Mark Schmitt is a senior fellow and advisor to the president at the Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank affiliated with the FDR Library. He is a former executive editor of The American Prospect.
GO AHEAD, CALL THEM CONSERVATIVE DEMS. WHY SHOULD WE CARE?Unlike Tom Schaller, I have to admit, I wasn�t bothered at all by the spin that the Democrats won because they embraced a lot of candidates with conservative views and backgrounds. Now Tom�s a political scientist, so he has to be concerned with empirical truth and all that stuff (didn�t Karl Rove get rid of that?), and as a matter of truth, he and the legendary political researcher Dennis Yedwab are of course right: the bulk of the Democratic majority came from Northeast, Midwest and Mountain seats where the winners were not conservative.
THE SENATE OF THE FUTURE. If the Democrats fall short of control of the Senate tonight or after a Virginia recount, or even if they hold only a one seat margin, begin to familarize yourself with the list at this link.
INVESTIGATE OR GOVERN! I have no appetite for making election outcome predictions, but one thing that I foresee with certainty is that if the Democrats win anything tonight, the spin over the next few days will be, to quote the Republican I appeared against on the BBC last night: "If the Democrats want to spend the next two years investigating everything, they can forget any hope of winning the presidency in 2008. If they want to work with President Bush and govern, then there's some hope for them."
THE RETURN TO NORMALCY. Here's a brief attempt at a grand unified theory of Tuesday's election:
Think of the Republican Party as caught in the middle of an attempt to retreat back to a state of normal or equilibrium politics, after creating and exploiting a singularity, an unsustainable period of polarization around huge ideological questions and ultra-high-risk political tactics.
If you need a baseball metaphor, think of a baserunner who stole second, thought he could steal third, and is now scrambling to get back ahead of the throw. If you need a financial metaphor, it's a hedge fund frantically trying to unwind its positions before they become worthless -- in effect, the last days of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998.
The crowning disgrace of this country's five-year experiment with one-party Republican rule was surely the passage of a bill on September 29 that sanctioned abusive treatment of prisoners in the "war on terror," banned habeas corpus claims for those identified
as "enemy combatants," and allowed the president to place that designation on anyone, including U.S. citizens.