Every election season, various pundits and politicians declare the upcoming contest to be the most important one of our lifetime. The very future of the universe, they claim, hangs in the balance. But given the enormous inertia of American statism and the fuzzy distinctions between the major parties, that assertion is usually pure hyperbole. No matter which side wins, the erosion of our liberties and the growth of government continue more or less unabated.
Nevertheless, in the particular instance of the upcoming 2006 midterm elections, I think this cliché is spot-on. In all probability, the Republicans will suffer a crushing defeat this November, most likely including the loss of at least one house of congress.
Before I get reams of nasty email from those unhappy with this forecast, let me make one point absolutely clear: Predicting that the Republicans will lose is not the same thing as believing that the Democrats deserve to win. The Democratic Party has inflicted unconscionable damage on our republic. Their history is replete with militarism, statism, and socialism. They lied us into WW I, WW II, Korea, and Vietnam. They’ve been indefatigable in their promotion of ever-bigger government. They’ve overseen the creation of several gargantuan and unsustainable entitlement programs, and they’ve inflicted the plague of mindless political correctness on our culture. The Democrats are, in short, a pack of shameless, government-worshipping charlatans.
That said, due to the realities of our two-party political system, the only way the Republicans can lose is if the Democrats win, and numerous facts surrounding the upcoming election point to a decisive Democratic victory.
I base my prediction on three assertions:
#1 The American people will demand accountability
If the neocons should win this election and retain control of congress, it would set an appalling precedent for future generations. The administration engaged in a conscious policy of lies and deception designed to fool the American people into supporting their wars. They stoked the people’s fears and manipulated us in the most cynical ways. These wars have left much of the Middle East a smoking ruin and have caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people. In the process, the neocons have run our nation to the brink of bankruptcy and have soiled our reputation before the rest of the world. And if that were not enough, they have exploited the situation to enrich themselves and to gut the Constitution with a myriad of shady policies and programs (e.g., NSA email monitoring, extra-judicial wiretaps, torture, renditions, etc.).
It is inconceivable that they could get away with this, that there should not be a day of reckoning. It is unimaginable that they should maintain control of the government and win yet another election.
The American people, for history’s sake, will issue a verdict from the court of poetic justice. They will hand the Republicans a crushing defeat this November. To do otherwise would be to reward the neocons’ schemes and set a horrifying example for future generations of aspiring demagogues.
#2 The virtues of divided government
Describing the Republicans and the Democrats as political parties is somewhat of a misnomer, since it implies that they harbor some sort of transcendent philosophy that guides them in their policies and programs.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Republicans and Democrats are actually more like carrion birds, like two vultures fighting over the eyeball of a dead wildebeest. They serve as bagmen for two antagonistic sets of special interest groups. Their sole purpose is to wrest control of the government’s machinery from the opposite party so as to siphon as much money as possible into the pockets of their patrons.
When viewed from this perspective, it becomes obvious why divided government works better than one-party rule. During the 1990s, when Clinton was president and the Republicans ran congress, the growth of government spending was much slower than it has been in the era of Republican dominance (despite their alleged belief in small government and fiscal conservatism). Over the past several years, the Republicans have embarked on a feeding frenzy of pork-barrel spending, no-bid contracts, and outright fraud. They’ve used their power to suppress investigations of malfeasance, undermine the Constitution and give free reign to the necons’ irresponsible foreign policy.
Since these excesses are becoming more apparent, even to mainstream conservatives, I believe that the voters will return to their preference for divided government this November.
#3 Apocalypse now
As unimaginable as it might sound, it’s looking more and more like the neocons are planning to attack Iran sometime after the next election. Yes, our military is overstretched. Yes, we’re losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, we’re heading over a financial cliff. Yes, we were cynically manipulated into the last war. And yes, public opinion has turned decisively against the Iraq occupation.
But President Bush is, by all accounts, in the grips of a messianic dream in which he stars as the new Winston Churchill. He is the savior who will one day be proven right. He is willing to endure vilification (or, given his messiah complex, even enjoy it) as the personal price of saving the world from a nuclear Iran.
The consequences of such an attack would be catastrophic. The Middle East would explode. Our soldiers in Iraq would be engulfed in a massive Shia uprising. Hezbollah would enter the conflict by attacking Israel. Iran would aid the rebels in Afghanistan. The Persian Gulf’s oil could be blocked from the marketplace, causing a cataclysmic spike in oil prices.
There is no sane reason why Iran’s nuclear program should threaten us or prompt us to attack them. Iran is wedged between several nations with more powerful militaries than itself (such as Russia and Turkey). Nuclear-armed Israel and Pakistan are close-by as well.
This issue is simply none of our business, and we’re in no position to fight Iran even if it were. The American people are growing weary of endless war in the Middle East, and they’ll conclude that only a Democratic victory in November has any chance of stopping it. A Democratic House or Senate might launch ugly and contentious investigations into the events surrounding the Iraq War. They could expose the neocons’ lies and the propaganda campaigns, which might even lead to the indictment of a few of the more loathsome villains.
If this happened, it might…might…stop the administration’s march to war against Iran.
In many ways, our republic stands at an historic crossroads. I do not claim that a Democratic victory would signal a return to limited government or a saner foreign policy. Rather, I predict the people will decide that a government divided between two warring parties would freeze the system and avoid some of the nastier excesses of single-party rule.
That is not exactly the same thing as having a government committed to individual rights and the rule of law, but it offers a hope that I believe voters will seize decisively come Election Day.