Analysing elections on both sides of the pond

George Bush has admitted that the Republicans received a “thumping” in the mid-term elections and many are starting to think that the Democrats
could take the Presidency in two years time. If it were Hillary, the presidential roll call would be: Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton. But before we get carried away with this we could analyse the figures and analysis I have just picked up from a seminar with a “Senior Administration Official.”

First, such mid-term losses are the norm, are known as the 6 year itch and have caused problems for most Presidents.

The Senior Administration Official says that the Conservative base was as reliable as the Democrats’ base in turning out but that the battles were lost with the independents. He maintains that 16 of the congressional losses for the republicans were because ten of them were tainted by corruption – what he admitted was a discipline issue – and that the other six were insufficiently engaged in getting out the vote.

The margins were also pretty narrow. In 23 congressional races there were less than 5,000 votes in it and 77,000 out of 71 million voters altered the result. He is clearly keen to argue from this that the Republicans can retrieve their voters.

He noted that the fastest growing section of the population is Hispanic and that the Republicans have to win them over. He also maintains that the elephant in the room – Iraq – is an asset if it seen as a part of the General War on Terror but if it is seen as self-standing it benefits the Democrats. Naturally, he then argues that the vagueness of the Democrats’ policy platform and the divisions between the older generation (like several senators with 200 years service between them) and the “netroots” Democrats (like Howard Dean) will be their come-uppance. We will see.

He also conceded that an incumbent is saddled with a “sensationalist” 24/7 media which promotes moral relativism.

It was a useful if partisan analysis. I would only add that it is a shame, as Martin Kettle recently pointed out in the Guardian, that most analysts are more au fait with the American political scene than say that of France. He wrote: “…the political class devoured every available detail about the American elections. Results from across the Atlantic were reported and analysed with barely less attention than our own general elections. Thousands of words were expended examining the implications for the 2008 presidential race and on assessing the impact on British interests.

As a participant, I have absolutely no problem with that. Yet, for all its power, America remains in many respects a faraway country of which we know less than we think. France, by contrast, remains a potent nearby country of which we know more than we imagine. And unless we can muster something approaching the same degree of serious attention to the hugely significant French presidential contest of 2007, all that coverage from Missouri and Montana is going to look politically escapist and even somewhat delusional.”

But I note that one Labour MP Sharon Hodgson has tabled a Commons motion which “warmly congratulates Segolene Royal on being decisively elected by party members as the first mainstream, and first ever French Socialist, female party candidate for the French Presidency; believes that her victory is an important sign of positive change in both her party and French society which only gave women the vote in 1944; and notes that if she wins the presidency she will be the first female ruler of France since Catherine de Medici.”

  • McGrath

    Moderate republicanism is on the agenda…..

  • A must buy for the Holidays

    Anatol Lieven, America Right or Wrong, An Anatomy of American Nationalism.

    “America keeps a fine house.” Anatol Lieven writes, “but in its cellar there lives a demon, whose name is nationalism.”

    Periods of intense nationalism, such as the panic leading to the passage of the Aliens and Sedition Act in the 1790’s, the Know-Nothings of the 1840’s, the anti German hysteria of World War I, the Anti-Japanese chauvinism of World War II and McCarthyism in the 1950’s, have been followed by a return to a more tolerant and pluralist equilibrium.

    Chauvinist and bellicose nationalism, although always present, has not become the U.S. norm and has not led to democratic institutions being replaced by authoritarian ones.

    Moreover, imperialist tendencies in the United States have been retrained by the belief, stemming from the Creed, that America does not have and should not have an empire: as well as by isolationism and an unwillingness to make the sacrifices required to have an empire.

    Given the power of the American Creed in American society, there are good grounds to hope that this self-correcting mechanism will continue to operate in future.

    The results of the 2006 American mid-term Congressional elections clearly show the American people’s desire that the Demon of American Nationalism is sent back to the cellar, for now.

    However, as the results were closer and those Democrats elected, were so on a centralist conservative platform, we can take this to mean the American people give the American Creed a lukewarm endorsement. By this the American people want the “Gallop to the centre” to take place from both Republicans and Democrats.

    However, there are grounds for concern that in the future this self-correcting mechanism may fail, and America be drawn in a more and more chauvinist direction. The reason for this can be summed up by saying that in the past, the United States went out to shape the world, while being itself protected from the world. Militarily, it was protected by the oceans.

    Economically, it was protected by the immense strength and dominance of the American economy. Hence in no small part the unique American combination of power, omnipresence, idealism, innocence and ignorance vi-a-vis the rest of humanity.

    This happy situation is no longer the case. The first change is obviously that like most other countries in the Twenty-first century, the American Heartland is now at real risk of terrible attack in a way with no precedent since the French-backed Indian menace disappeared after 1763.

    A monstrous terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland has now occurred, 9/11. It whipped aspects of American nationalism to fury, and this fury was then directed by a U.S. administration against quite different targets.

    If attacks like 9/11 are repeated, chauvinist nationalism may become a permanently dominant feature of the United States, (the Demon being bought up from the cellar permanently), with everything that this would mean for the country’s international behavior, for the prestige of the American system in the world and indeed for the American system at home.

    If, as seems all too likely, more such attacks do occur, the mood of the American population will certainly revert back towards the American Nationalism Demon in the cellar and create a permanent state of siege and atmosphere of war, with civil liberties restricted and chauvinist politicians fishing assiduously for opportunities in the stew.

    With the American economy doing well, the Dow Jones hitting records, job growth is still there, the war in Iraq, although a polarizing factor, is only causing relatively low American casualties, compared to other wars, the American people showed by their rejection of the Demon front and centre, they prefer the Demon to lurk in the background, meeting the American Creed in the middle ground.

    To be continued….

  • It will be interesting to see how Democrats would react to another major attack inside America, now they are in control of both Congress and the Senate?
    Would they fall prey to the Demon in the cellar, whose name is American Nationalism?

    Using the Lieven analysis I think Democrats may prove to be more enthusiastic about bringing out the Demon in the cellar, sweeping up the entire centre and centre right political ground, outflanking Republicans in the run up to the 2008 Presidential race, which is an “Open” race, no incumbent President.

    To back this up I will quote Samuel. P. Huntington from an interview he gave the New York Times May 2nd 2004.

    What else is there besides people?

    There is what people believe, what their assumptions are. I am concerned about the degree to which people — whatever their color — believe in the American creed and accept American values.

    What political party do you belong to?

    I’m an old-fashioned Democrat. I was dead-set against us going into Iraq.

    Will you vote for Kerry, then?
    Oh, yeah. I’ve met him several times. He lives a few blocks away from me on Beacon Hill.

    How can you reconcile being a Democrat with your views on immigration and assimilation?

    Actually, both parties are divided on immigration. And as a scholar I have a responsibility to study society and try to call people’s attention to things they might not welcome looking at.

    Perhaps, Anatol Lieven’s “Demon in the cellar, whose name is American Nationalism”

  • Irish in America

    Midterm losses like THIS one are NOT the norm. That’s spin

    Iraq is not an asset for the GOP at all. In fact, Iraq, pocketbook issues and Corruption lost them the election.

    The “division” between the older generation and the netroots? What division? The GOP prays that there’s a division.

  • Irish in America

    “Senior Government Official” sounds awfully like Karl Rove. He may be the biggest loser of the 2006 election.

  • Yours, etc.

    Oh would some power the gifties gie us to see ourselves as others see us.

    Always interesting to read analyses such as these.