After Democrats Take the House, Then What?

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Who will win?

In the upcoming elections, the Republicans are slated to hold the Senate (2.5 to 1 favorites or 71.5 percent chance of winning). The House will go Democrat (2.21 to 1 favorites or 68.8 percent chance of winning). The Democrats even have a 57 percent chance of winning 20 House seats, which is 5 more than they need to gain control. Only some remarkable events between now and then will alter these results. (All odds are taken from Tradesports contracts.)

There are 36 elections for governor being held. Republicans will be victors in 14 states: Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont.

Democrats will take 22 states: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The Senate races will fall out as follows. GOP wins will occur in Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming. These are all currently Republican seats and all will be held.

Democrats will win in: California, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana*, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio*, Pennsylvania*, Rhode Island*, Virginia*, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The 5 states with asterisks are shifts from Republican to Democrat.

Lieberman will win Connecticut. Vermont goes to Sanders.

Missouri is too close to call.

The election’s implications

The beginning of the end for President Bush and his men is already underway. The polls tell us that. The official voices here and there that are willing to speak out against the Iraq War tell us that. The Democrat victory will hasten the downfall of the current crop of Republican leaders.

Sooner or later, all the rats will desert the sinking ship. People will start back-stabbing, blowing whistles, writing memoirs, pointing fingers, shifting blame, selling books, and testifying. Americans will be entertained for a few months and get some vindictive kicks. They will feel good at kicking the bums around or watching others do the kicking.

But will the basic system and directions alter significantly? Will Americans decide to retrench the American Empire? Will the welfare/warfare state be chopped down to size? Are Democrats about to alter America’s direction? The one-sided Congressional votes against Iran provide the answer. Will the Democrats propose to repeal sanctions against Iran? Asked and answered.

All it will take is one or a few terrorist incidents to restoke the misguided, misbegotten, and misconceived War on Terror. And actually it won’t even take that. The Democrats accept the War on Terror now. They just want to fight it their way. Meanwhile, Israel and its problems will re-surface in the headlines. Afghanistan and Iraq will still be here. The neocons will regroup. The pro-war press will counter-attack.

After Bush and his men fall and politicians milk his errors for every vote they can get, the American Empire will go back to business as usual.

Democrat hearings

The Democrats plan hearings on such matters as Cheney’s energy task force and the intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. They have very little to lose and much to gain by holding these hearings. They will not hold hearings merely to skewer Bush and his officials, although this will occur. They will want to be seen as progressive and they will not want to be seen as soft on terror. They will hold hearings aimed at specific legislation that they will sell as removing abuses or making the government work more effectively.

They will hold hearings on and a complete investigation of the conduct of the war in Iraq. A great many people and institutions are going to be embarrassed, tongue-lashed, and reprimanded. Great inadequacies of government and the military forces in the conduct of warfare will be spotlighted. Certain efficiency-seeking Congressmen will have their day in court. Afterwards the state will maintain its monopoly on warfare and its Constitutional protection to operate its wars in the most bloody and inefficient ways that it can.

Hearings may probably be held on domestic wiretapping. The House may go after the fat war-related contracts and the contractors used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The chances of impeachment go up, but the Democrats won’t impeach Bush unless they see clearly that it buys them votes in the 2008 elections and thereafter. Impeachment depends on what sorts of dirt or evidence the hearings bring up. The Democrats will keep their options open.

Democrat plans

The election will reinforce and maybe even accelerate the downtrend in the worst aspects of neoconservative power and policy influence, but it does not mean the termination of their policies.

The Democrats will not liquidate the American Empire. They did not do so under Clinton I, and if we get Clinton II we will simply see Empire in a different form. We will see some motion toward liquidating the blunders of the past few years and replacing our disastrous foreign policies with alternatives. But will these alternatives seriously change America’s direction?

The main change will be a shift in emphasis. Apart from trying to tone down Bush’s excesses in foreign policy, the change will be toward domestic policies, toward wealth redistribution, toward solidifying the welfare state, and toward action on divisive social issues such as stem-cell research. Tax rates for those with incomes above $250,000 a year will be raised if the Democrats have their way. Capital gains rates and estate taxes are up in the air. There will be action on revising the alternative minimum tax.

9/11 recommendations

Not widely known is that the Democrats want all of the recommendations of the 9/11 commission to be passed into law. They see an "unfinished agenda" here. By finishing it, they can claim they are not soft on terror and that the Republicans veered off in the wrong direction in Iraq. This can help them in 2008. This is a top item on their agenda.

The directions that this agenda will take are given in the 9/11 Public Discourse Project. They include a variety of attempts to make the government bureaucracies more efficient at providing domestic security. They include such measures as: supporting education programs for Muslim youth overseas, bringing more Muslim youth to the U.S. for education, spending more on overseas broadcasting, defining the U.S. message for democratic government better, standards for terrorist detention, multilateral terrorism strategy, greater assistance to Pakistan, long-term assistance to Afghanistan, implement the REAL ID act, a biometric entry-exit system, comprehensive screening system, more and better airline passenger screening, etc.

While here and there are slight glimmers of hope for improvement, such as making the overall intelligence budget public, this very conservative agenda calls for more of the same. It’s the Democrat chance to extend big government under the rubric of homeland security. One cannot expect from a major American party a significant directional shift away from government control. One can expect more government spending and control, and that’s what this initiative is all about.

Madame Speaker

Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker of the House. The House Democrats want to win the presidency in 2008, so they will try to project a legislative program that raises their chances of success. They will be chairing the committees. This gives them far greater opportunity to reach and shape public opinion.

The press reports that Democrats are planning a blitz of legislation. They want new rules concerning lobbyists and legislation. They want to raise the minimum wage immediately. They want to bring back the rule that any tax cut has to be paid for by a spending decrease.

Nancy Pelosi’s agenda is here. Her and the Democrats’ solution for the Iraq War looks like the same wine in a new bottle. She writes: "We propose transitioning the U.S. mission in Iraq to counter-terrorism, training, logistics and force protection; working with Iraqi leaders to disarm the militias and to develop a sustainable political settlement by amending their Constitution; convening an international conference to support a diplomatic and political settlement in Iraq to revitalize the stalled economic reconstruction and rebuilding effort; and beginning the phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq no latter than December 2006." This is far from a clear commitment to the American people to end American involvement quickly.

Moreover, our next Speaker promises "a full commitment to fighting terrorists in Afghanistan." Combine this with the 9/11 Public Discourse recommendations concerning greater funds for Pakistan to end terrorist training camps, and we then see the outlines of Democrat thinking on how to combat terrorism. It’s basically to sustain the war in Iraq while attempting to disengage while expanding the war in Afghanistan with the help of Pakistan.

So what will the elections mean? Very little. That is, they mean more of the same. Yes, there will be changes, but no major changes in America’s directions. Changing faces does not necessarily change policies or basic directions.

As usual, the differences between Democrats and Republicans are not great enough to launch any serious reform of America’s political system and the many ills accompanying it. If the two parties need new blueprints for reducing terrorism, they might search LRC for ideas. On the big issue of foreign war, they could look here for starters and go from there.

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is the Louis M. Jacobs Professor of Finance at University at Buffalo.

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