Thursday, November 16, 2006

Phil Power: The real winners? Moderates

That has yet to be seen. If you go back and read the stories from late 2002- early 2003, the promises of cooperation were made back then, too.

"Today is not partisan," Ken Sikkema said. "Frankly, I don't think the next four years will be." - Jan 2003, at Granholm’s inaguration. We saw how that turned out.

The "moderate" voters may have spoken out in force, but will Lansing reflect their wishes? Phil looks at some of the numbers-

So now that the votes are counted, the victors promoted and the losers sent off to weep, what do we make of the election results?

A lot. Let's start with a quick look at the numbers. Turnout was way up: A total of 3,833,535 people voted, nearly half a million more than predicted. The turnout was higher still than in 2002, and Gov. Jennifer Granholm won five out of six of those new voters.

Someone needs to really sit down and crunch this, figure out what exactly happened here. The spending by DeVos seemed to benefit Granholm- how can that be? Granted, Granholm and the MDP dropped a good chunk of change, too, but they were easily eclipsed by Dick. His spending did not translate into votes. There is a lesson here.

I'd guess the increased turnout was a result of massive spending by all parties (it was the most expensive election in Michigan history, hands down.) GOP gubernatorial challenger Dick DeVos spent more than $41 million of his own money. Ironically, it appears the new voters his spending brought out voted overwhelmingly for Granholm.

I wonder if Dick's excesses only accentuated the failings of the GOP in general- the negative ads, the divisiveness, the extremism. By highlighting the Rovian tactics, they reminded voters of what was wrong with the direction of this country in general. They stuck to the 2004 playbook, and it backfired. The new voters and the independents said "enough".

So was the election a "tsunami" in favor of the Democrats? Only ... sort of. Though Granholm won re-election by a whopping 56 percent to 42 percent and Democrats overall were hot to vote against the Bush administration, elections expert Mark Grebner thinks the core Democratic vote was not much larger than usual.

If anybody can be said to have won, it was the moderates, the centrists, the muscular middle, the sensible center — take your pick of names. One compelling fact: Of voters who call themselves independents, Granholm and Stabenow took around 70 percent.

For the last several election cycles, the prevailing wisdom amongst politicians has been that you should concentrate on turning out your committed partisan base and forget about the folks in the middle. Wrong! Swing voters do matter. Persistently disrespecting them is a recipe for political trouble, as this year proved.

Phil has a warning for both parties.

The big mistake Democrats could make from this big win is to figure they've got a lock on the future and they can go back to being subservient to their traditional labor and liberal paymasters. Wrong again!

Many of the successful Democratic candidates were moderates, not ideological lefties. Democrats may have banked the majority of votes, but those votes were loaned by middle-of-the road voters. That loan can be called in, pronto, if the Democrats screw up.

I think Phil is overstating that last part- I think the electorate wants to pull back toward progress on populist ideas, things such as stem cell research, protecting the environment, investing in education, cities, people. I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing more sympathy for "labor", given that everyone is tired of being at the mercy of corporate masters who will toss you in the street to protect the bottom line. If you want to call those things "liberal", it is only because we have moved too far to the right.

As for the Republicans, there appears to be an emerging split between those who think it would be wiser to moderate their approach and try a little bipartisanship and those who think the GOP conservative message needs to be sharpened, if anything.

Tom Shields, a smart Republican pollster and strategist, told the annual post-election "pundit summit" in Lansing last week that "Republicans really have to sharpen the differences between the two parties in order to succeed."

Yes, you do that, GOP. You keep calling for massive tax cuts for the rich, social policy driven by the extreme religious members of your base, the fiscal recklessness that threatens our stability and puts more people in poverty and/or uninsured, the "us vs. them" mentality that served you so well this last time around.

Please, keep it up. Sharpen that message, keep ignoring the wishes of the masses, and we will see what happens in '08.