A Politics Break

I normally don't talk much about politics on my blog, but I listen to WBUR over the web for many of my waking hours, so all the election talk must be seeping into my brain.

In honor of election day tomorrow, I wanted to write about a recent Atlantic article: The Fight to Lose Congress (might be behind a members-only link; let me know if you're interested, and I can email it to you). It begins:

The folkways of Washington often seem strange to outsiders, but it’s hard to imagine anything stranger than the question that’s currently getting serious (but very quiet) consideration from political insiders this fall: Would it be better to lose November’s elections than to win them?

“The best scenario for us is to pick up anywhere from ten to fourteen House seats and three to four in the Senate,” just short of a majority in each case, says a top adviser to one of the leading 2008 Democratic presidential candidates. A loss this year “would focus Republicans’ minds and missions in tremendously helpful ways for 2008,” suggests a GOP strategist with ties to the Bush administration.

Basically, both parties are thinking it might be best to have the other one in power, because the majorities will be so slim in either case that it will be difficult to push any legislative agenda (as one staffer put it, "We can’t really get anything done, but will get blamed for all the problems.") Also, the GOP sounds like it would be glad to see Pelosi get a lot of exposure as Speaker, given her "unlikeability" factor (referred to as "Newt Gingrich without the ideas" in the article).

Other people I know are predicting that the Republicans will stay in power, due to the elective power of Diebold. I wouldn't quite put that in the tinfoil helmet category, but it's moving in that direction--we'll see tomorrow night.

Incidentally, the NPR show Wait Wait Don't Tell Me had a great little zinger this week. They talked about the domestic backlash against Prime Minister al-Malaki telling the U.S. to take down their checkpoints--"Yeah, what part of 'puppet regime' is unclear here?!"

On a partially unrelated topic, I wonder if history will look at this period and point out the Iraq war as a watershed moment in signalling the end of the "American Empire" (i.e., the United States as the dominant power in the world). Remember, I'm not talking about a fall of an empire in terms of the Visigoths sacking the cities: it's more that the world realizes the limits of this "dominant empire's" power--I suppose a similar moment for the UK would be Suez 1956. It seems to be showing the world that when we intervene with force, we don't have the competence and/or political will to be effective in these messy global situations that will become the rule, not the exception. I know, it's not as if anytime soon, the US will lose its dominance economically (okay, besides the massive trade deficit, the big three automakers being in the crapper, and domestic manufacturing disappearing), or technologically (hmm... except for the ascendancy of India and China, and the horrible state of the US's science education, trying to turn us into a knowledge backwater by teaching 'intelligent design'), or militarily (well, this one mostly stands--US power projection with aircraft carrier groups is unsurpassed... but the question is how costly the fighting could get--i.e., how many Silkworm missiles would the Chinese have to lob to successfully take out the Nimitz?--moving into the world of assymetric warfare).

Crap. Maybe I should have spent the past two years working on getting Canadian citizenship, just in case...


At 1:36 PM, Blogger dan said...

You could have applied for PR status while you were here, but it wouldn't really matter much. In fact, because you've been a student here for 2 or more years, you qualify for a few more points on such an application.

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous perlick said...

I hadn't heard the comments about parties thinking they should lose this election, but it makes a lot of sense. Especially for the Democrats. Unlike the Republicans in 1994, the Democrats don't have a coherent agenda - if they gained power now, they'd waste it arguing what they stand for, and we'd end up with another Republican slate in 2008.

Plus, I just love the idea of taking a dive in an election. One of my favorite bits of Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail is when Hunter S. Thompson describes the maneuvering at the convention where one side put up a test vote to try to force a rules change, and the other side realized they couldn't win, but they could screw up the test vote by taking a dive, so they did, confusing everybody else. They were then able to capitalize on the confusion by pushing through their motion. It was pretty awesome.

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Bats said...

Heh... in re my empires in decline comment, it seems like somebody smarter than me has already written about this--including the reference to the Suez crisis: "Beware empires in decline" by Michael T Klare.


At 12:29 PM, Anonymous aj said...

Oh yeah, we're goin' down...

But will future historians say it started with Gulf War: The Sequel, or way back in Vietnam?


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