Democrats' Hopes for 2006
[Dec. 12, 2005] Eleven months out from the 2006 mid-term elections Democrats have some grounds for optimism.  They hope issues such as Iraq, Bush's efforts to overhaul Social Security, high gas prices, criticism over Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina, and what they call "a culture of corruption" create a climate in which they can achieve gains in the House and Senate.

Democrats have focused particular attention on the "culture of corruption," and there were indeed a number of investigations and charges involving Republican officials.  Top lobbyist Jack Abramoff was indicted on August 11, 2005 by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, FL on fraud and conspiracy charges.  A Texas grand jury indicted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) on September 28, 2005 for conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws, forcing him to step down from his leadership position.  Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has come under investigation for the sale of HCA stock held in a blind trust.  Washington was fixated for weeks on whether special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame would lead to indictment of President Bush's top aide Karl Rove.  Finally, on October 28, 2005, Fitzgerald announced indictment of Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on five charges.  Republicans have generally discounted partisan attacks and "chatter," and none of these figures have been convicted of anything.  However, the case of Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) was clearcut; he pleaded guilty to fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and tax evasion and resigned effective December 1, 2005.  This rash of stories filling the news certainly has not helped the image of the GOP.

DNC website has a special   section devoted to "The  Corruption Files" (10/05)

While Democrats savor Republicans' difficulties, they have their own image problems.  They will have to present a compelling positive agenda of their own.  William Galston and Elaine Kamarck's study The Politics of Polarization,1 released by Third Way on October 6, 2005, offered one set of ideas and was widely discussed.  In an October 14, 2005 letter to the editor to the New York Times, former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite raised the idea of a Democratic mid-term convention.  There have also been suggestions that Democrats may try to emulate the Republicans' "Contract with America" from 1994.

The power of incumbency and the increasing number of non-competitive districts weigh against major changes in the House, as outlined in FairVote's "Dubious Democracy 2005" report.2  Nonethess there is a window for Democrats.  In a September 15, 2005 memo Mark Gersh, Washington director for the National Committee for an Effective Congress (NCEC), wrote, "Democrats have succeeded in expanding the number of overall marginal House seats that are in play from around the 30 or so that were in play last cycle to about 50 in 2006.  Democrats probably need to have at least 40 House seats in play to have a realistic chance of winning the 15 seats needed in order to take back control."3  The Campaign Finance Institute4 estimated in Oct. 2005 that "there are 76 potentially competitive House districts," and looking at fundraising in the first nine months of 2005 CFI found "active major party rivalry in 40 potentially competitive contests."  ema 12/12/2005

1. William Galston and Elain Kamarck.  "The Politics of Polarization."  Third Way.  Oct. 6, 2005.

2. FairVote. "Dubious Democracy 2005."  July 25, 2005.

3. Mark Gersh.  "Changing Demographics and Hope for 2006."  NCEC Memo.  Sept. 15, 2005.

4. Campaign Finance Institute. "Democratic Challengers Financially Stronger than Two Years Ago in Potentially Competitive House Districts."  Oct. 27, 2005.

Oct. 28, 2005--Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald makes his way to the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse on the morning the grand jury indicted top White House aide Scooter Libby.
Sept. 24, 2005--Anti-war demonstration.
July 14, demonstration calling on President Bush to fire Karl Rove.
June 1-3, 2005--Campaign for America's Future "Take Back America Conference," including Social Security march.
May 12, 2005 -- Campaign for a Cleaner Congress's "K Street Carnival O' Corruption" outside Tom Delay tribute.
April 26, 2005--Americans United to Protect Social Security rally.
Copyright © 2004, 2005  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action