Still dysfunctional: The legend becomes fact

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." -- John Ford

Yes, it was a good day and it's getting better, but the central fact of American politics remains political dysfunction. The Democrats will command a small majority in the House and split about even -- possibly with a one-vote margin -- in the Senate, but lookit: the Republicans had absolutely nothing going for them. They've screwed up a war in Iraq that they lied to us about in order to start, and the mess is so bad nobody knows what to do about it; they've busted the budget; they're corrupt as could be; they're as ineffective as they are corrupt; they've abandoned conservatism; they even threw in a homosexual sex scandal that their leadership covered up for, in case the base didn't get the message. What's more, they have no clue about how to address any of these problems, except to charge that Democrats are on the side of terrorists and like losing and abortions and NAMBLA and such. What's even more, we've lived through six years of this stuff.

In no genuinely democratic country on earth would a regime this dysfunctional survive at all. But this is not a genuinely democratic country. It's a democracy of money -- anybody hear much talk about the power of money last night? -- and so we have divided government, with a small majority in the House and a majority of uncontested elections. (I did not vote for my representative, Charlie Rangel, in silent protest of this.) Sure, things will improve, and these results better reflect the results than before, but still, in the overall scheme of things, it's pathetic that we have to settle for this, and dammit, we shouldn't. Democrats should push political reform from day one, including publicly funded elections. All they need to do is show how much it costs us to have these circuses funded by special interests and the nefarious folks who benefit.

Still, it's something upon which to build. Bruce Reed has some smart things to say, here: "The president and his party have dedicated his entire second term to electing a Democratic Congress, from Iraq to Katrina, Schiavo to Miers, Ney to DeLay. It now looks like Bush, not Iraq, is the one who's just a comma -- a presidency that was on the brink of failure before 9/11 and in the voters' eyes has now officially found its way back there."

He goes on:

Field marshals Rahm Emanuel and Chuck Schumer ignored the virtual industry of self-help nonsense that has paralyzed Democrats' chattering classes and went back to a simple, proven formula: From the suburbs to the heartland, elections are won in the center.

Emanuel and Schumer went out of their way to recruit candidates that could put the party's best face forward in otherwise-hostile territory. Despite pressure from various interests, they refused to impose ideological litmus tests. The result? Democrats did the opposite of what Republicans have been doing (and what losing Democratic campaigns usually do). Instead of shrinking their tent, Democrats made their big tent a lot bigger.

Well, OK, that's true. And I share the sentiments. But by my lights, the real winner last night was Howard Dean, together with the netroots. Schumer and Emanuel insisted that they knew best when demanding that all resources be focused on just a few winnable races. But the universe of potentially winnable races expanded well beyond those dreamed of in Rahm and Chuck's imagination, and we have Dean, and the pressure from Moveon.org and the Kossacks, to thank for that. A little thank-you would go a long way here, guys ...

Something Mickey never mentions: Yes, immigration is an issue upon which Democrats remain vulnerable, but the flipside here is not something that can be easily ignored:

"The Wall Street Journal ($) analyzes the role of the Hispanic vote and declares it could be one of the biggest factors in the campaign. Polls showed Hispanics favoring Democrats over Republicans by 73 percent to 26 percent."

And our man Boehlert asks: "Why is Howie so angry?" Mr. Conflict of Interest writes, here:

Well, the media really dodged a bullet yesterday.

If the Republicans had defied the polls and somehow hung on to the House, every journalist, pundit, analyst and other assorted loudmouths who bought into the Democratic takeover scenario would be so embarrassed they would have to go into hiding for at least a couple of news cycles. Or justify why they weren't really wrong, that no one could have anticipated the breach of the electoral levees.

Um, I think it's called polling.

I didn't know there was a Green Party candidate in Virginia. You idiots. Why won't you go shut up and go away? Not enough wars for you yet? Not enough corruption?

Nice guy, Jim Leach. Hope he's got unemployment insurance.

When I went to a party for John Hall at Danny Goldberg's after a Bonnie Raitt concert at the beginning of this summer, I had two thoughts: 1) What a nice guy with really nice supporters. 2) No way in Hell ...

But it turns out for the people upstate New York, he's gonna scratch their itch ... and they won't switch ... he's still havin' fun, and ...

Daniel Ortega: a uniter not a divider, and who like Hugo Chavez, will make a better president than George W. Bush, and not only because both of them were more fairly elected ...

From the Benton Foundation:

LOS ANGELES TIMES SAYS EDITOR TO QUIT [SOURCE: Reuters]

Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet, who has resisted parent company Tribune Co.'s plan to lay off staff to cut costs, will leave the newspaper. He was forced to resign at the request of the publisher after he refused to agree to further cuts of his editorial staff. Baquet surprised industry experts when he did not resign in October when Jeffrey Johnson quit as the paper's publisher. Johnson had supported Baquet's decision to fight the Tribune's efforts to eliminate jobs at the paper, which is one of the largest in the United States. Johnson was replaced by David Hiller, former publisher of the Chicago Tribune in Tribune Co.'s home town. Hiller told Times employees Tuesday that the company will cut positions sometime next year.

Eric adds: Nice move leaking it on Election Day.

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Paul-Andre
Hometown: Vancouver, BC, Canada

The bright side of Kerry's over-reported failed joke regarding Bush is that the gaffe has, hopefully, put to rest any possibility of him running again for the Presidency in 2008. Who would support such a bid in the Democratic Party once reminded of that faux pas so close to a major election?

Name: Pat Healy
Hometown: Vallejo, CA

With all due deference to Tony, who has heard a box set I have not, I still go with the late Herb Caen's summation of the Chairman's career:

"Sinatra was a better singer when he was a Democrat."

Name: Dan
Hometown: Providence, RI

Hi Eric,

A quote from last night's episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It is from the CEO of NBS to an executive producer on why their parent company, and its board, are not pleased with their new liberal head of programming:

''Hollywood isn't run by liberals. It's run by companies. And you can look for a pretty long time before finding a liberal on the board of directors of any of those companies."

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