Democrats & Liberals Archives

Senate: looking ahead & party balance

The Democratic pickup in the Senate is looking bigger than first expected, but Republicans need not be too glum long term. If they return to more traditional conservative values, stop alienating moderates, and act honestly as a minority party, they will make a comeback. Otherwise another party WILL step in to fill in the void.

We face so many huge challenges and problems currently. Have we come to the end of American Exceptionalism? Will we enter a worldwide depression? Will climate change overtake the planet disastrously? Doing our level best to answer all of these questions in the negative should be our focus.

Nonetheless, some people worry about one-party rule. The structure of our politics pretty much guarantees that some form of opposition will gain traction, so I believe such concerns are overblown. The Republicans just a few years back thought that they had an opportunity to establish a permanent majority. I confess that I was worried that Bush's willingness to ignore the Constitution might lead to real disenfranchisement of any opposition, and set the stage for something close to a coup. But the pendulum is swinging, and appears to be swinging pretty hard right now.

Which brings me back to Congress. Let's assume for the moment that Obama will win - not a guarantee but a likelihood. What will it mean for our nation if the Democrats are virtually filibuster proof in the Senate, and significantly extend their lead in the House? Many conservatives are genuinely worried that "the liberals will go wild", and more and more you hear talk from the right about impending "socialism". We liberals are entertaining some hopes that finally some actually liberal policy positions can be given the chance that they have been denied since Reagan's ascendancy.

To those who fear balance will be lost, consider that balance takes various forms. The obvious Party balance between executive and legislative branches, or between the two houses of Congress are not likely to be present for the next four years. But there still is a time balance in play.

It is not necessarily best that divided government be the order of the day for all times. Periods of time with one party or the other in both elected branches do present the opportunity to actually implement plans that otherwise face gridlock. Our democratic process for replacing politicians means that even when one party has both Congress and the Presidency, some caution needs to be exercised if those positions are to be maintained.

There is also ideological balance within parties. In order to win seats, the Democrats have run increasingly conservative candidates in known conservative districts and states. A truly socialist agenda is not likely when so many Democrats in the Senate are far more conservative than moderate and liberal Republicans of 30 or 40 years ago. And in the House, disaffection with the ruling party can change the majority in fairly short order, with every position standing for re-election every two years.

Because of six year terms, it is easier to look further ahead in the Senate, to possible party changes. Let's look at this election, that of 2010, and that of 2012, and even 2014, to see what we can anticipate.

This year the Democrats WILL expand their lead, and this was virtually guaranteed already when the current class of Senators was elected in 2002, an extraordinarily good year for Republicans. With the current economic crisis, and sullying of the Republican name brand, the extent of Democratic expansion has changed from 4-6 seats, to more likely 7-8 seats, and an outside chance of as many as 11, if Chambliss of Georgia, McConnell of Kentucky, and Wicker of Mississippi were all to be defeated.

In 2010, the party affiliation of Senators whose terms are up for re-election is more evenly divided, with similar numbers in safe vs non-safe seats for both parties. Depending on what happens between now and then, either party could pickup a few seats on up to a maximum of 8 or 9, though I would guess the net change to be 2 or less.

In 2012, the Republicans will almost certainly pick up multiple seats. Depending on outcomes this year and two years from now, this is their next realistic opportunity to pick up a majority. Given the likely larger than expected Democratic win in this election, 2014 will be yet another election in which Republicans should again make gains in the Senate. Again contingent upon their ability to return to more traditional conservative values, while avoiding alienating moderates, Republicans have a very high likelihood of becoming the majority party in the Senate by 2014.

My crystal ball pretty much ends there, as so much depends on intervening events which cannot be foretold.

Logically, the Senate is the body which is most likely to be Republican, since the less populated states of the Plains and Intermountain West, tend to be more conservative, while the House with heavier urban representation, should logically be easier for the Democrats to retain.

The importance of time balance, especially in the House has been hammered home with the corruption of the Democratic reign of some 40 years up to the Gingrich Revolution of 1994, and the subsequent corruption of Republicans developed over their 12 year reign from 1995 to 2006. If we can get redistricting reform enacted which reduces gerrymandering and the creation of safe seats, that would greatly reduce the likelihood that either party could retain control in the house in such long runs that corruption perverts the process as much as has happened in recent times. Iowa has set the standard for redistricting reform, and other states should follow suit. Look to Maryland(D), Florida(R), and Texas(D then R) as gross examples of partisan gerrymandering gone bananas, though it can be found in most states to one degree or another.

As I hinted in my opening, it is still possible that the Republican Party implodes and can't agree on its fundamental principles, losing its grip on enough of the electorate that it really does relegate itself to obsolescence. I think that is unlikely, since it is in a better position than any other party to right its ship and remain the dominant second party in America. The Democratic Party in spite of its recent successes is also at risk if it remains stodgily dependent on constituencies that are taken for granted, and doesn't demonstrate more political agility than it sometimes does. Should either party truly stumble though, other parties will surely enter the vacuum created, and opposition politics will remain in place for years to come. Personally I would be delighted to see another party replace the Republicans as the second dominant party, but I'm surely not holding my breath for that day. Rs and Ds are likely to remain the tags we see next to candidates' names on the ballots for many election cycles to come.

Posted by Walker Willingham at October 16, 2008 10:30 PM
Comment #267140

intriguing article, Walker. I am a good deal more fearful of one party rule than you, perhaps since I am not an entrenched democrat. I think domination by one party greatly increases the chances of corruption. Bush and the republicans are a prime example of this. Note that while the dems had Congress for 40 years, there were several Rep presidents.

I agree with your analysis that reps will have a good chance at recovering by 2012. The ruling party gets blamed for just about everything, fairly or not, and so I think by that time enough people will return to the reps. A lot of it depends just how liberal the pendulum swings.

What kind of party do you think would have a chance at replacing the Republican Party? Perhaps there would be a large-scale defection to the Libertarian Party, or the formation of an explicitly Religious Right party. In any case, I think it would likely be replaced by multiple weaker parties.

Posted by: Calvin at October 16, 2008 11:19 PM
Comment #267141

I have a problem understanding why anyone thinks having just 2 parties has ever been good for any of us.
We know maintaining the two party system is the ONLY thing they have agreed on for decades.

Posted by: Dawn at October 16, 2008 11:48 PM
Comment #267149

its interesting though in 2004 if you changed the term repub for democrat that was the same mode of thought the left had when Pres Bush won his second term everyone thought the far left and moderates would schism. Everyone thought the far left of the party would end up breaking off since they were so far from the base. Its interesting to read how times change but things end up being the same in a different context.

Posted by: Rhancheck at October 17, 2008 1:24 AM
Comment #267158

>I have a problem understanding why anyone thinks having just 2 parties has ever been good for any of us.
We know maintaining the two party system is the ONLY thing they have agreed on for decades.
Posted by: Dawn at October 16, 2008 11:48 PM


Perhaps because two parties can incorporate many policies brought out by third and fourth political philosophies, but having more than two parties becomes too chaotic to make headway. Broad spectrum politics, as we practice it allows a Nadar to influence the Democratic side, and a Perot to influence the Republican side. Having too many parties dilutes that ability to absorb good things from outside. Just look at Italy for a picture of multi-party governance…

Posted by: Marysdude at October 17, 2008 3:04 AM
Comment #267171

The Republican Party is here to stay, But your right, They need to open their Vista’s and party up to reflect more of America, or they will become like they were in the 1930s like 28 senators..

Posted by: Rodney Brown at October 17, 2008 10:40 AM
Comment #267176

Let’s bring back the Bullmoose and the Whigs…

Posted by: Marysdude at October 17, 2008 11:19 AM
Comment #267180

Marysdude - how ‘bout the Know Nothing’s? A xenophobic group but a great name for a political party. With Sarah Palin at the head of their party the GOP might want to consider bringing that moniker back albeit for a different reason than the origins of the name.

I am one who thinks that having all the reigns of government is not necessarily a good thing for either party though I think that the ethics of the president have a lot to do with how quickly they become corrupted. The recent example doesn’t give me great hope that the Dems are going to take advantage of the opportunity for the betterment of the country and not just the perpetuation of their power as we saw from 2000-2006. That being said, I think Barack Obama’s moral compass is a lot more true than W’s so I don’t think the Dems will be in the same place in 2014 that the GOP was in 2006. Also, considering how the GOP ran the first 6 years of W’s reign we need a chance to correct all of the bad things they did and not having to appease the GOP will increase the likelihood of returning to some sanity.

Posted by: tcsned at October 17, 2008 12:03 PM
Comment #267181

And A Progressive Speaker.;0)

Posted by: Rodney Brown at October 17, 2008 12:06 PM
Comment #267186

I think that our country has finally crossed the halfway point and there are now more people who are or want to be dependent on govt, than there are of those who do not. Probably something like a 55-45 split and by 2012, the split will be close to 60-40.
The Republican party will adjust by weakening their positions even more on issues such as social security, taxes, the 2nd Amendment, healthcare etc…
By 2016, anybody to the right of Obama will be considered as far-right.

Good article Walker, nice to see a serious one over here.

Posted by: kctim at October 17, 2008 12:38 PM
Comment #267197

>Good article Walker, nice to see a serious one over here.
Posted by: kctim at October 17, 2008 12:38 PM


You are right about Walker’s post, but, “it’s nice to see a serious one over here”? If there are no serious postings here, why do you spend so much of your ‘serious’ time kibitzing here?

Posted by: Marysdude at October 17, 2008 1:35 PM
Comment #267200

I consider this a serious post for two reasons:
1 - IMO, this post is more of a thinking post than a bashing the other party or how great we are, post.
2 - I happen to be a fan of Walker’s writing, so I probably have a bias of some sort when he posts a new article.

That is all there is to my statement, nothing hidden there at all. And I spend as much time as I can here because I enjoy it. Nothing more than that either. Well, enjoyment and how my individualist views piss you guys off so much:)

Posted by: kctim at October 17, 2008 1:55 PM
Comment #267229

It seems as though the Man-made Global Warming issue has lost it’s urgency as little is being written about it on these blogs and very little is being found in our newspapers. The presidential debates have not added much either.

Now, it appears that the EU is coming apart at the seams on this issue which is not really surprising.

EU climate change push in disarray as Italy joins Iron Curtain revolt

“Mr Berlusconi directed his anger in particular at the Emissions Trading Scheme, which from 2013 will mean that all big EU industries have to buy permits to emit carbon dioxide in a bidding process. “It is ridiculous that we are selling the right to pollute,” the Italian Prime Minister said.”

The Prime Minister really hit the nail on the head with his quote. My wife and I are spending a week in Rome next month and knowing we are in a county with a leader capable of ignoring this MMGW nonsense is comforting.

For the full story click here;

Posted by: Jim M at October 17, 2008 4:36 PM
Comment #267237

Jim M,

While you are in Italy, check out the wonderful marble sculpture art that is deteriorating due to air pollution. They’ve been there for hundreds of years, but began to lose it only during the last century…

The economy has taken center stage in our current national drama, but that does not subtract from the ecological problem, it just hides it.

Posted by: Marysdude at October 17, 2008 4:57 PM
Comment #267240

Since I can’t post an article, is anyone worried about this?

Pentagon seeks to calm concerns over Iraq troop pact

I know I want to know a lot more about it.

Posted by: womanmarine at October 17, 2008 5:03 PM
Comment #267241

I’ll check that out Marysdude and give you a report when we get back. I wasn’t aware that MMGW was causing marble to deteriorate.

Posted by: Jim M at October 17, 2008 5:06 PM
Comment #267243

Thanks for the link womanmarine. I found the article interesting and considering this comment quoted in the article,

“Adm. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Petraeus, Gen. Odierno and I are all satisfied that our men and uniform serving in Iraq are well protected,” Gates said.”

I won’t be alarmed unless the agreement, when disclosed in full, says something else.

Posted by: Jim M at October 17, 2008 5:16 PM
Comment #267283

Jim M:

My problem is that we don’t know. And that I suspect they are “careful” in what they are saying. I am just concerned for our troops, who are thrown into this situation without choice.

Posted by: womanmarine at October 17, 2008 9:51 PM
Comment #267285

> I am just concerned for our troops, who are thrown into this situation without choice.
Posted by: womanmarine at October 17, 2008 09:51 PM


I share your concern…with the Cheney/Bush track record of lies, lies and more lies, they may trade all our troops defenses away and not let us know until he leaves office. However, unless those upper military mucky-mucks all intend to go into politics, they may protect our guys. Let’s hope so…

Posted by: Marysdude at October 17, 2008 10:07 PM
Comment #267442

Excerpts from draft U.S.-Iraqi security agreement

Posted by: womanmarine at October 19, 2008 12:52 PM
Comment #267478

“Iraq has the primary right to exercise judicial jurisdiction over (U.S.) military personnel and civilians (contracted by the Defense Department) in respect of premeditated and gross felonies mentioned in clause 8 of this article and which are committed outside the agreed facilities and areas and when not on a mission.”

Better get out quicker.

“Iraq has the primary right to exercise judicial jurisdiction over those contracted by the United States and their employees.”

Bye bye Blackwater

“U.S. forces withdraw from Iraqi territory by Dec. 31, 2011, at the latest.”

Three more years in Iraq, and then more Iraqis will be moving here, or at least the ones that haven’t been murdered yet for religious reasons.

Posted by: ohrealy at October 19, 2008 4:44 PM
Comment #267517

I have been beating the divided government drum for two years on my blog. I voted for John Kerry to get divided government in 2004 and lost. I supported a straight Dem ticket in 2006 to get divided government and won. This year I will vote to re-elect divided government by supporting John McCain.

This scholarly article from a Constitutional lawyer puts more than a little academic cred behind the divided government thesis. The only way to re-elect Divided Government in 2008, is elect John McCain for President. It is the right thing to do.

Posted by: mw at October 20, 2008 1:19 AM
Comment #267562


That theory has been going around for more than a century, it is no more valid than any other political theory. The best and most effective governments are those that end up at the right time with the right leadership…it makes no difference if it is a divided one or not. Vote for Obama, not because he will probably lead a united government, but because it would be a total disaster to vote the other way…voting in a half a man and an ignorant, mis-spoken woman makes no sense except to the very lost souls on the frantic right…

Posted by: Marysdude at October 20, 2008 1:39 PM
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