The Nation

Obnoxious Talkers

Shortly after 10 pm, the evening unfolds splendidly--an excruciatingslow-mo roll-up of the Republicans. Their pain is well-earned and fun towatch.

What spoils the drama for me are the cable talkers and their half-bakedattempts at analysis.

MSNBC should take Chris Matthews out in the parking lot and hose himdown. He puts on a fake confrontation interview with Howard Dean,demanding an end-of-war plan. Please, does no one at the network understand howstupid (and loud) this guy sounds?

Joe Scarborough should look for another line of work, now that right-wingcrackers are out of vogue.

On CNN, they found over-stuffed Bill Bennett and JC Watts to mourn thedefeat of their dearest friends. Who cares? These burned-outRepublicans peddled the usual party propaganda, even as their party wassliding down the rat hole.

That's the point. On a rare night when the Dems are building toward anepic victory--still too early to know for sure--these Cable Guysgive us stale DLC/neocon spin on what's wrong with the Democrats. Thebloggers should get on their case. Now.

The New Senate Democrat

While Bill Bennett is on CNN spinning like a loose top--arguing that tonight represents the end of a liberal "Democrat" party… don't tell that to the voters of Ohio. To them, Sherrod Brown is the face of the new Democratic Party, and he won with an antiwar, populist, fair trade, pro-choice, pro-gay rights message – and he did it in formerly Bush country too.

As John Nichols wrote in a recent Nation cover story, "If Democrats want to win statewide races, Brown says, they must reconnect with voters who live in places that have been off the party's map for the past few election cycles."

And that's exactly what Brown did. He met with regular, hard-working folks throughout the state who are struggling just to make ends meet – people anxious about ravaged pensions, mounting personal debt, job loss.....

And Nichol's points out that "Brown's no ‘back to the future' populist…. Brown's ‘we need to make Ohio the Silicon Valley of alternative energy' pitch has resonated with CEOs who don't typically talk up Democrats."

Brown is a decent and smart man who will play an important role in the Senate. For progressives who continue to miss the voice and presence of the late Paul Wellstone, there is reason for hope once again tonight. No matter how the Bennett's of the world spin it.

Anti-War Candidates Running Unexpectedly Well

Here's what is interesting to me at this point:

Anti-war candidates appear to be doing exceptionally well. In Ohio, Sherrod Brown, the most clearly anti-war candidate in a competitive Senate race, has upset Republican Senator Mike DeWine. In New Jersey, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who staked his campaign on an anti-war message, has won.

In Kentucky, John Yarmuth, a Democrat who was especially blunt in his criticisms of the war, has upset entrenched Republican incumbent Anne Northrup. And I especially like what I am seeing from New Hampshire -- no final results, but early numbers show anti-war Democrat Paul Hodes up 53-45 over Republican incumbent Charlie Bass in the 2nd district. In that state's first district, where Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, who was dramatically outspent but who built a strong grassroots campaign based on her opposition to the war, is virtually tied with Republican incumbent Jeb Bradley.

I don't know if Shea-Bradley will be able to pull out a win, but even if she finishes strong it is another signal that voters really are responding to anti-war messages.

Early Warning

So goes Louisville, Kentucky, maybe goes the GOP. In the toilet, thatis. The race is Rep. Anne Northrup, usually reliable Republicanincumbent, versus a supposedly weak Democrat. Only with 70 percentcounted, Northrup is below 50 percent and Yarmouth is above. If sheloses, even narrowly, it's a good signal that the Rs are in much deepertrouble this evening.

Still very early in the evening, but I don't see any Republicanofficials on TV talking up "hopeful signs." In a tight situation, theywould be keeping the balloon aloft at this hour, if only to encourageGOP voters on the West Coast not to give up prematurely. Tonight, theydon't seem to be trying.

Non-Voting Machines

We don't know the election result yet and thanks to the MSM killjoys we don't even know the exit polling at the moment, but what we do know is that the electronic voting machines are a threat to the very foundation of our democracy. In yet another failure of competence, machines across the country arefailing to work.

In Indiana officials in 175 precincts were forced to turn to paper ballots and the deadline for voting has had to be extended. In New Jersey, Republicans are complaining that the ballots were pre-marked with a vote for the Democratic Senate candidate. Republican Don Sherwood, who stands accused of knowing how to choke his mistress, had to ask a poll worker how to send his vote. Even Republican "Mean Jean" Schmidt had problems.

There will no doubt be Congressional hearings about these voting machines after the election and there should be. Here at The Nation we want to collect your stories about any problems you may have experienced. Let's document today for investigations tomorrow. Please share them with us in the comment board below.

Witching Hour

Witching Hour

We are in the weird zone at just after 7 pm EST, when nobody really knowsanything and political types are flashing inside information around the country.

I picked up the following from a Democratic source. It sounds verypromising for Democrats, but don't jump to conclusions at this hour.

First-breakout of exit polls for Senate races in eight states showDemocrats leading:

Virginia 52-47. Rhode Island 53-46. Pennsylvania 57-42. Ohio 57-43. New Jersey 52-45. Montana 50-48. Maryland 52-46.

Republicans are leading in Tennesseee 51-48 and Arizona 50-46.

Again, don't pop any corks yet...but this does make a nice start forthe evening.

Smoke and Dirty Tricks in Virginia

With the Allen-Webb race in a dead heat, the Allen campaign is claiming that the incredibly high turnout in Virginia is from Christian conservatives who showed up to vote for the anti-gay marriage amendment. CNN is reporting that over 100,000 more absentee ballots were cast this year than in the last midterm elections, and activists I spoke to said that the wait at some poll stations was over 45 minutes long.

I just got off the phone with Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, the campaign manager of The Commonwealth Coalition, the hard-charging group who've moved the marriage amendment from a right-wing sure thing to a live issue. Gastanaga dismissed the Allen campaign's claim as just smoke and mirrors. She's highly skeptical that high turnout has been motivated from the right-wing. "We're seeing high turnout in northern Virginia where the latest Mason-Dixon poll showed us ahead on the issue 60-38," says Gastanaga.

Gastanaga concedes that turnout is high across the state and includes some right-wing voters, but she says, "There's a lot of intensity on our side of the issue too."

Gastanaga also has heard of reports of voter intimidation and Republican dirty tricks. In Roanoke, two of the voting stations are at churches where marquees read "Vote yes on Amendment 1" and where parishoners had ringed the parking lot with cars covered in vote yes bumper stickers. "Voters had to get through a phalanx to get to the poll," she said.

CNN is also reporting that the FBI is investigating phone calls that inaccurately told voters they may be inelligible to vote. I'll post more when I know more.

The Machinery of Democracy

The great machinery of American democracy whirred into action thismorning, only to seize up and shut right down again--in precinct afterprecinct, county after county, and state after state. Some of the chaoswas widely forecast in an election in which one-third of the nation's precincts were deploying brand-new, technically suspect machinery for the first timeand pollworker training was spotty at best. Some of it was simply acontinuation of the inglorious American tradition of dirtyelectioneering.

More than forty precincts in Cleveland, Ohio--a city under the microscopeafter the controversies of the 2004 presidential race--couldn't gettheir electronic touch screen-terminals fired up on time. InIndianapolis, officials facing the same problem in more than 100precincts resorted to handing out paper ballots. In Delaware County, Indiana,northeast of the state capital, a programming error meant the votersmart cards would not work, prompting hours of delay and a courtpetition to keep the polls open an extra couple of hours. And that wasjust the situation before breakfast.

By mid-afternoon, the city of Denver was on the verge of the electoralbreakdown, as the computer terminals either seized up or broke down andthe paper ballots offered as a substitute started to run out. It tookBill Ritter, the Democratic candidate for governor, almost two hours tocast his vote. In New Jersey, Republicans complained that the machineswere rigged in favor of incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Menendez; inVirginia, where Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb's name wastruncated on the interface of voting machines in several counties,Democrats complained that the machines were rigged in favor of theRepublicans.

The list of problem states encompassed almost the entire country:Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland,Maryland, Utah...Even where the machines started up correctly, there werecomplaints of screen freezes, votes for one candidate apparently beingmarked for another, optical scan readers that wouldn't read ballots, andmore.

And those were just the technical problems. In several heavily AfricanAmerican districts around the country, Republican operatives took a pageright out of the Jim Crow-Jesse Helms playbook, calling voters to tellthem their precinct location had changed when it hadn't, or warning themthey risked arrest if they showed up to vote, or trying to talk theminto believing the election was on Wednesday, not Tuesday. In heavilyAfrican-American Buckingham County, Virginia, a widely circulated flyerannounced in bold letters: "SKIP THIS ELECTION".

Virginia, with its pivotal Allen-Webb Senate race, appeared to sufferthe worst of these problems, but it was far from the only affectedstate. The Republican Party's "robo-call" campaign--repeat phone calls,many of them late at night, appearing to endorse Democratic candidatesbut really designed to dump dirt on them and deter voters from showingup at all--took place in twenty closely fought House districts across thecountry. The radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham, meanwhile, fouled upthe Democratic Party's voter complaint hotline by openly mocking it onair and reading out the freefone number several times. The hotlinereported a spike in crank calls, slowing down voters with bona fidecomplaints to lodge.

Will any of this affect the outcome of the election? In close races,absolutely it might. Several states have already either restricted oreliminated recount procedures--their idea of avoiding another meltdownlike Florida in 2000 – so transparency and accountability are alreadyshaky notions at best. If Allen and Webb, or any other two candidates,are just a few hundred or a few thousand votes apart by tomorrowmorning, there may be literally no way of knowing which is the deservingwinner. The attorneys, out in unprecedented force, will have their say,of course. But they are likely only to obscure things further.Elections, after all, are for the people to speak out, not the lawyers.

The Anti-War Wave

Everyone is talking about whether there will be a Democratic wave tonight. That's an important question, to be sure. But there are other, perhaps more telling, waves to watch for.

The central issue of the 2OO6 election season has been the war in Iraq. But that does not mean that every House and Senate contest will provide a clear read on sentiments regarding the conflict. In many contests, Democratic and Republican candidates have spun their stances on the questions of how and when to bring the troops home. A few Republicans are actually emphasizing their support for some sort of exit strategy -- including contenders in tight races, such as Rhode Island'Senator Lincoln Chafee, and Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, both of whom voted against authorizing President Bush to use force, and Connecticut Congressman Chris Shays, whose conversion from a strong pro-war stance would seem to have a lot to do with the tough challenge he faces from war-critic Diane Farrell. On the other hand, several high-profile Democratic challengers, including Nebraska House candidate Scott Kleeb, have explicitly opposed setting a timeline for withdrawal of the troops,

But there are certainly enough clear contests to make it possible to detect whether we'll see an anti-war wave tonight.

The first polling places to close tonight will be in Indiana and Kentucky, at 6 p.m. EST. In a Louisville-based House district, Democrat JOHN YARMUTH, an alternative newspaper publisher, has a chance of upsetting Republican incumbent Anne Northrup. Yarmuth has made his opposition to the war a central focus of his campaign from the start, and he's gotten so much traction that Northrup has started to break with the administration -- using the now-common dodge of calling for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign. If Yarmuth wins, it will send a clear signal about the viability of the anti-war message.

.At 7 p.m. EST, polls close in Virginia, where embattled Republican Senator George Allen faces a strong challenge from Democrat JIM WEBB. Webb, a veteran who was a Reagan administration appointee, switched parties and got into the race because of his fury over the war. Allen has stumbled frequently during this campaign, but at the end of the day a Webb win will say a lot about whether southern voters are as upset as voters in the rest of the country about the mess in Iraq.

At 7:3O p.m. EST, polls close in Ohio, where Democratic challenger SHERROD BROWN has highlighted his vote in the House against authorizing Bush to invade Iraq, complained about the cost of the war and called for an exit strategy from the start of his race against Republican incumbent Mike DeWine. A Brown win cannot be seen an anything but a big victory for anti-war forces., The same goes for a win by Democrat ZACK SPACE, who is running for the seat opened up by the decision of disgraced Republican Congressman Bob Ney to quit Congress. Space has made his anti-war stance a prime feature of his campaign in a traditionally Republican district.

At 8 p.m. EST, polls close in New Jersey, where incumbent Democratic Senator BOB MENENDEZ has come from behind in his race with Republican Tom Kean Jr. by putting opposition to the war at the top of his platform. Menendez is one of a number of Democrats who have employed blunt anti-war messages in their television ads. Polls will also close at this time in Connecticut, where the Senate contest between Democrat NED LAMONT and the man he ousted in the party primary, incumbent Joe Lieberman, who is running as an independent, will tell us a good deal about the depth of anti-war sentiment. Lamont's fall campaign has frequently stumbled and he trails in the polls. If Lamont were to win, or at this point finish close to Lieberman, it would indicate that even when a challenger has vulnerabilities an anti-war stance counts for a lot. In another key state where polls close at 8, Pennsylvania, a big win for Democratic Congressman JACK MURTHA, perhaps the House's most identifiable war critic and a favorite Republican punching bag, would make it clear that Democrats who have spoken out against Bush administration policies are not suffering for it. And a win in another Pennsylvania race by Democratic challenger JOE SESTAK, a military man who has been outspoken in his advocacy for an exit strategy in his challenge to Republican Congressman Curt Weldon in the state's 7th district, would say something more about the potency of the anti-war message. If Democrat PAUL HODES upsets Republican Congressman Charlie Bass in New Hampshire's 2nd district, it will be opposition to the war by Hodes that made the difference. The can be said if Democratic challenger LINDA STENDER defeats Republican Mike Ferguson in New Jersey's 7th district.

At 9 p.m. EST, polls close in much of the country, including the upper Midwest and some of the interior west, North Dakota Senator KENT CONRAD, a Democrat who cast a courageous vote against authorizing Bush to go to war in 2OO2, is running well ahead in his reelection race. A big Conrad win -- with over 6O percent of the vote -- would show that even in rural, conservative states it does not hurt to oppose the war. If fast-closing Democratic challenger JIM PEDERSON upsets Republican Senator Jon Kyl in Arizona, it will be because of Pederson's unrelenting focus on the need to end the war. A win in Minnesota's 1st district by Democratic challenger TIM WALZ, a retired dergeant major in the Army National Guard, would come at the expense of pro-war Republican Congressman Gil Gutknecht. In the open Minnesota-6 seat, a win by Democrat PATTY WETTERLING, who has advocated for the rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq, would send a very loud anti-war message. The same would go for a win in the 19th district of New York state, where polls close at this hour, by Democratic challenger JOHN HALL, who has used his opposition to the war to close the gap in his race against popular Republican Congresswoman Sue Kelly. Hall's still got an uphill climb in this contest, but if he succeeds, then clearly it is the war that is taking Republican incumbents down. Finally, watch in Wisconsin for how well a Green challenger, RAE VOGELER, finishes in her race against Democrat Herb Kohl. Like many Greens around the country, Vogeler has focused attention on the failure of Democrats such as Kohl to take clear anti-war positions; If Vogeler or other Greens delivering similar messages finish with significant percentages of the vote, it will serve as another indication of the intensity of anti-war sentiment.

At 1O p.m. EST, polls close in most western states. If Democrat JON TESTER upsets Republican Senator Conrad Burns in Montana, Tester's criticism of the war will have been a big factor -- indeed, it was the Democrat's anti-war stance that helped him win his party's primary in June over a more centrist Democrat. Similarly, a win by Democrat BRUCE BRALEY in Iowa's open 1st district, will send an anti-war message. Braley has highlighted his support for an exit strategy from the start of the race.

At 11 p.m. EST, polls in the far west close. If Democrat DARCY BURNER defeats Republican Congressman Dave Reichert in Washington state's 8th district, the war will have been a big factor. In California's hotly-contested 11th district, Democrat JERRY McNERNEY won his primary in large part because he was the more clearly anti-war candidate. If he defeats Republican Congressman Richard Pombo in what is likely to be one of the last contests to be decided tonight, Congress will be tipped a little further in the direction of a "Bring the Troops Home: position.


John Nichols' new book, THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure for Royalism is being published this month by The New Press. "With The Genius of Impeachment," writes David Swanson, co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, "John Nichols has produced a masterpiece that should be required reading in every high school and college in the United States." Studs Terkel says: "Never within my nonagenarian memory has the case for impeachment of Bush and his equally crooked confederates been so clearly and fervently offered as John Nichols has done in this book. They are after all our public SERVANTS who have rifled our savings, bled our young, and challenged our sanity. As Tom Paine said 200 years ago to another George, a royal tramp: 'Bugger off!' So should we say today. John Nichols has given us the history, the language and the arguments we will need to do so." The Genius of Impeachment can be found at independent bookstores and at www.amazon.com