Two things to be learned tonight as the election results filter in:
1. The MSN Goliath is still more influential and powerful than the blogosphere & radio talk-show Davids; and,
2. American voters are not as conservative as conservative Republican pundits had hoped.
The first point is self-evident. The constant news media negativity and body-counts from Iraq managed to shape public opinion beyond the ability of the Bush Administration, radio talkshow hosts or the conservative blogosphere to counter with either reality or counter-spin.
Television news (not necessarily the "cable" kind) and the so-called "dinosaur" print media proved to still have the power to pursuade and propogandize effectively enough to send a lot of Republican Congressmen/women packing.
Perhaps it is also true that "all politics is local." But what those local issues might have been (with a strong, burgeoning economy and a seemingly safe & secure homeland) I cannot say. Certainly "local politics" cannont explain such a wholesale shift in the national political conscience.
As many "exit poll" results showed today, the biggest issue on voters' minds was the "war in Iraq." And most of those voters did not like the war and were tired of it and wanted a change of some sort . . . any sort.
It will now be up to a badly splintered Congress to figure out what the voters actually meant when they voted today. The party that comes closest to that truth will no doubt capture (or recapture) the momentum in the next national election in 2008.
My second point is simply a feeling that the last two presidential elections in 2000 and 2004 were won by Republicans not so much because American voters were so conservative but because the Democrats put forward two of the most uninspiring candidates imaginable . . . so incredibly dull that they made George W. Bush seem almost charismatic by comparison.
My hunch is that, if the Democrats hope to build on tonight's success in 2008 they will have to tone down their rhetoric, produce enough compromises with President Bush to prove that they can accomplish something and yet force Bush into enough vetos to make the Republicans look like the party of obstructionism. An attractive, intelligent Presidential candidate without major divisive baggage (such as Barak Obama) would also help attract votes from the "muddled middle" of the national electorate.
Republicans, on the other hand, need to show that they can work constructively, creatively and with compromise with the Democrats, especially in the House. They need to show that they are the party willing to take new, creative approaches to changing times and changing circumstances at home and around the world. This does not need to be a rejection of the "Bush Doctrine" (whatever that is . . . and I think I do know what it is) but there will need to be some new twists and wrinkles thrown in to show the American people that the party has not simply fossilized into being as useless as a doorstop.
Some new life and new leadership will need to emerge from the rotting corpses of the previous Republican vanguard . . . especially in the House. Someone with the demonstrable ability to actually defeat a worthy Democrat challenger in an actual election will need to emerge. Had he won, Steele would have served this purpose nicely as a counter-point to Obama. Unfortunately, he lost. Santorum, while wildly popular and respected (and rightfully so) by conservatives is clearly now labled as "loser" useful only for appointment to a Cabinet position if a vacancy shows up.
I sense a national mood shift away from folks like Giuliani (whose glory days are too far in the past). McCain might actually have a chance at broad appeal (despite his age) if he can squeeze out some measure of bi-partisan cooperation in the Senate. This will, of course, further disenfranchise him from conservative Republicans but will certainly make him more attractive to independents and conservative Democrats who might feel safer with a man with an honorable military past in the White House to counter the anti-war inclinations of a Democratic-controlled House and a politically divided Senate. A newer face, but still subject to bigotry because of his faith (especially among many fundamentalist and some evangelical Christians) would be Gov. Mitt Romney of Massechusetts.
After tonight, however, the momentum belongs to the Democrats. Accordingly, the 2008 election is theirs to either win or lose. If they screw it up with the wrong nominee for President (Hillary Clinton) or by proving to be disfunctional through incoherent and/or disunified Congressional and party policy positions they might . . . and I do mean "might" . . . give the Republicans enough room to sneak in another chance to lead the nation.
But I'm not holding my breath, After all, the Democratic Party can't be that stupid, can they?