Shifting Sands Election 2006 - and 2008

Monday, September 11, 2006
"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."

Daniel Webster penned those words in a legal brief in 1819.
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It would be pleasant to think that Webster's caution is firmly imprinted on the minds of those participating on this last day of the biennial process of candidate selection. Not as pleasant as thinking of what one might do with the proceeds of a winning lottery ticket but the outcomes are roughly as likely. It would also be pleasant to imagine that the voters of Webster's day bore his admonition in mind as they marked their ballots and that our current situation is a form of degradation from a Golden Age of reasoned judgment by knowledgeable electors but that would be a monstrous lie were it to be asserted. The fact is that Webster became a Federalist Whig in precisely the same manner in which George Bush became a Republican which in turn is how some eighty percent of those who will cast votes in the coming election came to be affiliated with their party of 'choice'. If it didn't happen in the crib, it happened in the nursery and if it didn't happen in the nursery, it happened at the dinner table. That premise has held true for some 220 years and is unlikely to change any time soon.

Except - well, the shift that occurred around the time of the Civil War, and the shift that occurred following the '29 crash, and now, perhaps. When Daniel Webster declaimed "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable." in 1830 he was already well engaged in the struggle which would not reach conclusion until some fourteen years after his death in 1852. By the time the question of federal unity was resolved the Federalist Whigs had disappeared and the Republicans were well launched upon an exercise of retaining power that would endure until its by then ossified leadership failed to respond to a catastrophe largely of its own making. Rigidity, rather than the hoped for wisdom, seems to have come as the party aged and the Republicans paid the appropriate price as millions of voters abandoned a party afflicted with sclerosis for a party which from its cradle had promised much to those who had achieved little.

The Democrats fulfilled their promises to such an extent that within fifty years the class of those in true need had practically disappeared. A remarkable achievement which some find truly laudable. Unfortunately (or very, very fortunately), the same ossification problem which afflicted the Republicans in the '20's has been afflicting the Democrats since the early '90's. Their largest client groups are declining either in size (the unions) or in potency (the segregation of blacks into politically meaningless enclaves). Having fulfilled its promises, the Democratic Party's reason for existence (other than to exercise power) is now in question.

Will the '06 election provide further evidence of the party's obsolescence? Perhaps not. The machinations of the last decennial reapportionment increase the probability that the Democrats will totter on for a bit. September 11, 2001 was not as transformative an event as that which occurred from October 24th through October 29th, 1929. The spending patterns of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee indicate that they expect to seriously contend the 2008 election. In fact, the spending patterns show that they are primarily focused on the 2008 campaign rather than upon actually attempting to secure a majority in either house. One might wonder where that particular spark of genius originated. Rahm Emanuel knows - but he ain't telling.

Tomorrow I'll take a close look at Iowa - home of the first indicator of a Presidential candidates viability.


MeaninglessHotAir said...

There's nothing new about Postmodernism. The names change but the debates remain the same.

Knucklehead said...

Those old masters of constitutional, republican, federated gummint had some good insights. Folks ought to rummage around their writings a bit more. Might larn sumpin.

loner said...

Unfortunately (or very, very fortunately), the same ossification problem which afflicted the Republicans in the '20's has been afflicting the Democrats since the early '90's.

No. It's been a afflicting the Democrats since the late '60s. The Vietnam War (in combination with the exercise of Federal power to bring about the enfranchisement of blacks in the South and a revolution in communications) should have caused a flip in the names of the long-term "governing" and "opposition" parties. The Republican Party finally achieved the flip in 1994, but it did it by political means having little to do with providing good, or sound, or responsible governance and two can play that game.

Rick Ballard said...

The ossification didn't start in the tax and spend '60's at all. The purchase of the black vote wasn't complete until '68 and real ossification can't be considered to have started until resegregation was achieved in the early '80's. Perhaps the establishment of a cabinet level position for reeducational propaganda by Carter in '78 might be construed as the first sign but it was the courts interference in redistricting that was the real first dead canary in the coal mine.

If "two can play that game" where is the Democrat's equivalent of the Contract With America? I know about the silly promise to increase the minimum wage but isn't that just a wee bit tired?

loner said...


If "two can play that game" where is the Democrat's equivalent of the Contract With America?

Do they need one? I'll argue politics, perhaps, later. The event was the Vietnam War.

I left the Republican Party (I was never a Democrat except by registration) with John Anderson in 1980. I'll register as a Republican when I arrive in Washington (first Monday in October,) but only because I think the Republican contest for the top spot will be the more interesting of the two in 2008. In the general election it's a good bet that I'll vote for the losing candidate.


Your neighbor-to-be

terrye said...

You know what keeps the Democrats alive? I had a discussion the other day with a woman who really believes that drug companies are setting on a cure for diabetes and the government is helping them, because our government wants her to be sick to make the drug companies rich.

So someone brave and fearless who really cares about people needs to come along and save her from the evil drug companies and their rich friends in government.

How do you argue with that? What do you even say?

Democrats have learned to exploit the fears and frustrations of people.

Rick Ballard said...


Could you buy my house before you head north? I correctly called the market top but didn't quite make it out under the wire. I look forward to seeing you in that far, far better place but it might be a bit.


Both parties use fear rather effectively. It's just one of those unpleasant realities that makes politics so unappealing that three out of five citizens don't even know their Representatives name.

I'm still working on whether that is a good or a bad thing.

terrye said...


I would say it depnds on if the fear is justified.

terrye said...

Rick, I forgot to ask... how do you do that thing of cutting down the size of the post and extending it to the next page? That is a good idea.

Rick Ballard said...

When you compose a post, this line has been automatically inserted (use "Edit HTML" mode to read it):

<span class="fullpost">

The introductory paragraph goes before that command, the balance of the 'Read more' portion goes between it and </span>, which closes the command.

chuck said...

I also like this anecdote from The Life of Colonel Davy Crockett: A Humbling Lesson.

David Thomson said...

The Democrats had better hope they are successful in 2006. The odds against them in 2008 seem even more daunting. They simply are not having enough children. The Republicans are giving birth to more future GOP voters. I predicted around two years ago that we would not likely see another Democratic president in our lifetime. So far, my crystal ball appears to be working fine.

terrye said...


Thank you for answering my dumb question. I wondered what that do hickey was there for.

Luther McLeod said...

Chuck, funny how things turn out. Good story with a telling comment at the end. Where is this site's historian to set me straight :-)