Fear of defeat a reason to vote

By James P. Pinkerton Published:

By James P. Pinkerton

With six months to go until Election Day 2006, are Republicans doomed to defeat? And what of President Bush: If the Democrats win back the congressional majority, will they seek to investigate -- even impeach -- him?

The answers to these two questions are linked. That is, Republican voters, angered, in particular, over Bushs shilly-shallying on the immigration issue, are inclined to let the GOP suffer a little in 2006. But they dont want to see the 2004 presidential election results overturned. After all, this is a conservative country; Republicans have won seven of the last 10 presidential elections. Not since 1964 has a Democrat won the White House on a liberal platform -- and even that Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, was from Texas.

So the challenge for todays Democrats is to overcome the perception, dominant since the 60s, that most of them are Northern liberals. This is an especially urgent challenge for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is a Northern liberal. The San Francisco Democrats lifetime voting rating from the American Conservative Union is three -- thats three out of a possible 100.

As of today, prospects look bright for Pelosis Democrats. Bushs approval rating is in deep deficit; moreover, polls show that Democrats enjoy a roughly 10-point edge in congressional voting. If that margin holds true in November, Democrats would probably win more than the 15 seats in the House needed to make Pelosi the speaker of the 110th Congress.

But paradoxically, its the prospect of defeat for Republicans that gives hope to Republicans. If the Democrats regained their majority, what would they do with it? Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., chairing the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, has her answer: In a direct-mail piece that surfaced last week, she warned the donating faithful that triumphant Democrats would increase your taxes, call for endless investigations, congressional censure and maybe even impeachment of President Bush. Is that just Republican fear-mongering? Maybe not. Going to the Web site of Detroits Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, one sees this big-print exhortation: Stand with Congressman Conyers: Demand an Investigation of Administration Abuses of Power and Make Recommendations Regarding Grounds for Possible Impeachment. Conyers would become chairman of the Judiciary Committee if the Democrats retook the majority, so he would have the power to start impeachment proceedings.

And while its only May, the donkey party has gotten a little on the cocky side. Confident Democrats Lay Out Agenda: Party Plans Probes of Administration If It Wins the House was the above-the-fold headline on the front page of Sundays Washington Post. Asked by the Post whether majority-ized Democrats might seek to impeach Bush, Pelosi answered cryptically: You never know where it leads to. Talk of impeachment is exactly what the Democratic base wants to hear, but its exactly what the Republican base does not want to hear. And thats a problem for blue-staters, because the red-state base, de-moralized as it might be at present, is substantially bigger. If Republicans start thinking too much about the impact of a big Democratic victory in November, they will realize also that a Democratic Senate would shut down the pipeline of conservative judges, which is to say, future John Robertses and Samuel Alitos. Republican professionals, led by Karl Rove in the White House, are praying for such re-energizing of their base.

For her part, Pelosi quickly realized that the I-word was playing into Republican hands. Just hours after the Post story hit doorsteps in Washington, she was on Meet the Press, telling Tim Russert, I dont see us going to a place of impeachment. Yet, she was so stammering and inept in her presentation that even liberal bloggers blasted her performance -- stumbling and tentative and really inept was one judgment found at TPMcafe.com.

So yes, Republicans are in a heap of trouble this November. But they have one ace in the hole: the Democrats.

Special to Newsday

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