hold a monopoly on corruption, they do predominate in that endeavor. It took a Republican like Alaska's Ted Stevens to be convicted of multiple counts of felony fraud one day, and then go on the campaign trail claiming that he wasn't convicted of anything the next.

With a Democratic President and a safe majority in the majoritarian House of Representatives, where filibusters don't exist and the Democratic majority is solid enough that conservative Democrats will have to be completely unified to have even a swing vote, attention turns to the U.S. Senate.

We don't know exactly how many Senators will be Democrats, a couple of seats hang in the balance right now, but it will be a safe majority that is close to filibuster proof even if Democrats don't have all sixty seats they need to meet that goal. Moreover, the Republicans, in order to sustain filibusters, will have to bring in moderates like independent former Democrat Joe Lieberman and just re-elected moderate Republican Susan Collins, if they want to succeed. They probably won't, for example, be able to unify themselves to block moderately liberal court appointments.

Democrats will welcome the handful of moderate Republicans into their fold (I wouldn't be surprised to see a party switch or two from Republican to Democrat either), since the compromises that they need to win them over differ little from the compromises necessary to bring moderates in their own party on board, and because it is always better to be able to call a measure "bipartisan." The continuing moderate Republican balance of power in the federal courts also makes compromises that moderate Republicans insist upon a good idea. But, conservative Republicans are now out in the cold, removed entirely from the political disucssion, in both Colorado and federal politics. This is a warm thought on a cold day.


Dave Barnes said...

"Stevens to be convicted of multiple counts of felony fraud"

IANAL, but I thought that Stevens is not "convicted" until a judge sentences him.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Stevens is just plain wrong. He is convicted when the jury says so. Sentencing only impacts what the consequences of the conviction will be and when those consequences will be metted out.

After sentencing, his convictions may be appealed at which point they may be vacated, but this does not cause them to not be convictions now.