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May 23, 2006


and now I guess I'm going to that special part of Hell reserved for people who use baseball as a metaphor for politics.

'pockets, I'm a Yankees fan. The trouble with Red Sox Nation is that they're sore winners. You need to get used to the feeling. ;-)

Fineman, the weathervane:

When George W. Bush stood on the pile of rubble in New York City, many of us thought—or hoped—that we were witnessing a man growing into leadership right before our eyes. And for a while it seemed that way. After all, earlier in his life he had exhibited the ability to grow and change, jettisoning the drinking life, taking seriously the political heritage that the Bush name bestowed upon him.

But the personal pattern has not become the political one, at least not so far. Politically, philosophically, operationally, he is the same man today he was on Sept. 10, 2001. He made one of the biggest calls any president has ever made: the decision to take us to war in Iraq. Americans have concluded that it was the wrong call, not because we haven’t built a democracy there, but because the blood and treasure spent have not demonstrably made us safer here.

Consistency in a violently changing world can be a good thing. Voters have concluded that it is not.

The way things now appear, the Democrats have a good shot at taking back at least one chamber of Congress, perhaps both—if for no other reason than that the president and the Republicans in Congress are so sulfurously unpopular. But Democrats should be careful what they wish for. Perhaps they’ll win the political equivalent of “American Idol.” But will they have real leaders to accept the award?

I've been a Red Sox fan my whole life. 1986 almost killed me. So I know what you are talking about. But I think you are missing something important about Red Sox Nation: We ALWAYS hope. Even as we insult and dismiss our team, even as we roll our eyes and sigh, even as we have The Conversation with our children explaining what it means to be a fan of this great, tragic team -- as that great film on the Sox put it, still we believe. We believe we can win, even though we always lose. And, everyonce in a while, we are proved right.

So its not a choice. Whether you are a sox fan or a progressive, you really have no choice. You believe.

My nephew and I have a rule in golf that applies to politics. God punishes those who celebrate prematurely. Let's wait and celebrate victory. We haven't already won until we actually win something.

superstitious nonsense ;-)

the Other Side celebrated prematurely and won last time. There's no magic about it. It doesn't affect outcome, only our own mood.

I am very sorry, but since emptypockets is a regular contributor to FDL, I come here when I cannot get onto the site.

This morning I can reach the site, but it is in a brand new format and I cannot reach the comments section. If I click on comments, it gives me the whole post by Christy but not comments. Very Wierd.

Could someone tell me if this is just me? It must be because obviously there are comments and others are talking.

O.K. I am being a bit of a WATB, but I cannot read FDL, waaaaaaah...

DemFromCT: a-ha. I knew there was something fishy about you

MonkeyDog: well put. In fact that is what makes the Sox fun, the dynamic tension of hope and dread. But that's also where the baseball-politics thing falls apart... because when the Sox choke we don't have to live with it every day for two (or four) years, and nobody gets killed (usually -- although they say Buckner was so depressed in 1986 he tried to kill himself by jumping in front of a bus... and it went right through his legs.)

KnightErrant: that's basically where I am, I think. I'm starting to get caught up in others' bright outlook, and they do have good reasons, but I won't really be excited about the November elections until they're over. I hope.

GrandmaJ: wrong empty (you're looking for emptywheel) but I'm sure she or someone else here can help if that site doesn't fix itself soon...

The Republicans have one shot at avoiding defeat--making Dems look like a worse alternative. Unfortunately, that's precisely the kind of campaign in which they are experts. Stock up on soap. This is going to be a very ugly, dirty six months.

emptypockets, I really like the post. FDL does great work on the Vichy Dems, Liebermann and Schumer are two of the worst imo. The battle to November isn't simply to elect Vichy Dems, it's to move the political debate away from the extremes of the neocons.
Real Dems (not Dino's) lose leverage, if we win only one house in November. We won't be able to get anything done and we'll get blamed for everything in 2008. If we win both houses, in November, 2008 will be a referendum on how we've done.
FWIW, Abraham Lincoln fired General George Meade right after his victory over Lee at Gettysburg (1863). As great a victory as Gettysburg really was, the Civil War could have been over a lot sooner, if Meade had pursued Lee's Army south.
Opportunities such as we have now for real Congressional change come very rarely. We have to win BOTH houses in November with real Democrats, imo.

I continue to worry about what I think of as the "national gerrymander." As in many other areas of our lives, the technological capacity to reduce the little areas of freedom and friction has been VERY successfully applied to current electoral boundaries. Maybe I am over-fearing this because of seeing what we have in California, but smart guys with good data can draw what amount to completely incumbent-safe districts these days. And here, they have. I was hired by some consultants in 2002 to study the implications of the new districts; the lock down is very complete.

It took sending Duke Cunningham all the way to jail to shake that district up. Mimikatz, I sure hope you are right that Pombo is vulnerable, but I don't see it yet.

Winning the gerrymandered districts will take more than revulsion from the Republicans. It will require ordinary people to want a different kind of government than they have been getting -- and then the ability of Democrats to deliver it. I don't see us quite there yet.

But I guess I am somewhat hopeful. I've begun trying to prepare people around the blogs for disillusionment should they ever get Democrats in positions of some power -- to prepare people to understand that changing the faces won't get them a better government unless they keep pushing. That's my optimism.

Remember to the Greeks, the fact that Hope escaped from Pandora's box was a curse, because people would always be disappointed.

But that is only true if we become overly invested in positive expectations. The same can happen with negative expectations. The important thing is seeing clearly, not letting expectations cloud our ability to appraise the battlefield accurately and make informed, correct choices. Understand your own temperament, whether you are prone to be too defeatist or to set yourself up for disappointment, and adjust accordingly.

There's no point in not admitting that the Dems have a real chance here, and that a lot rides on making the right pitch to the voters--that is, one based on conviction and a belief in politics as a way to advance the common good. Confidence is a necessary component of strength and leadership.

Hope for the best to keep yourself going, but don't get so attached to your hopes that you can't keep going. This is going to take a long, long time.

I'm actually agnostic about not winning this fall. It would make it easier going into 2008 to be the 'out' party...because external economic and foreign policy conditions are not going to improve. They may get much, much worse, especially as the housing bubble deflates, and that will pose a great messaging challenge as that ripples throughout the economy. This could work both ways, though.

It's probably best for us to win one chamber this November. Or, to win both, and challenge Bush to veto legislation repeatedly. That would be the ideal setup to '08.

And yeah, it's amazing how arrogant Red Sox fans got after winning, thinking they were the New Dynasty. Kinda reminds me of a faction in American politics....ha.

"Understand your own temperament, whether you are prone to be too defeatist or to set yourself up for disappointment, and adjust accordingly."
Damn good advice, thanks Mimi.

emptypockets, I guess I'm your foe on two scores: in my deepest heart, I'm a Yankee fan...but, whenever the Yanks are out of it and the Mets aren't, I root for them, as I did in '86. In fact, the infamous Game 6 has a special place in my heart, as it occurred during my wedding reception; I've always considered it a miraculous gift. (Of course, my dozen or so Boston relatives, who were forced to watch the debacle in a NY hotel bar, say "Oh, yeah, your wedding: the worst day of my life").

Something you forget, however: the Mets were 108-54 that year, and were widely thought the favorites going in; for the Red Sox to be on the verge of winning the Series was an oddity. If the Dems were in their 1990 position (having just been wiped out in three successive presidential elections) holding these poll leads, I'd be far more likely to think we were being set up. But the party's national position is far stronger than it was then; our recent presidential losses were either phony (2000) or hair-thin ('04), and our Congressional losses have been more bad luck (losing virtually all the closest races in '02 and '04) and redistricting-driven.

As I've said around here before, I can understand why Dems who, like me, have only been voting since 1972 (or later) would identify with the Red Sox's for-the-vast-part history of losing. But (as DHinMI has heard too many times), Dems' success has far better tracked historically with the Yankees -- who, despite recent disappointments, don't EXPECT to lose in the same way Red Sox Nation does. Dems need to adopt a little of that confidence; it can make a difference.

None of which is to say, I'm going to bed early on November 7th confident of waking up to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid. But, as DHinMI says, the numbers for us are better in every way than they were for the Pubs in '94 (among other things, Clinton's approvals were in the mid-40s, even 50 in an ABC poll election day). And as far as "don't speak of it" -- Republicans chanted all year in 1994 that they were headed for a major win; they got the press, and, ultimately, a number of Democrats to buy into the idea (scaring enough of them that they scuttled the crime bill first go-round, and made sure there was no health care progress -- which might have made their losses at least partially a self-fulfilling prophecy).

I'm not a big fan (my Dad spent his whole life rooting for the Sox and never saw them win the World Series) but I root for the Sox, and the (Amazing) Mets. It's difficult to get seats now, and there're no day games, so I'll probably remain a distant fan.

Good article from The Prospect on the GOP as the "manly" party (and Bush), and the 2006 Dem response to it. Good read.

Demtom is right abpout confidence and self-fulfilling prophecies. The GOP (at least the Attwater/Rove-influenced GOP) always acts like it is going to win. It's part of their faux-male bravado.

Maybe 2006 will see a revival of Gary Cooper (and Shane) over John Wayne, to change the metaphor.

Actually I think the idea of overconfidence and complacency loses you ~2-3% in elctions and projecting confidence of a winner gets you ~4-5%. A net plus.

At this point I don't see how Dems could get complacent. That only happens when you've been winning so long you can't imagine losing.

And the fundraising picture has dramatically improved for the Dems, so that in April they almost reached parity with the GOP and has equal Cash on hand. In a society where money talks, that is something, considering the DSCC is ahead of the GOP counterpart.

I guess this is a terribly easy thing to say, but I think the right attitude is to take whatever happens as a 'win'. If dems fight like hell and still fall short a couple of seats in the House, that's a win, because then the GOP is still responsible ('responsible'), but will feel rather more boxed in; if dems take the House, that is also a win, obviously. The GOP has been very good at 'psych-out' over the years. Whatever has happened they have spun as good for them, and not just qua spin: they really believe it. That is a winning attitude. Eyes on the prize. Notice how the whole Reagan/rightwing lurch we've been living through came to be seen as 'inevitable'? It was 'inevitable' mainly because its minions really believed that it was, no matter what.

The US is not naturally rightwing and theocratic. True American conservatism is just another form of liberalism. The very idea of America is - whether in the 18th or the 21st century sense - liberal, not authoritarian, theocratic, etc. It's one thing to be a crossdresser a la Eddie Izzard (not trying to 'pass') and quite another to think you're 'fooling' anyone (apologies to true transgendered people out there, but you get the idea). Liberalism isn't inevitable in this country (or anywhere), but we do have, er, a pretty strong tradition for it. The current GOP has actualy abandoned both liberalism and conservatism - Americanism, actually - and left the field wide open. Mighty dangerous for them. With unrelenting effort, it's just a matter of time before their false dawn fades.

Thus endeth the pep talk! Hey, batter batter batter batter batter......

John Casper: thanks. I'm interested, please explain what is the Lincoln-Meade connection here?

Crab Nebula & also John Casper: it's interesting to think about the political calculation of how winning in 2006 would position us in 2008 but my concerns are more immediate. for me personally the NIH budget is going to affect my life and the next Congress will set it. the same applies for other spending programs. as much as I want to think ahead to a full recovery and Dem control of the white house, right now I just want a tourniquet to stop the immediate bleeding. so apart from stopping bush, investigating, impeaching, or 2008 plans, having power in 2006 is very much an important goal for me in and of itself.

and, Crab Nebula, "how arrogant Red Sox fans got after winning" actually I was totally disoriented and adrift... if they didn't lose, were they still the Red Sox? where was my team?

demtom: actually that is one of the rare good uses of a baseball analogy I've heard. I appreciate that.

Mimikatz: on fundraising, I think this is key, and I was going to also link to this hotline blurb on it but didn't. In addition to the DCCC having about matched the NRCC cash-on-hand, as you note DSCC is also ahead by about $30M to NRSC's $15M... but RNC has way more than DNC and will probably transfer some of that to the senate campaigns to equalize them with Dems, they say. feels to me like national Dems are getting smarter about making GOP spend money it wasn't planning to, though, and that is very encouraging.

I'm not sure complacency is the right word for what I worry about Dems doing, but...maybe learned helplessness? Like they've/we've accomplished so little and been thwarted so much that even when it's clear that things are going our way, the instinct is to sit still and hope you don't disturb the conditions of possibility, rather than actively taking advantage of them? And I mean this at all levels - at the level of those already in office who are doing better, but still not necessarily going for the jugular in the most effective ways, and at the level of those people who will vote Democratic but who feel let down after working their asses off in 2004 and feeling like it was for nothing, or who are sitting home worrying about Diebold rather than going out and doing much.

I know I feel it - stuck in a rut where if my entire life weren't changing over the next couple of months, I wouldn't know where to start trying to do my part to help this happen. Or like in 2004 it was worth driving hours away to a swing state to go door-to-door, but if that didn't work then, why would it be worth it now?

That said, I am basically optimistic.

emptypockets, thanks for your question.
I agree with you wholeheartedly that we should be 100% focussed on November 2006. I just think Iraq and gas prices offer traditional red staters a rare separation from the GOP. IMO, the GOP will morph so that these issues won't be available to Dems in 2008. That's why I put such a high premium on winning both houses in 06 and then governing well, so as to win in 2008.
Since you're a Red Sox fan, you might enjoy reading about the 1stMN at Gettysburg and their heroic sacrifice. Meade was a great General and if he had lost at Gettysburg, and it was very, very close, several times, Lee could have marched southeast to Washington, D.C. Then, George McLellan would have defeated Lincoln in the election of 1864, sued for peace, and the South would still? be owning slaves?
OT, not everyone agrees with Lincoln's choice to fire Meade.

I really really really hope you're all right as rain on this, but I long ago learned in the movie business that a movie's not a "go" till the third day of principal photography, and it's really not a "sure thing" till the Monday after the first weekend of release. And I long long ago learned to never ever count a deal as done till the signatures were on the contract, the check had been deposited, and I had the cash money in my pocket. And talking about it beforehand was a great way to blow it. That all may be superstition, but just as even paranoids have enemies, some superstitions are based on reality.

I was just reading elsewhere how the way things are Gerrymandered is going to favor incumbents no matter how big the problems (unlike 1994) and that the GOP is set to claim "victory" as long as they don't lose the House. Given how hard it is going to be to take a majority in the house, this way no matter how much we win we get painted as losers, and we all know the "true believers" in the corporate media will follow the memo when it comes time.

Sorry emptypockets, I really didn't answer your question about the relationship (that I saw) between Lincoln/Meade and O6 elections. "Strike while the iron is hot." Just as (imo) Meade was close to ending the Civil War in 1863, so are Dems close to a very substantial and rare victory in 06. If Dems miss the opportunity in 06, it's hard to say when it will come again? Your post had a sense of urgency about the 06 elections that I really liked.

Gerrymandering goes only so far. The thing about gerrymanders is that they don't create more GOP voters, they just concentrate them in ways that seem, at the time, strategic. So a confident Tom DeLay created more GOP seats in TX by taking GOP votes from his own district and other "safe" districts and using them to bolster the district that Frost lost, for example. And he put people in the same district. But he didn't really create any more GOP voters, except maybe temporarily because the Pubs looked like winners.

But now that the tide of public opinion is changing, some of those folks are going back to the Dems, or back to their hobbies. And TX-22 looks a lot more competitive, in part because it has fewer GOP voters than before the redistricting. So Nick Lampson may win this time around.

I'm sure that this process has made other GOP districts more marginal in a time of shifting public opinion than may have seemed the case in 2002. And by broadening the field through better recruitment and more money, the Dems are going to make many more races competitive than in 2002. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out this year. I suspect that there are limits to gerrymandering when the absolute number of your voters is declining, as is now the case with self-identified Republicans.

Mimikatz, nice pep talk -- except for the fact that there is a nice strong authoritarian tradition running through American history as well (see: slavery, Indian wars, etc etc). Part of what makes this country so, um, interesting is that the two tendencies have been so fundamentally intertwined with one another since the get-go. (I'm thinking Edmund Morgan's American Slavery, American Freedom here, if that means anything to you.)

Go team!

By the way.... Am I the only Sox fan out there that got sort of, you know, depressed after they won? After all the excitement wore off, of course. I mean, it was sort of the end of an era... and the mythology was important to me.

Now they are just another bunch of rich ball players that might actually win some time. And I'm not going to get to have The Conversation when I have kids. Damn it.


Don't blame mimikatz for the pep talk - that was mine. Of course all of us are at least as aware as you of the bad things you mention, but, a.) they aren't essential parts of our political tradition, strictly speaking; and b.) I actually said that nothing is inevitable - either way. There's an authoritarian streak running through all of humanity, for that matter. So? All I was saying is that the explicit political tradition in this country is liberal - the Constitution-as-amended is in fact the apotheosis of liberalism - for what that's worth. I'm just identifying a tide that our current authoritarians/theocrats are swimming against. I think it's worth pointing out.

MonkeyDog, "Am I the only Sox fan out there that got sort of, you know, depressed after they won?" no, you're not... and am I really supposed to hate johnny damon now? (stupid yankees and their stupid haircuts.)

Red Sox fans aren't the only ones who like to build dungeons in the air. I, along with millions of my fellows, wasted way too much time and emotion in my yewt rooting for a certain team from Chicago's North Side.... I recovered from that addiction, though. I'm not much of a stoic, I guess.

you misunderstand the dynamics of the 1986 world series

the RedSox were not the "sure thing" that year, the Mets were

The 1986 Mets were surly, aragant, and the Best Team In Baseball that year

in spring training, Keith Hernandez said "Don't we get a bye to the playoffs ???' (probably the most arogant thing I've ever heard a baseball player say)

the Mets won their division by 20 games

Boston only got to Game 6 because the primordial ouze likes to yank the redsox fans' chain

the 1986 baseball season wasn't about taunting sox fans, that was just an added bonus

1986 was about the Mets, and how they couldn't lose (and nearly did anyway)

(sorry, had to be said)

Just for the record, free patriot, it was Lenny Dykstra, not Keith Hernandez (though it would have been in character for either).

Mimikatz, about the gerrymandering and how effective it can be -- I heard one consultant sum it up about perfectly: the levees are in place, but they've not yet been tested by a category five storm.

Right on all counts, Demtom. I knew Keith hernandez when he was in high school, and he was arrogant even then, and that was before the Cards signed him. He really hated it when people thought he was Latin American.

From Raenelle:

"The battle to November isn't simply to elect Vichy Dems, it's to move the political debate away from the extremes of the neocons."
From John Casper:
"Winning the gerrymandered districts will take more than revulsion from the Republicans. It will require ordinary people to want a different kind of government than they have been getting -- and then the ability of Democrats to deliver it. I don't see us quite there yet."
I live in one of those gerrymandered Texas districts, having lost the master politician Martin Frost who really represented me to Tom DeLay's redistricting. As of March 31 reports the Republican congressman here has about half a milliion dollars to run his election and the Democrat has a little over ten grand.

All politics is local, and locally here in Texas the Democrats ain't got shit. So if anyonereally thinks the low polls for Bush and generic Republicans mean the Democrats will get the House, my advice it to forget it.

The bloodlust needed to remove the Republicans from districts like mine isn't there. To dream otherwise is just that - a dream. A fantasy.

We live today in the same damned world we will live in next January unless someone can make something change. I don't see the change coming. A lot of dissatisfaction, yes. But change? No.

The debate has to change, and it isn't changing. It's still just two sets of policians arguing over who holds office. No one is making any point over what difference it makes to ME!

yeah ??? Dykstra huh, have to check on that one

I misspelled arrogant too

hard to believe that Darrel Strawberry wasn't the worst cad on that team

and to all you sox fans:

Mookie, Mookie, Mookie

(sorry, that series was a bit personal for me)

Rick B

Not everywhere is terxas. Your fdistrict may stay solidly R and still have nothing to do with the rest of the country. that's soemtikes hard to understqnd, but it's true. No one's suggesting a unanimous sweep for D's.

As First read puts it:

Our NBC/Wall Street Journal pollsters advised us in looking at the data from our last survey, in late April, that the framework for the midterms seemed to be in the process of locking in, and that once that happens, only a major external event could change it. Political analysts in Washington are dusting off the term "calcification."

That same First read also has Gep comments:

The Hill reports that former House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt, who saw his share of election heartbreak, recently told a group of investors that he doubts Democrats will retake the House this fall. "But when asked about his comments, Gephardt suggested that people might have misconstrued what he said because they had expected him to predict a resounding victory this fall."

You do have to look district by district. TX-22 is the only one that could change in TX. But there are districts where challengers are at or within 75% of fundraising parity all over the Northeast/NY/PA. Districts in NC and VA look vulnerable. And the mountain West will surprise some people--there are at least 5 possible seats there.

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