The Electoral Breakwater Posted by: Dale Franks
on Monday, February 20, 2006
George Will notes that, despite the optimism with which Democrats are regarding this year's Congressional elections, the Democrats have eagerly helped Republicans create an electoral breakwater that will be hard for Democrats to overcome.
The breakwater has three components—gerrymandering, campaign-finance "reforms" and the particular form of profligacy known as earmarks. In state after state, redistricting after the 2000 Census proved that bipartisanship—ritually praised, rarely practiced—is often overrated. Democrats and Republicans collaborated in drawing congressional districts that would protect incumbents of both parties. Campaign-finance "reforms," which make raising money more difficult, are written by incumbents and work to the advantage of... well, take a wild guess. Here is a hint: In the last two election cycles, 98 percent of incumbents seeking re-election won. The explosive and utterly bipartisan growth of earmarks—federal spending directed by individual legislators to specific projects—is yet another advantage incumbents have as they toil to get rid of that offensive 2 percent.
Congressional politics has become little more than an incumbent-protection racket. Which is a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to a minority party trying to regain control. Having secured their own jobs, Democrats now face the problem of dealing with the fact that they've protected Republican seats just as securely as well.
Still, there's always a chance...
For Democrats to gain, say, 20 seats, they would almost have to run the table of the at most 35 seats currently considered competitive. And if they do, they will have a five-seat majority, the smallest for either party since 1952. That will make it difficult to accomplish anything, so control of the House will only make Democrats look impotent—and complicit in whatever is displeasing people about Washington in 2008.
So, Democrats would have to run the table to get a majority back. And, with such a small majority, accomplishing anything will be difficult, to say the least.
Which, now that I think about it, doesn't sound like a bad outcome at all.
Which is not to say the Democrats won't try to accomplsh something.
Who then will control the Democrats' crazies? Give those guys committee gavels, and they will be as manic about investigating the Bush administration as Republicans were about investigating the Clinton administration. (Do you remember Whitewater? Can you say anything about what was at issue?) Furthermore, there might be a noisy and not negligible cohort pushing for impeachment of President Bush for such high crimes and misdemeanors as the premise of the war with Iraq and the presence of Dick Cheney. Short-term memory loss being a bipartisan affliction, Democrats probably would not remember that the public was so annoyed by Republican attempts to impeach Bill Clinton for his glandular excesses, Democrats actually gained House seats in the first post-Monica election.
Heh. That's what you call your self-solving problem. And, despite all the talk of impeachment, at the end of the day, even if it happens, it'll be a complete waste of time, since there's absolutely no chance that an impeachment conviction can be obtained in a Senate with 50+ Republican members.
I do like the idea of a gridlocked government, at least in theory. But gridlock has its own dangers as well. For instance, the cost of Social Security and Medicare is puffing up like a tick. Gridlocked government won't be able to address that problem , or move forward on a y type of reform.
Where was gridlock when we needed it in the 1960s and 1970s?