Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2002 / 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Bob Tyrrell

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So why aren't the Dems buoyant?


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | This midterm election is about atmosphere. It is about how the voters feel. Objective considerations have been fading from electoral politics for a long time. Precisely why that is I cannot say in my allotted 800 or so words here, but atmosphere transcends objective considerations nowadays in politics. This might be because today's politicians are better seducers than in the past. Whatever the reason, politicians now play more to voters' "feelings" than to their objective conditions.

In the 1992 presidential race, the political wizard of the hour played upon the voters' feeling that the economy was in a dreadful state, though it had already emerged from a mild and brief recession. He played on the voters' yearning for "change" and invoked the term metronomically like a preacher at a country revival. Objective conditions did not matter. He won, beating a far more distinguished public servant and replacing good government, prosperity and peace with what has come to be known as the Clinton Scandals.

So it is today. Atmosphere matters more than objective conditions. Thus the party leaders' optimism waxes and wanes, for over the past few months the country's mood has been changeable. A few weeks back, the Republicans anticipated winning both houses of Congress on Nov. 5. Then the Democrats were in a state of frustrated confusion. Now both parties are pessimistic. It all has to do with the mood of the country, and the party leaders are uncertain as to that mood.

Historically speaking, the Democrats should be buoyant. The Republicans should be in mulligrubs. Owing to the presence of a Republican in the White House, this midterm election ought to be in the bag for the Democrats. They should be confident of picking up a seat or two in the Senate and enough in the House to grain control of it -- they need to pick up just six seats.

In the last century, on only three occasions has the president's party gained congressional seats during his first midterm election. Yet the Democrats and the Republicans are both in doubt of their chances. The Washington Prowler, my favorite political source who reports regularly online at theamericanprowler.org, says Republican Senate staffers are not expecting to move up into the leadership and some are expecting to see themselves and their bosses unemployed. The Democrats are bluer still, feeling frustrated that they have not presented a resonant national message to the electorate.

The real reason they will not take the House and may lose the Senate is, as I say, "atmospherics." The Democrats' inability to make the economy an issue reflects the essential good sense of the American electorate. The economy is not as bad as Democrats have claimed. Despite the costs of Sept. 11, the corporate corruption (which is clearly not the Republicans' doing) and the burden on the federal budget of gearing up for war, the economy has done OK. It has not gone into recession and is in fact growing, probably at better than 4 percent in the last quarter. Thus the Democrats' hope of a return to a 1992 yearning for "change" has not been reprised.

The atmospherics are not working for the Democrats. They are working for the Republicans. That is because the threat against America posed by Sept. 11 and the administration's focus on Iraq's potential for mass destruction have provoked an instinct fundamental to Americans: the instinct for vigilance. Americans feel the first order of business is to protect the nation, and that means they will stand by the president and his party. They will return a Republican majority in the House and may by one vote tip the balance toward the Republicans in the Senate.

The Washington sniper's brutality has heightened the American instinct for vigilance. Voters want action taken. This, too, favors the president's party. The Senate will be decided in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Texas. With the exception perhaps of Minnesota, all of those states are states where the instinct for vigilance is high. Right now, the polls suggests a wash, with Republicans and Democrats returning to the Senate in the same numbers as in the last Senate, though with different states. My hunch is that enough seats will actually go to the Republicans to give them a one-seat majority in the Senate. The reason is American concern for security. It all depends on the atmospherics, and I say the mood will favor the Republicans with majorities in both houses.

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JWR contributor Bob Tyrrell is editor in chief of The American Spectator. Comment by clicking here.

10/17/02: Mourning the loss of the "yellow-belly"
10/10/02: American politics at its most ignominious
10/03/02: A man above the law, a bully
09/26/02: Is Bob Greene a victim of an anti-Clinton backlash?
09/19/02: I knew Mafiosi and
09/12/02: Chickens and poseurs
09/05/02: Sympathizing with the Europols
08/29/02: 9-11 did not change us forever
08/22/02: Public persons frivoling with serious matters
08/15/02: Beachcombing among the fat of the land
08/08/02: They pave the way for corruption, not personal responsibility
08/01/02: Believing the unbelievable
07/25/02: The congressional posse comitatus
07/18/02: Cosmopolitan Arab fashion
07/11/02: What the prez actually knows
07/04/02: The vindication of a truly original thinker
06/27/02: The perfect book for Hillary
06/20/02: To say that they were ordinary is not to slight them
06/13/02: Daschle must begin to act like an adult
06/06/02: Lack of "intelligence" --- and sheer stupidity
05/30/02: Revealing a carefully guarded media secret
05/23/02: In these times, thank Heaven for Clinton!
05/16/02: Fast Times at the Church of the Nativity
05/09/02: "Name the Prettiest Suicide Bomber"
05/02/02: Vindication for the Boy Scouts
04/25/02: A topic almost no other columnist will touch
04/18/02: 'Conventional Wisdom' --- and those who defy it
04/11/02: Let the Sun shine in
04/05/02: Hooded men of color in sheets
04/01/02: A McCain-Feingold Act for Hollywood
03/21/02: Yakkin' on Yates
03/15/02: No role for Paul Volcker in Enron: the movie
03/07/02: My membership in the Communist Party U.S.A.
02/27/02: This award is bestowed by 'contrarians'
02/21/02: Mike Tyson: Made for Washington?
02/14/02: Enron as underdog?
02/07/02: Freed from the presence of money -- hard or soft -- most politicians would be just as bad
01/31/02: Needed: Bush to make a preemptive strike against his enemies . Ones who'd like to see him fail even during war
01/24/02: Hucksters will move on to make their next marks
01/17/02: Debonair prez should begin to do the High Life
01/10/02: Move over Twinkies --- "the acne medicine made him do it!"
01/03/02: Leaving the Nazis looking comparatively humane
12/27/01: A "self-made journalist"
12/20/01: Calamities and unanticipated benefits
12/13/01: America's grief ought not to give comfort to those who caused it
12/06/01: Leahy, the strict civil libertarian!? A short-term exploiter of the Constitution is more like it
11/29/01: Welcome to Afghan, Maryland?
11/26/01: So, why don't more folks hate us?
11/15/01: America's quagmire and other certainties
11/09/01: No longer the smug statists, the prodigal Keynesians?
11/01/01: The New Seriousness
10/25/01: Bright lights and the Taliban
10/18/01: Is bin-Laden propaganda from Western intelligence?
10/12/01: No yellow ribbons
10/05/01: Bubba's back --- again!
09/28/01: Exposing peacetime's frauds
09/21/01: So protected, we're vulnerable
09/14/01: At Barbara Olson's home
09/11/01: Duh! All conservatives are racists
08/31/01: Arafat's terrorists have created their own hell
08/24/01: Time for some political prophecy
08/16/01: They claim to be doing so much good
08/10/01: Visiting the source of the White House braintrust
08/03/01: Morality and reality
07/31/01: Blinded by success?
07/24/01: The latest Kennedy capitulation in Massachusetts
07/13/01: Talk about tawdry
07/06/01: Delighting in the Dictator
06/29/01: The Godphobes
06/21/01: Fashionable Washington is sempiternally in a stew
06/15/01: The limits of hypocrisy
06/08/01: Flagging our general apathy

© 2001, Creators Syndicate