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The Gross National Debt

Sunday, November 13, 2005

While the title of this post refers specifically to the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), the post itself is dealing more broadly with the issue of the President's approval ratings and the effect that is having on his ability to push through certain key policies that he spelled out in his "political capital" comment after the January '05 inauguration.

Last week was a big week for Democrats in states that had off-year elections. The biggest, to me, was the election of Tim Kaine, a Democrat, as Governor of Virginia. Kaine ran against Republican challenger Jerry Kilgore in what became a pretty nasty and expensive campaign. Ultimately, it's my opinion that Kaine won on the strength of the wildly popular Mark Warner's record (outgoing Democratic Governor). Warner, a moderate Democratic Governor in a state that went for George W. Bush in 2004 by 8 percentage points is widely rumored to be eyeing a Presidential run in 2008. I can say that Kaine's election win was, essentially, a big endorsement of Warner as a possible national candidate.

However, there is no doubt that if the President's numbers had been better that his 11th hour appearance with Kilgore would have represented a boost rather than an albatross. As is stands, Kaine won the state by 6 percentage points and gained a Democratic majority in what had been predominantly Republican Northern Virginia terroritory: Loudon County.

In my humble opinion, Kaine's victory was due every bit as much to the popularity of Warner as to the unpopularity of Bush. Kilgore is a Bush-mold Republican - by this I mean that he largely pandered to the far right of the Republican party and, in the end, he wasn't able to mobilize enough of his base to eke out a victory. That certainly speaks to the reputation and poll numbers of the President. It also served as a signal to those in the Republican party that the way they won elections the last time they ran will not necessarily work, especially for those facing re-election in 2006. I will specifically be watching the tone and statements of Republican Senator George Allen Jr., VA, as my own personal litmus test of how dramatically Republicans in Congress are pulling away from the President, attempting to put a mental distance between themselves and a President who is increasingly viewed as unpopular as well as untrustworthy. Allen has held fast to the far-right agenda in the past. A visible separation on his part will send a clear signal to other vulnerable Republicans in Congress that distance is a necessary component of re-election. Allen is especially important, in my opinion, because he is eyeing a Presidental run in 2008... If he loses re-election in 2006 his Presidential plans will be seriously endangered. 2006 is a must-win for him. How he accomplishes that, and especially what tone he sets vis-a-vis the President will likely be indicative of how the remainder of the Republican party in Congress will behave.

But I could be wrong.

There are signs, and recent ones, that the President's support within his own party is crumbling. One of the things that I fought hard for back in the Spring was to keep oil drilling out of the ANWR. Myself and a host of other Democrats and progressives spent a great deal of our time calling and writing (and writing again and calling some more) Republicans in Congress to reject ANWR drilling. We didn't win that initial effort, unfortunately. But a ray of hope shone down this past week. From an article on MichiganNews.com:

Both the U.S. House and Senate budget bills included a provision that would allow for oil drilling in a small fraction of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Senate passed its budget bill last week, but leaders in the House dropped the ANWR provision late November 9 after a small group of moderate Republicans threatened to withhold support for the budget if ANWR were included. Although the House repeatedly has voted to allow drilling in ANWR, since most Democrats were expected to vote against the budget, the moderate House members had exceptional leverage in this instance.

One of the moderates, Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH), wrote a letter opposing ANWR drilling that was signed by at least 24 of his Republican colleagues and delivered to House Rules Committee Chairman David Drier early this week. Rep. Bass' objection to drilling is largely philosophical: "Including the drilling provision in the Deficit Reduction Act would undermine the protection of all public spaces by valuing the worth of the potential resources contained within these lands over their conservation value... Rather then reversing decades of protection for this publicly held land, focusing greater attention on renewable energy sources, alternate fuels, and more efficient systems and appliances would yield more net energy savings."

Opportunities for moderate Republicans to assert their influence are greatly increased as the President's numbers remain low.

I am not a hater of Republicans. My opinion of US politics is pretty simple. About 20% of Republicans are far-right religious conservatives. Another 20% of Democrats a on the radical left. The remaining 60% are really centrists - and centrists who bleed over the "line" depending on the issue. Good legislation, in my opinion, represents that centrist majority regardless of party. While my opinion on a particular issue may not be the prevailing and ultimate legislation that emerges, it should be represented in that I don't lose so dramatically that I feel unrepresented. Make sense?

The lower the President's numbers go, the more we move back to the center - back where we should be.

posted by RenaRF at 1:24 PM 1 comments links to this post


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8:14 PM  

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