The Meaning of November 7, 2006
Political journalist Fred Bayles on what happened Tuesday, and what’s next
Politically speaking, America turned a bit more blue on November 7.
Reversing a 12-year losing trend, the Democratic Party swept into the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, with Democratic challengers wresting control of at least 28 House districts from Republicans, and picking up six additional seats in the Senate.
Democrats also nabbed six governorships from the GOP, including that of
Heavy voter turnout was reported across the country. Political analysts say discontent with President Bush and the continuing war in
To help make sense of the election outcome and the resulting political power shift, nationally and in
BU Today: What does it mean for the Democratic Party, legislatively and in the next campaign for president, that many of its new seats in the House were won by socially conservative candidates?
Fred Bayles: I’d avoid making a generalization that the winning Democrats were all social conservatives. Some were wild-eyed liberals. In general, though, what you found was a lot of musical chairs played by the moderates in both parties — people like Johnson in
There is nothing new here. American politics has a long history of self-adjustment. What we saw was a coming to center of the Democratic Party in response to its days of wandering in the desert. The thing to watch now is whether this is a long-term power shift that will cause the Republicans to rethink their conservative agenda.
What sorts of issues and legislation do you predict will come in the next two years from this power shift in Congress?
Most pundits see a move toward a minimum wage increase, something that some Republicans would vote for. The Democrats will also want to adjust the Medicare Part B prescription drug plan by forcing the drug companies to offer discounts to the government. That was forbidden in the original, Republican plan. You probably will see an attempt to bring back a comprehensive immigration policy — the guest worker and citizenship path that the Democrats and Bush seemed close to agreement on this year. The Republican hardliners in the House don’t have the power to kill it under the new Congress.
Also look for a number of oversight committees and hearings looking into waste and fraud in
With the new power alignments in Congress, do you think we’ll see more bipartisanship over the next two years, or more gridlock?
It could go either way, but I’m leaning more on the bipartisan model. The folks in Congress should see this election for what it was — dissatisfaction with the incumbents that was supercharged by the perceived bumbling of the administration on
In every recent election, it seems like analysts name a group of people who came out to the polls in big numbers and made a big impact on the elections … from Reagan Democrats to soccer moms to security moms. Who might be that group this time around?
Not to be coy, but “pissed-off people” might be the honest phrase. I don’t put too much stock in these cute phrases. The exit polls suggest the dissatisfaction with the president and Congress was across the board. More married women voted Democrat than they did in the last election; so did married men.
Do you think the Republican Party or Republican candidates will now make any shifts in their election strategies in 2008?
It will depend on how well they read their base. There are lots of very conservative districts that will want to see a conservative candidate. There are also some once-conservative districts that are being suburbanized and therefore are more moderate. So tone will depend on the geography. As far as issues go, 2008 is a long, long way off.
There was a lot of talk about how displeasure over the war in
What would you say was the biggest reason for Deval Patrick’s landslide victory over Kerry Healey?
Patrick is a new face with a terrific campaign presence. He isn’t from the old tired stable of Democratic candidates. He offered different groups, including the liberal Democrats, a post to rally around. Healey waited too long to establish her own persona. For many, she was that lady who put out all those scary ads and who was always standing in the background when Governor Romney had something to say.
Kerry Healey was heavily criticized for her negative campaigning in her run for
Perhaps in this state. You have to remember,