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Why November 2004 looks great
By Bruce Walker
In January of this year, I wrote an article for entitled "Why November 2002 Looks Great." It makes the following predictions:
"Republicans will retake the Senate (Bush wants that, and anyone fool enough to see that he is a formidable opponent are (sic) not paying attention) and probably increase the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. The state government results will be mixed, as it always is (sic), but Republicans - not Democrats - will be able to claim a more or less clean victory in early November 2002."
This prediction was intended as a counterpoint to the gloominess which followed Republican defeats in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races in November 2001, which prompted many official worriers to speculate that the Bush presidency was in big trouble. November 5, 2002 showed any concern about Republican political fortunes was silly. Republicans captured the Senate, increased their majority in the House, and although state government elections were mixed, Republicans had a more or less clean victory at that level as well.
Stopping Democrats from once again engaging in gross gerrymandering of congressional districts produced, as I had predicted, a net gain of half a dozen or so House seats. Equally important, November 2002 was the first election in the lifetime of most Americans in which state legislative districts were not twisted into strange creatures configured to insure the election of as many Democrat state legislators as possible, and November 5, 2002 saw, for the first time in the lifetime of most Americans, Republicans hold a clear majority of state legislative chambers and a majority of state legislators. As Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures said in that organization's new release two days after the election:
"There is zero doubt in my mind that redistricting was the key factor in making majorities vulnerable in these states. Most of the chambers that switched party control occurred in states where redistricting plans were drawn by a commission or a court. Redistricting and term limits were especially significant in the Missouri House elections." (where Republicans gained the Missouri House for the first time in half a century).
The only reason that the Republican victories at the state level were only a "more or less clean victory" was because Republican lost governorships in the large states of Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin (all of which my article predicted) and ended up with twenty-six governorships or one less than before the election. But a majority of the governors - against every single prediction! - remained Republican. Expected Democrat wins were offset by unexpected Republican victories in states like Maryland, Rhode Island, Georgia, Vermont and Minnesota.
What about 2004? Well, before we reach the presidential election there will be an off year election in November 2003. In 1999, the off year election before the last presidential election, Democrats held on to the Kentucky governorship and gained the Mississippi governorship. This time, however, Republicans will win both of these races.
The return of Trent Lott as Majority Leader of the Senate and the bad taste still left by the Democrat ill-treatment of Judge Pickering will cost the Democrats the Mississippi gubernatorial race. The corruption of Governor Patton in Kentucky, along with the near sweep of the South by Republicans will enable Republicans to win that gubernatorial race as well. Going into the 2004 Presidential Election, Republicans will have at least 28 governors - more than before the November 2002 elections.
What else will happen before the 2002 elections? Significant numbers of Democrats in Congress will see that they will not be in the majority party for years. Many will retire, and several will become Republicans. Two Democrat senators and six Democrat congressmen did this after the 1994 Republican landslide, and the 2002 victory looks much more durable than the 1994 victory had looked.
During the primary season, President Bush will face no opposition at all. Never, perhaps, has the Republican Party been so united behind a single man. Democrats, by contrast, ought to have the most bitter and raucous infighting since 1972. The odious anti-Semitism of some black politicians will be wrongly perceived as racial discrimination if other Democrats condemn it, but failure to condemn the absurd charges of pols like Cynthia McKinney will not just cost Democrats crucial Jewish support, but also alienate other Democrats as well.
Writing off the South could easily lead to some southerner (Zell...please?) to seek the Democrat nomination, and such a candidate - particularly where Republicans can crossover and vote Democrat - could enter the Democrat Convention with as many delegates as George Wallace had in 1972.
The kookiness of Democrats today also looks increasingly like the Democrats of 1972. When Hillary stands on the floor of the Senate and questions whether President Bush knew about September 11th before the fact, that shows normal America pure paranoia. National Security will be an issue in 2004, just as it was in 1972, and Republicans will trounce Democrats on that issue.
Indeed, 2004 may be a presidential landslide very much like 1972. But there will be a few big differences. George W. Bush is correctly perceived as a decent and likeable man. He also grasps the importance of political victories. Nixon in 1972 did little, if anything, to help Republicans win other races. Carrying every state was what mattered to him. There is every reason to believe that the much more confident and comfortable President Bush will see that the difference between his winning 325 electoral votes and winning 435 electoral votes is much less important that beefing up Republican majorities in Congress, and encouraging conservative Democrats to publicly support his policies.
What will happen in the 2004 election? I predict this: President Bush will carry every state in the South, every state in the Great Plains from North Dakota and Minnesota south to Oklahoma and Missouri, every Rocky Mountain state, and these other states: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Oregon and Alaska. Republicans will win senate seats in South Carolina, North Carolina, Nevada and New York and will push hard in Indiana and Wisconsin. The House of Representatives will have a few more Republicans, and Republican candidates will capture the governorships of Missouri, Indiana and North Carolina.
November 2004 looks like the best election for Republicans in about one hundred years, and the defeat for Democrats will be so clear that entirely new political parties may arise from the ashes. Thirty years ago, Democrats abdicated any pretense of believing what Americans believed, and they focused instead upon a combination of machine politics raised to the national level (e.g. New Jersey switcheroo) and "the politics of personal destruction."
Nothing has worked, and now nothing can work for Democrats - Clinton has sullied them beyond repair. The future of American politics has profoundly changed as a result. Perhaps, as our Founding Fathers intended, political parties themselves may fade away as well, and politics will return to the role which it should have in our lives - a minor concern related to a small and unobtrusive government. Stranger things have happened.
Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.
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