Great Expectations

Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. Can my country resurrect itself? After all, our Congress just recently gave President Bush permission to torture.

We will know on November 8th after voters go to the polls for the midterm elections. The vote will tell me whether our country will remain extreme or rejoin the mainstream. I certainly hope it is the latter. Perhaps we can then plead short-term insanity.

The sense of public outrage at our Congress and Administration is palpable to me, and I bet to you too. Even flamboyant Republicans that I know are strangely mute. Many are also ashamed. They no longer even try to justify President Bush’s strategy with Iraq and the War on Terror. Now that its consequences are crystal clear, there are no words that can plausibly justify our invasion of Iraq. Most journalists now agree that Iraq is in civil war. Its so-called government is ineffective. One credible estimate suggests 665,000 Iraqis have died from the Iraq War so far. So many bodies, many dismembered and decapitated, are found floating in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that local fishermen no longer bother to fish them out.

The Iraq War consistently comes up as voters’ top concern. Falling gasoline prices, while welcome, do not seem to be helping Republican prospects for controlling Congress. Nor are new highs in the Dow Jones Industrial Average helping. Typically, these events would add to a ruling party’s Congressional majority. However, polls show that they have failed to check expected Republican losses in the midterm elections. Instead, polls show that expected Democratic gains are increasing. Most Republicans now privately admit they expect to lose control of the House of Representatives. They seem to be hedging their bets on retaining control of the Senate too. Bush’s approval ratings are close to reaching record lows again. Congressional approval ratings, already at an all time low for this Republican congress, plunged further with revelations that now former Florida Congressman Mark Foley preyed on male pages in suggestive and occasionally lurid email conversations. The party of family values is now perceived as the party that will put expediency over principles as long as it allows them to keep their hands on the levers of power.

Many voters though are like me. They are wondering if their vote will be accurately counted. For three election cycles, there were rumors of voter fraud. Only now does much of the public believe that many votes were miscounted or fraudulently reported in the elections of 2000, 2002 and 2004. I know I felt it in 2004. Discrepancies in exit polls compared with final results told me that Bush had lost Ohio. Subsequent investigative journalism revealed that these feelings were not misplaced. Given the recent problems with electronic voting machines during the primaries in Maryland, it is hard not to continue to feel the unease.

Nevertheless, polls show a growing trend: more voters want the Republicans out and the Democrats in. Recent polls show that the preference for Democrats over Republicans have exceeded twenty percent. It remains to be seen whether such frustrations will carry over into local contests. Still, in poll after poll, races where Republican candidates were recently leading have moved to no clear favorite. The trend is unmistakable. The trend is even more remarkable given that the Democratic Party has failed to articulate what they will do if they regain power. It does not seem to matter to voters. We have to just get to get rid of these losers, is what the public seems to be saying.

Will this election resemble the 1994 election? In that election, 44 seats shifted in the House of Representatives, and eight shifted in the Senate. Since then Republicans refined a new tactic for maintaining power: draw those congressional districts very narrowly so it becomes almost impossible to oust an incumbent. In addition, where possible in places like Texas, redistrict out of turn to add to your majority. Consequently, a change of 44 seats in 2006 seems out of the bound of possibility.

Therefore, I have to check myself. Wishing does not make it so. Yet I still feel the political ground shifting below my feet, and now I am feeling tremors. For years, I have said that Bush and the Republicans cannot escape accountability forever. The public can only be kept in fear for so long. Neither can we forever ignore gross incompetence.

In less than a month, I will know whether my feelings this time are valid. Barring massive voter fraud, my gut tells me that the Democrats will recapture both the House and the Senate in the midterms. I think it will bear an uncanny resemblance to the election of 1994.

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