Monday, October 30, 2006

Tomgram: Grandin, Democrats Snatching Defeat from Victory's Jaws

Presidential approval polling figures, so ripe and upward moving in September, are as off-a-cliff-steeply in the first half of October. The likes of the polling gap between Americans likely to cast a generic Democratic and a generic Republican vote in the upcoming midterm elections hasn't been seen since 1994 -- and then in reverse, of course. The intensity gap (think: throw-the-bums-out mood) between Democrats and Republicans, when it comes to this election has a similar look to it. The Republican Party is reportedly pulling money out of races previously considered winnable and throwing money into last-stand bulw! arks in Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia (where its Senate candidate is nonetheless surprisingly embattled), while the Democrats are calling up polls and considering dropping money into races nationwide that previously were imagined as unwinnable. Republican "sure bets" in states like Florida, Ohio, and Indiana are now no such thing. You are starting to see possibly over-optimistic online election-day maps of a Democratic Senate; the respectable Rasmussen polling organization is already suggesting nearly as much; and the respected National Journal has just enlarged its House compe! titive races, only a few months ago in the 25-30 range (out of! 435 sup posedly available seats), to 60 with this tagline: "At this point at least that many are in play and, frankly, we could have gone to 75."

Like those famed sugar plums, visions of a Democratic House, and even Senate, are dancing in the heads of Party activists; while, for so many other Americans, simple hopes are rising for what the power of Congressional "oversight," the power to investigate, the power of a subpoena, might do to Bush administration dreams of endless domination. But sometimes -- even assuming all this came true -- a little dash of cold history in the face is a salutary thing. So let Greg Grandin, Latin American expert and author of the superb Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, bring back to life the last time the Democrats found themselves in such a mood. Let him take you back to a previous, scandal-ridden era when another formidable President over-reached himself with off-the-books ventures of every sort. Tom

Still Dancing to Ollie's Tune

Will the Democrats Blow It Again as They Did in 1986?
By Greg Grandin

A Republican Party on the ropes, bloodied by a mid-second-term scandal; a resurrected Democratic opposition, sure it can capitalize on public outrage to prove that it is still, in the American heart of hearts, the majority party.

But before House Democrats start divvying up committee assignments and convening special investigations, they should consider that they've been here before, and things didn't turn out exactly the way they hoped.

It was twenty years ago this November 3rd -- exactly one day after the Democrats regained control of the Senate after six years in the minority -- that the Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa reported on the Reagan administration's secret, high-tech missile sale to Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran, which violated an arms embargo against that country and contradicted President Ronald Reagan's personal pledge never to deal with governments that sponsored terrorism.

Democrats couldn't believe their luck. After years of banging their heads on Reagan's popularity and failing to derail his legislative agenda, they had not only taken back the Senate, but follow-up investigations soon uncovered a scandal of epic proportions, arguably the most consequential in American history, one that seemed sure to disgrace every single constituency that had fueled the upstart conservative movement. The Reagan Revolution, it appeared, had finally been thrown into reverse.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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