Numb to victory.

I’m not happy about winning yesterday.

We Democrats have had so many false peaks in the past half decade, so many times when it looked like we were going to win. And then we lose. It’s been so long since we were in power that I think I just can’t fathom it. Perhaps it’s an emotional form of learned helplessness: don’t get happy, because it’ll turn out to be a mirage. I think I’ve curled up into a defensive little ball over the years, every political muscle in my body tensed up. I’m used to getting charged up by losing, greeting each new ass-kicking with new enthusiasm and a renewed desire to improve things. I just don’t know what to do with winning. I don’t know how to relax.

I don’t think I’ve once smiled at any election news. I’ve greeted it like news of cricket scores on the BBC World Service — I process the numbers, acknowledge them, and wonder if perhaps something more interesting is on another station.

It will be interesting to see when it sinks in. Maybe it’ll be when the 110th Congress is sworn in and Speaker Pelosi’s 100 Hours plan is put into effect. Maybe sooner, like when I talk to my friends at the Webb campaign and hear how excited that they are, about their new jobs in Washington, etc.

Is anybody else feeling the same way?

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

22 replies on “Numb to victory.”

  1. When Webb pulled ahead last night, I feel to my knees and screamed in elation. This was in a crowded room of people, mind you.

    I’ll admit that I’m not that excited about Speaker Pelosi. I’ve never been happier about a win than I am with Senator Webb.

  2. That’s what you get for leaving last night before I could open the champagne. I brought the bottle and a bunch of glasses to Harry’s office today, and we had ourselves a fine time, raising our glasses to our enduring democracy, and toasting intrepid voters like Mandy who drove all the way to Bedford County to cast her provisional ballot yesterday. Light-heartedness feels good, sweetie: let it happen.

  3. Waldo:

    I am a conservative / libertarian who routinely reads your site. Your writing is fantastic.

    As a conservative who believes the GOP left my values, I say “Hip, Hip Hurray” for the Democrats in 2006.

    Let’s add a “Huzzah” for good measure.

    I think I heard the perfect analogy to this race earlier today:

    you’re the dog chasing the car that finally caught the bumper.

    Now what?

  4. My reaction is more like “a little bit relieved and a lot of dread.”

    I’m glad Webb won. I liked his take on the issues, however I’m not at all confident that he’ll be allowed much opportunity at implementation. I’m also disappointed that the “bigot’s big government bedroom amendment in support of prejudice” passed in the state of Virginia. Virginia’s now needs a new motto: “Virginia is for Lovers Bigots.”

    The Republican’s needed the drubbing- for their arrogance, their compromises of civil liberties in favor of security, deviation from the principles of smaller government and fiscal responsibility, and their persistence in attempting to combine church and state (and probably a lot more reasons).

    This Democratic win is more like a win that happened because the other team fumbled the ball, and not because they were playing a better game than their opponent. They didn’t win because they had a better plan or vision (or whatever one cares to call it), they won because they weren’t Republicans. Yes a win is a win, but some win’s you don’t want to spend too long crowing about.

    If they let Dem’s like Pelosi set their agenda you can bet they’ll see their gains turn around and quickly. They’ve got two years (maybe less) to make some in roads, and “blame it on the republican’s” isn’t an excuse I think that many will buy.

    The democrats got themselves elected, they should take a moment, pat themselves on the back. Then roll up their sleeves and get to work- and lets see if they can avoid making mistakes similar to those the Republicans made.

  5. I’ve been pretty happy with the election outcome. By and large this election nationally was a validation of first-time candidates and moderates (e.g. Jim Webb, Jon Tester, Joe Sestak, et al).

    It’s an open question whether the new blood in congress will deliver on national security issues and the economy; although I’m cautiously optimistic.

    The passage of the gay bashing amendment sends a mixed signal. My sense is that a number of people read and understood the first paragraph (the symbolic nod to the traditional view of marriage), and figured that the legalese in the second paragraph was saying essentially the same thing.

    It’s going to take a while for voters to figure out what they’ve really signed on to. This law is going to be a cash cow for litigators, and a real loser for ordinary citizens.

  6. TrlnMn said about everything that I would have said. I’m much too bummed out on the passage of the amendment to really feel any elation on the overall election results.

    I did have a chance to talk to Rep. Jim Clyburn from SC (the #3 D in the House) last week. I urged him to push the Ds to accomplish as much of the agenda as they possibly could in the next two years, because there is no guarantee that the majority can be sustained beyond that.

  7. As Mark Warner says: “I can’t remember a time in my lifetime when our nation has faced so many serious challenges simultaneously”. I’ll say what he will not – the Republican leadership is the most corrupt and incompetent political elite in more than 50 years. The best interests of America are not their top priority – holding power and dispensing favor is. Yesterday they had a reckoning, but don’t espect them to change.

    I feel relief. The change crew have reached the beach and established a stronghold. Now we need to build a strong local and state level movement. Netroots activists earned the right to sit at the table. Not control the agenda, but have a voice, and learn from the old lions. What is the Democratic plan? This is:

    I worked the polls with a group of committed high school volunteers; they were amazing – fully informed, enthusiastic, and ready to be the change America needs. We must be their good leaders. The disaffected “no” amendment youth need to understand that the path to change is to stand together in caucus, find compromise and work together to promote strong Democratic candidates. There will be setbacks, but unity will bring us home. Sucess will require discipline and hard work.

    Virginia just got one tough-ass Senator. We couldn’t have a better man in this hour. This is just the start, Webb will need our help to extend his mandate. Fall in!

  8. I understand where you are coming from, Waldo, even though I don’t share the symptoms. I agree with TrvlnMn that this isn’t a clean win on principles and it makes the victory vaguely less meaningful. But then, I primarily work on issues, not elections, and for me this win — however it was obtained — means I can see some progress on environmental legislation, instead of the steady dismantling (and sometimes outright demolition) of every protection that has gone on for the past 6 years.

    IOW, my real fight hasn’t ended with this – rather, it can actually begin now. Perhaps the trick for finding real satisfaction is to find something in policy you want change that hasn’t been possible due to the futility of the effort.

  9. Waldo,

    I feel the exact same way you do. Senator Webb should be a real bit of fresh air and I believe will win over the lion’s share of Virginians in time similar to John Warner.

    I can’t help feeling jealous of states like New Hampshire, Kansas, Arizonia that were able to use the national election in conjunction with a popular Democratic governor’s election to clean house in their lower ballot offices.

    We have the ability to move forward and make Virginia better but it will have to start with major recruitment for next year’s general assembly races. Ideally all candidates would be in place by January 1 but I don’t see that happening. If we can learn the lessons of this election – being competitive on the money front, recruiting candidates who embody change and represent their districts we should be in good standing.

  10. Not in the slightest.

    Right now I am figuratively standing over the kill at the end of the day’s hunt, ripping out it’s warm liver with my bare hands and devouring it raw, in order to benefit from it’s rich protein and iron while also absorbing the power and courage of my quarry.

    [grabs buffalo’s heart, holds it to the sky and dances around corpse while chanting]

  11. A couple of interesting notes from pollsters after the election:

    Democrats won seniors by 1 point

    The youth vote was 2 to 1 Democratic. It had been 2.5 to 1 leading up to the election. With youth being the one demographic Kerry won, these voters are likely to be lifelong democrats if they vote Democratic a third time.

    Youth turnout was the highest in 20 years:

  12. Edit note: “Lovers” should’ve had a strike-through.

    I’ve got your back. :)

    There are a couple of good points that folks have raised here that I have to agree with. Part of the problem for me — as Vivian said — has got to be the Marshall-Newman amendment. I’d resolved myself to understanding that it would pass, but with 57%? It’s so clearly a mistake, it’s so clearly going to wind up being an embarrassment, and we’re going to have to hold another vote to scrub this filth from the constitution. Feh.

    And, as DaveJ pointed out (and thank you, DaveJ — I appreciate it), we’re the dog that finally caught the car — now what? I know what now, and I think many Democrats do, but the question is whether Congress knows what to do now and is capable of doing it. There’s so much broken and I’m worried that they just won’t fix some of the problems. Will they put together a real ethics panel, one that will be tough on Democrats and Republicans alike? Will they get Congress working again, now that we’re down to something like 90 days a year? Will they enact real ethics reform, barring congressmen and their top staffers from being lobbyists for far longer, crack down on gifts, etc? It’s this sort of self-regulation that I’m most eager to see. I’d like to think that good governance will follow.

    Raising the minimum wage, ending corporate welfare for oil companies — these are good things. I’m happy about it. But I feel like they’re shiny things meant to distract me while I ignore that Congress isn’t engaging in the sort of reform that they need to be. I know, I know, the election was over just a day and a half ago, and I should be patient. But I’m skeptical. Maybe that’s what’s behind my numbness — I’m straight-up skeptical.

  13. I’ve been phrasing it thusly: “I’m less depressed about politics than I’ve been in a long time”

    I, too, initially felt a weird lack of joy over the election results. Then Rumsfeld resigned. That helped a lot.

  14. The democrats have about a year before 2008 presidental elections really gets started. If they get alot of things done they will be reward with more offices and perhaps even the Oval office.

    If nothing happens then it’s wide open again. If they govern well many moderates will vote democratic. People aren’t always married to parties, they do however reward progress.

  15. Skepticism may be healthy (lest one get taken), but it it sounds like you’ve got the same chronic headache as our erstwhile Indie candidate, Joe Oddo. He thinks there will never be true electoral accountability, let alone third- and fourth-party viability, because our 2 main political parties are so involved in besting each other that they have lost sight of what “representative government” means.

    You and he have good cause to doubt, but action is always better. We the voters should keep the pressure on, not sit back and hope that the Dems will do it for us. I recommended to him, and will now recommend to you — Have you looked into getting a branch of the New Electoral Reform Alliance started up here in the 5th CD? The Virginia state’s website for them is at, and I don’t see a Central Virginia office listed. Might be a good way for all of us who are disenchanted with our current system and the way campaigns are run to effect a permanent change for the better.

  16. Well, I think Oddo is right about that. I think our democracy would be much more vibrant if our electoral and legislative processes made third parties viable. I’d never heard of the New ERA — thanks for mentioning it.

  17. Well I can now see at least one of Virginia’s Democratic Representatives in the new house majority is planning on squandering the party’s victory on “politics as usual.”

    From a Richmond Times Dispatch Article:

    Moran has made no secret for months of his desire to head an Appropriations subcommittee and to direct earmarked spending, or pet projects, to his district.

    “When I become chairman [of a House appropriations subcommittee], I’m going to earmark the [expletive] out of it,” Moran told a group of supporters this year, according to the Arlington Sun-Gazette.

    So much for any hope of real change.

  18. TrvlnMn,

    Worry about that in January. For now, let us feast on the raw flesh of the kill and reflect on the greatness of victory.

    [thumps chest, grunts. throws enormous femur bone to the hounds and quaffs horn full of mead]

  19. I’m with you, Waldo. The amendment was a big downer. As for the Democratic majorities, well, I can still remember bits and pieces from the majority that ended in ’94, and I really hope we don’t repeat those mistakes.

    I know Webb won’t disappoint on foreign policy – but will the Democrats be team players or prima donnas?

    Until I see some team play in the House and Senate, I’m going to keep my joyful elation bottled up. But if in a few months we’ve forced Bush to pass or veto an increase in the minimum wage, a measure to improve the student loan process, and a reform of the prescription drug benefit – not to mention a rejection of a far-right judge or two – then I’ll be back to crow in exultation.

    But for now, I’m all about winning majorities in Virginia – no rest for the minority!

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