The Myth of The Conservative Democratic Victory

Some conservatives are trying to rationalize their thumpin’ by saying it was a victory for conservative Democrats. Perhaps they also want to claim these are conservative Democrats so that they aren’t exposed as liars when a Democratic-run government isn’t as far left as they have been warning. Paul Waldman, writing in The Boston Globe, looks at the victors and finds that “the Democratic freshman class of the 110th Congress includes a few conservatives, but overall it is made up of candidates who held traditional Democratic positions.” While some moderates did win, Harold Ford, who was the “cover boy” for those claiming a Democratic move to the right wound up losing.

Waldman found many similarities between the Democratic winners:

All of them support increasing the minimum wage, and all oppose privatizing Social Security. Nearly all support embryonic stem cell research. All except a few are pro choice. And all of these positions enjoy majority support.

So Democrats didn’t win because they moved to the right or ran conservative candidates. Many of the more conservative Democrats who ran in red states actually ended up losing. Those who won did so by opposing President Bush, questioning the war in Iraq, and carrying the Democratic banner. It was Republicans who were afraid to put their party identification on their lawn signs and in their ads.

In one sense, although not the one they intended, those who call this a victory for moderate Democrats are right. While Republicans have been reduced to the far right, Democrats now make up the center. Waldman notes, “Democrats did not win by moving to the center; they won because at the moment, they are the center. According to exit polls, independents voted Democratic by 57 to 39 percent.”

Bush Hits New Low

There’s nothing like losing which makes you look like, well, a loser. After receiving a thumpin’ at the polls, Bush’s approval rating has reached a new low at 31% in the latest Newsweek poll. While Newsweek joins many others in downplaying the Democratic victory as a Republican loss, it is significant that a majority does support the Democratic agenda.

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Republican Support Among the Religious Falling

The Washington Post reports that Democrats won a bigger share of the religious vote:

As the results of the midterm elections sank in this week, religious leaders across the ideological spectrum found something they could agree on: The “God gap” in American politics has narrowed substantially.

Religious liberals contended that a concerted effort by Democrats since 2004 to appeal to people of faith had worked minor wonders, if not electoral miracles, in races across the country.

Religious conservatives disagreed, arguing that the Republican Party lost religious voters rather than the Democrats winning them.

Either way, the national exit polls told a dramatic story of changing views in the pews: Democrats recaptured the Catholic vote they had lost two years ago. They sliced the GOP’s advantage among weekly churchgoers to 12 percentage points, down from 18 points in 2004 congressional races and 22 points in the 2004 presidential contest. Democrats even siphoned off a portion of the Republican Party’s most loyal base, white evangelical Protestants.

Considering the diversity in religious people, I’m sure there are many reasons for this. Some are realizing that opposing gay marriage is not necessarily the best way to translate their religious beliefs into public policy. Others have seen the hypocrisy of the Republicans after recent scandals. The view of Republicans as compared to Democrats is certainly changing. A Beliefnet poll of Evangelical Christians showed that thirty percent voted for fewer Republicans than in the past and sixty percent said their view of Republicans has become less positive than in the past. While 52% felt that George Bush was a better Christian than Bill Clinton, about 46% rated them equal or considered Clinton the better Christian. Only 17% viewed Jerry Falwell favorably.

Some are minimizing these trends as Republicans still have the majority of the Evangelical vote. This erosion of support, however small, is significant to destroying the Rove strategy of mobilizing the extreme Republican base to obtain a narrow victory. The less votes the Republicans can achieve from the extremes, the more they need to look towards the center to attempt to win in the future.

Wesley Clark Considering 2008 Run

The 2008 horse race is really getting under way. So far we’ve seen moves by Vilsack and McCain. Today the Arkansas Times reports that “Gen. Wesley Clark is turning his attention toward deciding to run for president.” They say he’ll have a decision within the next two months:

Clark’s spokesman, Erick Mullen, said, “That’s true, but we don’t have a timeline for when a decision will be made just yet.”

Mullen added, “All options are on the table. Gen. Clark was the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s] number-one requested surrogate, especially in red states and swing states during this cycle. As we travel around, in places that other Democrats don’t go, there is a clamor and enthusiasm to see Gen. Clark serve in public again. Obviously, with the war and national security at the top of the agenda, Clark is well-suited to lead the country in a better direction than it’s going now.”