Today is the Midterm Elections here in the United States. If the pre-election day polls are to be believed, it looks like good news for the Democrats and bad news for the Republicans. The big question is whether the news is good/bad enough for Democrats to take control of one or both houses of Congress. I guess we’ll know by tonight.
But this post isn’t about the midterms. Don’t get me wrong, I hope the Democrats take back both houses of congress. But whoever ends up controlling Congress will have a thin majority at best, which will limit their ability to accomplish much. Frankly, the only area that I would expect to see much traction is on issues where moderate Republicans can reach across the aisle and vote with the Democrats in order to distance themselves from President Bush’s abysmal approval ratings.
I’m much more interested in the 2008 presidential campaign. For the first time in over 50 years, it will be a wide open race for both parties. Neither the sitting president nor the vice president will be running for president in 2008. The last time this happened was in 1952. President Harry Truman (D) dropped out of the race after losing the New Hampshire primary and Vice President Alben Barkley never had enough support to win the nomination. The Democratic nomination went to Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson who lost to General Eisenhower in a landslide. Since then, the incumbent president or vice president has always been his party’s nominee for president.
Until now. Well, until two years from now at any rate. So while not completely unprecedented, this is the first time we’ve had a completely wide open race since the start of the Information Age. In other words, it’s the first time we’ve had a wide open race since the advent of cable TV, personal computers, 24 news networks, Rush Limbaugh, the Internet, weblogs, Wikipedia and YouTube. I’m sure some have already started calling this Politics 2.0. And while I’m tired of the “2.0″ moniker, certainly big changes is underway in the political arena.
So what happens when you combine the harsh sunlight of a decentralized and demassivied media with a wide open race with no clear favorite from either party? I’m guessing a very ugly race, especially from the Republicans. Both parties do negative ads, but they have become a “key strategy in the Republican political arsenal“. (The NRCC apparently spent “more than 90 percent of its $50 million-plus advertising budget” on negative ads this year.) I expect 2008 will be even worse. And not just the presidential race itself, but also the race for each party’s nomination. In some ways, the nomination race will be worse, since you expect politicians to have bad things to say about candidates from the opposing party.
If the next two years are filled with party infighting with every detail chronicled in the blogosphere and/or the mainstream media – and I fully expect that’s what will happen – we are in for a very ugly campaign ahead. Brace yourselves.