Second in a series of reflections on the 2008 election
It appears that when the dust finally settles from this election , the Democrats will net a gain of about 23 seats in the U.S. House. This means that in 2009, Democrats will hold an advantage of about 259 to 176 over the Republicans. A majority this large means that in the House next year, most substantive policy arguments will not be between Democrats and Republicans. The political argument will be among Democrats themselves, with progressives squaring off against the more conservative Democrats known as the Blue Dogs.
This is a good thing. As far as I'm concerned, the Republican Party should remain completely marginalized as long as its core principles continue to be warmongering, greed, bigotry, environmental destruction and spending money like drunken sailors.
That Democrats were able to pick up more than 20 House seats this year while minimizing losses demonstrates a triumph of strategy and tactics. Democrats had gained 30 seats in the 2006 elections, and three more in special elections this year. Thus they had already made most of the gains they could hope to make among House seats held by Republicans in less-conservative districts. This year, Democrats ambitiously targeted House seats that are more staunchly Republican. Republican themselves were forced to admit that few if any of their incumbents were completely safe this year, given that their party's brand had been so completely discredited by President Bush as well as a lot of GOP elected officials who tied themselves closely to Bush's policies.
Here, in no particular order, are some observations on this year's House races from around country.
* The GOP has ceased to be a force in the northeast. Republicans now hold 3 of New York's 29 seats, down from 10 in 2004, and zero of New England's 23 seats, down from 5 in 2004.
* Virginia swung from giving Bush a 10-point victory in 2004 to a 5-point victory for Obama this year. Successfully targeting Virginia paid big dividends down the ballot, as Democrats picked up three House seats there.
* California continues to be the textbook model of the "incumbent protection plan." During the last redistricting in 2001, as a compromise measure the state legislature redrew its districts in such a way as to virtually guarantee each of the state's 53 House seats for one party or the other. In 2004, zero seats changed hands. One did so in 2006, and this year the number will again be zero or one.
* Demonstrating that no Republican seat is safe: Democrats picked up two of the most conservative seats in the entire country: AL-02 and ID-01. Yes, Idaho. It looks like us crazy liberals of the Pacific Northwest are finally starting to bleed into super-conservative Idaho. Wyoming is now the only state without at least one Democratic Congressman or Senator. Look out, Wyoming!
* The GOP this year took away 4 Democratic seats after failing to take a single seat in 2006. But even these four are nothing to shout about. First of all, all four seats were held by freshman Democrats who had taken their districts away from the Republicans in 2006. Second, in all four races there were extenuating circumstances:
FL-16: Only went GOP because of a Democratic scandal.
KS-02: Novice Dem ran an incompetent campaign.
LA-06: Democrat was torpedoed by another Dem running as a third-party independent.
TX-22: Super-Republican district we won in 2006 only because no Republican was on the ballot after Tom Delay's retirement.
Finally, a prediction: We are probably headed for an era when very few House seats change hands in each election. Democrats have picked up most of the seats they ever will in moderate-to-conservative areas, while the GOP is simply not making inroads anywhere.