The media have been extraordinarily giddy since last Tuesday’s elections. As NewsBusters’ Clay Waters reported on Thursday, the New York Times has been all over this story, suggesting that the replacement of two Democratic governors with two Democratic candidates for governor represented “Republican unraveling.” The New York Times’ Robin Toner continued with this theme this morning in an article entitled “An Opening For the Democrats, However Slim”:
“Democrats dream of another 1994, with control of the House changing hands, this time to them. All they need, after all, is a net gain of 15 seats, surely an attainable goal in a nation of 435 Congressional districts.”
The article quickly raised some hurdles for the Democrats to achieve this goal, none of which included possible problems with their agenda, or the public’s perception of them as not being any better than Republicans as depicted in poll after poll. Instead, Toner created a perfect excuse for failure in 2006: “Redistricting and other incumbent protections have created a Republican fortress in recent years, with so little turnover that even the party's relatively narrow majority is very hard to crack.”Toner even suggested that the current system is bad for the country:
“For many analysts, the lack of competition transcends partisan calculations; it isn't good for democracy. So many safe districts produce lawmakers who have little inclination to reach for the center, to do much more than represent their very blue, or very red, constituents, these critics suggest.”
Toner admitted that voters don’t seem to agree with this perspective, citing ballot initiatives in Ohio and California that both failed on Tuesday that would have taken redistricting out of the hands of state legislatures. Toner also addressed the Republicans’ success in 1994 in taking back the House of Representatives, while quickly enumerating the differences that exist today:
“But by many measures, the Republicans had more targets of opportunity a decade ago than Democrats do today. In 1992, 56 Democrats won with 55 percent of the vote or less, an indicator of their vulnerability in 1994, according to Cook. Only 19 Republicans won with 55 percent or less in 2004.”
Yet, nowhere did she address how the Republicans in 1994 tapped into a national ethos that might have been started by 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot to reorganize government by slowing the growth in spending, and looking at the explosion in the size of social programs like welfare. Instead, she positioned the Democratic strategy this way: “But right now, Congressional Democrats say they are preparing to run as the party of change, offering ‘new priorities,’ as their talking points put it, with an emphasis on ‘putting our fiscal house in order’ and making new investments in energy independence, health care and education.”Toner didn’t inform the reader that “new investments” means higher spending.