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The GOP Takes a Beating | The Nation

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The GOP Takes a Beating

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The nature of a twenty-four-hour spin cycle on cable and the Internet, as well as hundreds of highly paid people in the TV news biz with big egos and not much to do anymore, demands that even an off-off-year election will be covered as if it were the equivalent of a D-Day invasion.

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Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman
Eric Alterman is a Distinguished Professor of English, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Professor of...

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This is bad news for the Republicans, though short-term bad news, because nothing good happened for them yesterday. They lost by much bigger margins than pundits had been predicting in both Virginia (Tim Kaine's 52 percent to Jerry Kilgore's 46 percent) and New Jersey (Jon Corzine's 53 percent to Doug Forrester's 44 percent).

In California Arnold Schwarzenegger's initiatives took a beating, even though a few of them made good sense. The only significant Republican victor, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, specifically dissociated himself from George W. Bush and the national party (and is really a Democrat in everything but name). Even the Bush-loving Democratic mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, is out on his ear.

Just about the only good news for the ruling right wing is that there is still something very much the matter with Kansas--the state board voted to make their kids stupid by telling them that evolution ain't true. And Texas is still the kind of place where legal same-sex marriage is relegated to prisons and maybe churches. Not much to build on there.

Still, you will hear over and over today--because these will be the Republican talking points--that not only did Democrats take the governorships in both New Jersey and Virginia four years ago, only to see Republicans run away with everything a year later, but both states have voted out the party that occupied the White House in every gubernatorial race since the Carter Administration.

True, yesterday's elections have next to no predictive value for one to three years from now, but they have a great deal to say about where the nation stands politically today. And all that is (happily) bad news for the far right. Bush is a drag on the national party, with an approval rating that approaches Nixon's during the summer he was forced to resign. (The smart, Bush-friendly boyz at ABC's The Note spin this by politely observing that "President Bush has gone from being an unalloyed asset to being a mixed bag (at best) and in some places an obvious drag for GOP candidates.")

More significant is the rejection of the entire far-right philosophy into whose thrall the Republican Party has fallen and whose out-of-touch demands threaten to turn into a death-grip. (This will become even more apparent once Justice Alito helps them overturn Roe v. Wade.) Signs of panic at the Congressional level are already apparent this morning in the ABC News Bulletin that "Republican Sen. Pete Domenici says 'Oil Companies Owe the Country an Explanation.' "

Since when do Republicans of the Bush/Cheney/Halliburton team start worrying about oil companies making too much money? Since they started worrying about losing elections, that's when.

Finally, yesterday's election will start a boomlet for outgoing Virginia Governor Mark Warner as the anti-Hillary, edging out John Edwards, who disappointed so many fans as the vice presidential candidate. Tim Kaine ran with God and Mark Warner and beat Bush in Bush country. Would you really want to nominate a female New York lighting rod for cultural conservatives against an argument like that?

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