Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: I was wrong again! Hurrah!
Posted on 11/07/2002 1:04:57 PM PST by Pokey78
With hindsight, the decisive moment came just after 5 p.m. Eastern time on election day when the Voter News Service suddenly announced that its exit polls were completely unreliable and it would not therefore be releasing them. You could hear the panic at Election Special studios across the land. Usually it works like this: at 7 p.m. the polls close in New Hampshire and 12 seconds later every single network anchor announces simultaneously that the Democrat has won the Senate race. Then all the experts sit around analysing what this humiliation for Bush in a traditional Republican state will mean for his chances of re-election in 04, etc. At that point, the networks have not a single hard vote from a single precinct in their hands: the numbers are all VNS exit polls. In throwing their hands up an hour before airtime and abandoning ship, VNS were conceding that this year the unholy alliance of pollsters and media had blown it big time.
So, without the exit polls and only the slow dribble of real numbers, it became clear by about 10 p.m. that the close contests werent in the least bit close: Jeb Bush wasnt in trouble in the Florida governors race he won early and he won big; same with Elizabeth Dole in the North Carolina senate race, and Lindsey Graham in the South Carolina senate race, and John Cornyn in Texas, and Wayne Allard in Colorado, and Mike Huckabee, who was supposed to be nosediving into the swamp in the Arkansas governors race. How big did they win? They won so big that the 10,000 lawyers dispatched by the Democratic party to polling places across the country to rustle up some potential business in tight races were forced to the grim conclusion that there was nothing to be gained from suing over such arcana as the insufficiency of supplemental ballots printed in Hmong (as Im sure you know, the Hmong language is the language of the Hmong people). Jesse Jackson jumping up and down in the street accusing Republicans of being hate-Hmongers isnt going to cut it this time. In particular, Florida voters have gotten over the 2000 election, even if the chad-obsessed Democratic National Committee hasnt.
I got a peek at some of those VNS numbers in mid-afternoon before they tossed em in the garbage and they had Liddy Dole losing to Clinton flunkey Erskine Bowles and Governor Huckabee losing to a fearsome Ozark Dem female called Jimmie-Lou Fisher, and Wayne Allard trailing in the Rockies by double digits. When all the breaks are breaking in one direction for the Republicans you have to wonder why that isnt registering with the experts even by mid-afternoon on election day. I hasten to add that, in damning the pollsters and the media, I include myself in the rear end of that pantomime horse. Usually, come early November in even years, your incisive analyst is predicting huge Republican victories on every front. The following week I slink back chastened to explain why my optimism did not prevail. This year, just for a change, I predicted doom and gloom for George W. Bush. And whaddayaknow? I was wrong again! Ive never been happier.
As Im sure youve heard a thousand times, traditionally in presidential off-years, the party that controls the White House loses seats in Congress an average of a couple of dozen or so. Until Tuesday, there have been just two exceptions to this rule: 1934 and 1998, in both of which the Dems bucked the trend, thanks respectively to the Depression and the GOPs perceived unhealthy fascination with Bill Clintons semen stains. George W. Bush is thus the first Republican president to preside over an amazing off-year double: his party increased its majority in the House of Representatives and took the Senate.
But historical precedents arent much use here: in recent years, both parties have so gerrymandered the House districts that theyre essentially one big incumbent-protection racket. Of 435 House seats, barely a dozen are genuinely competitive. It says something for how both parties have shut down the House districts that on Tuesday it was the Senate seats that were less predictable: Senate races are statewide and the wiliest party operatives havent figured out a way to redraw state lines to their advantage. So, in an odd way, the Senate is now more responsive to shifts in the mood of the general public than the House, and, by that measure, Tuesday was even worse news for the Democrats. All five open Republican seats stayed Republican. The GOP swiped Missouri from Jean Carnahan and Georgia from Max Cleland, a Vietnam vet and triple amputee who the media felt had been unfairly targeted by a campaign ad linking him to Osama bin Laden: Senator Cleland isnt a member of al-Qaeda, but he hasnt been as helpful as he might on the Homeland Security Bill. The Republicans lost a Senate seat in Arkansas, but only because their man dumped his wife for a staffer and, as mooted here last week, Mark Pryor, a pro-gun pro-Bible conservative Democrat, stole the state out from under the GOP sex fiend.
To complete the symmetry, the only other bad news for the Republicans was their single defeat in the House: hasta la vista to the most liberal Republican Representative, Marylands pro-abortion, anti-gun Connie Morella, who is, as CNNs Judy Woodruff put it, very well liked. By the media, that is. She did everything Republicans are always being advised by the media to do: abandon strident conservatism, move to the centre, close the gender gap by supporting a womans right to choose and opposing a gun nuts right to ammo, and lets cut to the chase vote with the Democrats. And in return the press hailed her for her conscience and principles. As a strident conservative myself, if I had to pick just one Republican to lose on Tuesday, Id have plumped for Connie.
The Democrat straw-clutching settled quickly on the governorships, where they won some big Midwestern states. But even those gains were offset by some big symbolic defeats. Georgia elected the first Republican governor in a century and a half. In hippy-dippy Vermont, the Republican came out ahead, though, under the states rules, he has to wait until January for the legislature to confirm him. In Maryland, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, JFKs niece, bombed: she attempted to link the sniper with the murder of her own father and use both as a justification for gun control, and even in a Democratic bastion that didnt play. Kennedy-wise, the torch hasnt been passed to a new generation; its been all but extinguished. Meanwhile, in California, the incumbent governor Gray Davis could barely manage to eke out the slimmest of victories over a Republican candidate whose own party openly dismissed as an inept buffoon.
At Democratic campaign HQ in Missouri, the band was playing Steve Allens great song This Could Be the Start of Something Big. But for the Democrats the theme of the night was: This Could Be the End of Something Small. The Dems ran a profoundly shallow campaign. They were fundamentally unserious on the great issues. On the economy, they railed against the Bush tax cut for the wealthiest 1 per cent but, asked whether they wanted to repeal it, they ran for cover. On the war, they dont support the President, but they dont quite have the guts to oppose him, either: in the immortal words of the hastily exhumed Walter Mondale in his only campaign debate, Dont worry about me and terrorism. Im against it.
The Democrats fell back on their old scare tactics about the mean old Republicans plans to stiff the sick, the old and the female on prescription drugs, Social Security and choice (abortion). It all sounded terribly retro, even in the mouths of candidates younger than the septuagenarian blasts from the past like Mondale. Theres a terrible dearth of talent on the Democrat benches: theyre stuck with second cousins and great-nieces of Kennedys; relicts of other deceased candidates, like the Widow Carnahan; wrinkly retreads like 78-year-old Frank Lautenberg, called in to save New Jersey after Bob (The Torch) Torricelli flamed out; and way too many Clintonistas, like Erskine Bowles (defeated in North Carolina) and the disastrous Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, who I fervently hope is not forced from office until at least the end of the decade. The McAuliffe Democrats stand for nothing. Whats their economic plan? What would they do about Iraq and the war on terror? They seem utterly incapable of rising to the challenge of the times. Their strategy of sending Bill Clinton and Al Gore out on the road to bitch and moan about the alleged injustices of two years ago seemed only to mire the party in its aging stars narcissistic irrelevance.
Meanwhile, the do-what-you-gotta-do philosophy of the McAuliffe crowd is making the party look just plain ugly: at Republican concession speeches, the bromides about congratulating the Democratic victor and urging everyone to get behind him in the best interests of our state were listened to respectfully; at Kathleen Kennedy Townsends concession speech in Maryland and Gray Daviss victory speech in California, the pro forma acknowledgments of their Republican opponents were greeted by boos. From the crowd. This was in keeping with what I think posterity will record as the defining moment of the campaign the grisly televised memorial service for the late Senator Wellstone held in the solemn cloisters of the basketball arena at the University of Minnesota at which fist-pumping mourners hissed Republican senators, and deranged activists publicly demanded that these alleged GOP friends of Paul demonstrate their loyalty by renouncing their parties and campaigning for his posthumous victory. To those watching at home, it looked like hidden-camera footage from inside a particularly insane cult. Its a commonplace, especially in Britain, to hear the religious Right referred to as a bunch of weirdos who are an embarrassment to the Republican party. Well, the Minnesota memorial gave us the religious Left: they dont believe in God, they believe in politics; the Democratic party is their church, Wellstone their latest martyr, and the campaign a crusade. They couldnt have been any freakier if theyd been speaking in tongues.
The media didnt seem to see anything wrong in the memorial attack-orgy, until they started getting word that regular Minnesotans had found it a turn-off. Maybe we dont just need some new Democratic candidates, but some new Democratic pundits, too. On the front page of Wednesdays New York Times, veteran Times bore R.W. (Johnny) Apple Jr turned in a masterpiece of patrician ennui in which the unprecedented Republican achievements, from New Hampshire to Hawaii, were passed off as lifeless and cheerless and evidence of the publics disenchantment and curious disconnection from the political system. Id say they were evidence of the Timess disenchantment and curious disconnection from reality: Apples analysis was almost as hilarious as his predictions of a Vietnam-style quagmire in Afghanistan a week before Kabul fell.
Speaking of which, at 7 p.m., the network correspondents reported that we were in for a long night here in the Granite States Senate race, where the Republican, John Sununu, was widely reported to be floundering. For McAuliffe and his operatives, it would have been a big symbolic victory a Democratic pick-up in the only state outside the big south-western L shape to vote for Bush. Instead, the last conservative state in the north-east returned solidly to the Republican camp, with a win for Sununu and even bigger GOP wins in the governors race, both Congressional districts, the State Senate and the New Hampshire General Court. In the national media, the analysts keep telling us that the Granite State is changing, its trending Democrat or independent or moderate. They peddle this line so relentlessly that, even driving around the state this last week through a blizzard of Sununu signs poking up from the first snowbanks of our long winter, I doubted the evidence of my own eyes and ears. Right now, we aint trending anything: were a solidly Republican state and, even weirder, weve got Republican governors in our sissy-boy border states of Vermont and Massachusetts.
So its Bushs triumph, and Republicans can spend the next few days with their feet up watching embittered Dems tear themselves apart. The only new star on the Democratic team is Jennifer Granholm, the telegenic new governor of Michigan. A couple of grateful Dem pundits started burbling about her as potential presidential material, or at least a vice-presidential nod in 04 or 08. Then they remembered: she was born in Vancouver, so shes ineligible. Id be in favour of amending the US Constitution to permit Canadians to serve as president, though Miss Granholm isnt necessarily the candidate I have in mind (ahem). If youve any better ideas, Im sure the Democrats would be grateful to hear em.
I'd like to tip my cap to the person who came up with the quote of the campaign, when he described the Wellstone memorial as "the cantina scene from Star Wars."
Since when did the DemocRATS care about the Constitution anyway?
This guy is absolutely priceless! Please continue to post his writings out here.I really enjoy his style,his clarity,his humor,his substance,his hammering of the demo-rats.....
L O L o l o lol ol oooo.....
Their confusion is understandable - after Floriduh and New Jersey, a itty-bitty detail such as a Constitutional requirement doesn't automatically occur to them...
And almost won 3 out of those 4 districts.
Ah, life is good.
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