2002 Mid-Term Campaigns

Aquarian Weekly 10/2/02 REALITY CHECK


Despite reams of pestering mail to the contrary, I cannot bring myself to knock off another 900 words on this Iraq mess. It’s been twelve years of this crap and most of my thoughts are well documented in my second book, Fear No Art, and if anyone is really interested they can storm into a Barnes & Noble, plunk down 15 bucks and have a ball. Otherwise, I’m done considering it anything more than a corporate big-dick mambo in the desert.

Seeing how this economy is so completely fucked, it is only right to huddle back into the safe haven of political prognostication, which these days is starting to resemble my putrid record for betting on pro football.

In the early 90s’ both subjects brought smiles to colleagues and cash flow to the Campion residence. Neither is apparently working too well in this new and improved century of madness. Yet, strangely, I cannot turn away.

Nonetheless, the view from Fort Vernon is pleasant these days. Local politics glides along merrily on the backs of property taxes, sanitation concerns and Indian burial grounds being defaced by wayward contractors.

For the first time in this nation’s history there has been no significant shift in the public debate since its closest presidential election. There is no mandate. There is no fusion.

And, I guess, being a resident of the Garden State again for the past 13 months and not commenting on the Senator Robert Torricelli fiasco, and his laughable stumble toward the Election Day finish line, is somewhat damning to my credibility as a reporter. That is, if I possessed credibility. However, the kinds of sources and connections that make a column of this ilk fly are not the kind I wish to dredge up in my new home state.

Let’s leave it at that.

Now let’s foray into what these mid-term elections are really all about to us media types: the national scene.

Firstly, this is a redistricting year, so some key states will lose and/or gain congressional representatives. What that will mean in the long run is a wild card since it balances out the normal number of retirees. Most times redistricting means incumbents fixing certain voting areas to keep their piece of the pie, a highly dubious practice that ranks up there with the many injustices to the voting public that continue to fail this vacillating democracy.

This time around the Republicans will be defending a six-seat advantage in the House and hope to flip the disadvantage in the Senate by at least one.

History says the GOP would be looking at miles of bad road. Most voters, although concerned with local issues, tend to use mid-term elections to lean toward the party opposite of the reigning executive branch.

Even those who loudly espouse the theory that these things are about local economies have to admit this autumn does not bode well for Republicans. Forty-eight of the 50 states are projecting record budget losses for ’03 and tight races tend to dredge up fiscal mayhem for incumbents.

But of the fewer than 40 districts considered even remotely competitive this fall, the Democrats would have to take two-thirds to change the majority in the House. In fact, the highly regarded Cook Political Report announced this week that only “two dozen House races will be tight and the Democrats would need to win at least 75 percent of those to take back control of the House.”

With so few close races and so much ground to make up, this is a heavy challenge; especially with Republicans painting every Democrat with a treasonous brush if they so much as consider opposing some measure of this increasingly ambiguous Bush foreign policy romp.

But with the ugly exit of Gary Condit in California and the Torricelli stank here in Jersey, the big money falls on the GOP side. The House will stay Republican.

The real horse race resides in the Senate where tussles in South Dakota, Missouri, Minnesota and Iowa, Georgia and Louisiana will likely decide policy for the next two years.

The Democrats will tell you it’s important to keep things even in Washington to avoid easy appointees to the Supreme Court, giving the Right to Life crowd a fighting chance. Not to mention more noise on Medicare and Social Security (again!), last year’s tax cut and the billions a month on this country is spending on gassing desert caves, spying on North Korea and something resembling Homeland Security.

None of this is likely to matter, even if the Republicans gain control of the Senate. With the philosophical split in the voter base being almost even, it is a stone cold guarantee that any extreme maneuvers would lay waste to the future of the party and make G.W. another one-term Bush.

However, politically, this would be a major coup for Republicans. They can almost smell the tide beginning to turn. Barring more independent wrangling, this is a true chance for policy threats to bend their way for at least two years.

Of course, this is a country literally divided down the middle. For the first time in this nation’s history there has been no significant shift in the public debate since its closest presidential election. There is no mandate. There is no fusion.

Just like pro football. Parody.

Makes it hard to win money or guess power struggles.

Yet, strangely, I cannot turn away.

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