One of Congress's most committed liberals and interesting characters is betting his career that Republicans will lose the House in the November election. Democrat Charles Rangel of New York says if his party does not regain control of the House, he'll resign. If they do retain control, he'll be the most powerful committee chairman in the house. He'll preside over the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. That would pretty much give him the power to stop any conservative tax reforms or tax cuts for as long as his party stays in power.
Rangel is pretty confident that he won't retire soon. "I'm a poker player and I've had good hands all night long. This is all in," Rangel said in an interview. "I would not put everything on the table if I thought for one minute we would lose."
I don't know if Rangel's confidence is justified, but I do know that Republicans have failed to impress American voters in the years that they have had control of Congress and the White House.
Conservatives are hugely unimpressed with the lack of spending restraint and the new growth and intrusion of government, particularly in the areas of healthcare and education. Aside from the appointment of two new Supreme Court judges who should be able to halt liberal activism from the bench, conservatives are hugely disappointed with the product of what will be eight years of GOP control of the federal government. The slide toward European style socialism has been steeper in the Bush era than in the Clinton era. In 2000, Republicans told voters "Give us Congress and the White House and watch our smoke." We're still waiting for the spark, let alone the smoke.
A lot of conservatives have reached the conclusion that, while voting for Democrats is certainly not the answer, Republicans can't (or won't) deliver even when they have the White House, the House and the Senate. In other words, we're pretty much SOL regardless of which party is in power.
Add to that a general public dissatisfaction (justified or not) with such things as the Iraq war, gas prices, and immigration problems, voters are more than likely to conclude that while Republicans can't deliver on reform, they are also generally incompetent.
To use Rangel's poker analogy, whether the Democrats are holding a good hand may be irrelevant because Republicans are holding a uniquely bad hand. Democrats don't have to show their hand. People have seen the Republican hand and they are weary of it. Democrats don't have to show their hand to win, and you can bet they won't.
I now believe the chances are slightly in the Democrats' favor to win back the House in 2006-but probably not the Senate. My only hesitation in making a bold prediction is that Democrats have about a 30-seat deficit to overcome. If Republicans do hang on to the House, they will have a two-year reprieve to impress voters with their ability to govern. I'd hate to have to depend on either of those possibilities, and I don't plan to.
While I return to politics from time to time, just for the fun of it, I have given up completely on the idea of attempting to alter political events as a vehicle for progress. I become more convinced every day that the outcome of American elections is among the least important and/or consequential events in our lives.