50-50 Nation, R.I.P.
1. The "50-50 Nation" we've heard about the past few years is dead. It's more like a 51-49 or 52-48 Nation -- but it's clear now who the 51 is and who the 49 is, and in Winner-Take-All America, that's all that matters. The GOP is the majority party, and Democrats gotta deal.
2. Despite some loud cries of denial you'll be hearing from Democratic ranks, the GOP majority isn't an anamoly caused by deceptions, big money, etc. A lot of it has to do with the final re-alignment of party ranks to better reflect two contrasting American worldviews, and it's been going on for decades. Congress actually reflects this better than the White House -- this was the year Democrats finally lost their final vestigial Southern seats traceable to the Solid South days, and this year the Northern Plains showed that It's Next.
In a sense, this should be more disturbing for the Democratic Left (as opposed to those poor centrists, who cling to their seats in the Plains and South and pray the national party doesn't pay too much attention to them) than 2000, when shenanigan suspicions could be argued quite persuasively. This election was won by the GOP fair-and-square. Plenty of people could learn about WMD failures, and the left lost. Plenty of people could watch "Fahrenheit 911," and the left lost. Plenty of money was spent -- the left threw every resource it had into this ... and lost. And where does it pick up new voters, as larger and larger swaths of America turn red? If the Democratic Party doesn't figure out how to either appeal to the honest views of Republican constituencies, the losses will mount -- because who are the Dems running against Giuliani in '08?
3. It's the military, stupid. I was watching some campaign commercials from '68 and '72 a couple days ago, and it made me think of the '60s in a way that may be applicable to what happened in '04. Many people thought campaigns would be more competitive this year because of perceptions of failure in Iraq. But even in 1968 and 1972 -- years when the Vietnam situation looked exponentially worse than Iraq does now, dovish candidates (including '72 House candidate John Kerry) consistently lost races, and lost big. Moderate American voters don't ever want to feel like they're voting against their troops. John Kerry was never able to make many voters feel like he was the soldiers' choice (polls showed he wasn't), and that makes a lot of voters uneasy. That's a reality of American politics. Period.
4. Shakespeare once said something like "First, let's kill all the lawyers." The lawyers were actually pretty benign this time. Let's kill all the pollsters. Really -- is anything becoming more destructive than all the misleading polls and the follow-on media stories that take precious print space and air time from issues stories? Polls are the crack cocaine of politicians and journalists, and the cycle must be stopped.
A few thoughts, just sorta stream-of-consciousnessed out. There will be more, they evolve, and I make no claims that they represent some Truth or Answer. Please share your own ... that's how we learn on Ozblog. But here's the most important thing to remember. This was a divisive election, but the outcome's clear. From this, everyone can go forward. If you're a Republican, congratulations -- you've stuck through some pretty tough criticism, things haven't worked out in the world the way you would have liked, but the voters are standing behind your basic values, and that's what gives you the right to go forward leading America. If you're a Democrat, there's plenty of reason to be down, but there's plenty to be optimistic about too. Being the 49 in the 51-49 nation is frustrating, but it's not far from tilting the other way, and pendulums swing -- sooner rather than later, if you're smart about it.
In the meantime, The Republic Will Survive -- in fact, it will prosper. As a journalist I hesitate in expressing opinion, this entry being a thinking-aloud exception. But I never shy away from this opinion -- that the American system of democracy, for its quirks and quibbles, is and remains the source of what has for two centuries been the world's greatest source for good. The system works. It works now, and it will work out in the end. And it's an honor to be a part of it.