Today I'm going to do something that I have never done—I will vote in Virginia's Democratic Party primary. Oh sure, I've voted Democratic—once. That was for George McGovern back in 1972. I was 18 years old. Since then it's been a mix of Libertarian and Republican candidates for various local, state and federal offices. What is motivating me to do this? It's not the platforms of the Democratic primary candidates. Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb is protectionist-minded and his opponent businessman Harris Miller wants to impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies. So my attraction is not to the candidates or their proposed policies, but to the idea of gridlocked government.
The Democrats are right about one thing—the Republicans on Capitol Hill have slithered into a comfortable culture of corruption. It's not just the corruption of too cozy relations with lobbyists, but it is also the corruption of power wielded without restraint. The federal budget under the Bush Administration—ably helped by the big spenders in the Republican House and Senate—is hemorrhaging money faster than LBJ's Great Society did. In addition, the Bush Administration and Congress revealed even more incompetence in their bungled response to the flooding of New Orleans by hurricane Katrina. Congress is wasting time on debating and voting on the Gay Marriage Amendment and the Flag Protection Amendment. And even worse, the Republican Congress supinely allowed the rise of an imperial presidency which authorizes wide-scale domestic spying, the torture, and indefinite detention of prisoners—policies that make the president into judge, jury, and jailer. The Bush Administration even asked the Department of Justice about the legality of halting the 2004 presidential elections in the event of a terrorist attack. Why? After all, the recent Iraqi elections were not halted because of terrorist attacks and Spain went ahead with its general election three days after the Madrid train bombing in March 2004. Finally, let's not forget the tragic mismanagement of the war in Iraq.
Last January, in my annual crystal ball column, I predicted: "A rising tide of voter disgust with corruption will toss the Republicans out of the U.S. House of Representatives in the November elections and a new blessed era of gridlocked government will begin." And there are promising signs that it might actually happen. On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that the Democrats are closing the fundraising gap with Republicans. The Post article points out that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has raised $6 million less than its Democratic counterpart. Also in six of the ten open House races, the Democratic candidates are out-raising their Republican opponents. The Democrats need to win 15 more seats to take over the House of Representatives.
It could happen. Polls show that the Republican Congress is in deep trouble with voters. Fewer than 30 percent of those polled in the last month believe that Congress is doing a good job. And according to a June 1 Quinnipiac University poll, voters think that President Bush is the worst president of the last six decades. Bush's unpopularity will likely boost Democratic candidates in 2006 Congressional races.
How would gridlock benefit the country? First, Democrats and Republicans might stymie each others spending proposals, thus reducing the budget deficit. It's not a complete fantasy. During that blessed era of gridlock of the 1990s, total discretionary spending fell by more than 8 percent. We might also be spared disgusting exercises in political posturing on issues like gay marriage and flag-burning. Second, whichever house of Congress is controlled by the Democrats could investigate various Bush Administration assertions of executive authority. With regard to the Iraq war, I don't think that gridlock will hurt or help much. The situation in Iraq is so badly screwed up now, it's hard to see how a good conclusion can be reached, though I still hope for one.
So do your patriotic duty—vote for gridlock this fall. As for my first ever Democratic primary vote—I'm going cast my ballot for James Webb.