Over the course of the past week, many have tried to digest what occurred in the recent mid-term election held in the United States which saw the Republicans lose their majorities in both Houses of Congress. A recurrent theme of those analyzing is that this clearly was not a win by the Democrats more than it was very much a "firing" of the Republicans across the board.
Generally speaking, when trying to determine how the winner won, or how the loser lost, it should not be done in a vacuum. One must consider how both sides "played" and what each side's strategy did to compliment or oppose the other's. Taking the sports analogy a bit further, if one side puts all of its efforts into offense and no time towards defense, it may be acknowledged that some of the time preparing for the contest could have been distributed more wisely.
In this game the commentators are repeating that the Democrats didn't win as much as the Republicans lost. So long as this mantra is repeated when talking of the historical fact whereby the Republicans took both the House and the Senate in 1994 this might be acceptable post-game coverage. However this generally is not the popular way to refer to that Democratic defeat; instead it is more often defined in the popular media as the "Republican Revolution". An astounding victory, and a sea change event for the entire country. It becomes convenient to disregard the poor standing and downright contempt held for the then Democratically-controlled Congress. Of course it seems petty to quibble over the semantics, but the larger point is that both losses can be traced back to a dereliction of duty to the first branch of government and the minority party taking advantage of said dereliction.
In keeping with the sports analogy, the Republicans spent a fair portion of the last ninety days on offense with what little ammunition they had left: liberals will raise taxes on working families, they'll call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, and national security compels a vote for Republicans. Aside from a hodgepodge of social issues to wave the flag around, national conservatives had a very difficult case to present to the American people. To play defense on Iraq was incredibly difficult after the summer of 2006, where civil war seemed by far the general course of that country than peace and stability. By ceding to the White House the expensive Medicare Part D program, Republicans couldn't reliably run on fiscal conservatism to lend credence to the normal attacks on liberals that they would run up the deficit on social spending. In fact, conservatives could only look at the Federal red ink and blush profusely. Add in a total abandonment of ethical standards (Abramoff , Cunningham, Ney, Foley, et al) and what was really left to defend?
Conversely, the Democrats took a fair amount of criticism from their counterparts for not offering an "alternative" or "a plan" for contending with the issues of the day. Eventually the 6-point plan for 2006 was introduced, but akin to the Contract with America proposed by the Republicans in 1994, not many voters heard nor voted on the basis of such a proposition. Instead, much of 2006 was spent on what ostensibly appears to be defense. By not committing egregious blunders during the final session of the 109th the Democrats presented a restrained opposition, turning aside Republican attacks. With Iraq not getting better, the only bit of offense that was needed was a drumming corps cadence of reminders about the reality on the ground in Iraq.
With upwards of 60% of the electorate not satisfied with the occupation and a rubber-stamp Republican Congress holding the bag come election time, it was not surprising to see the House shift. It was too close to call the Senate, but as it worked out the Democrats took that body as well two days after election day.
Did the Republicans lose the election in 2006? Yes, as much as the Democrats did in 1994. The first branch clearly reflects the national mood of the electorate, and it is up to the incoming majority to fashion appropriate responses to the problems and issues of the day. To those that say this was a revolution or would like to infer that America has now switched solidly behind a new Democratic majority, wait twelve years and then make that observation. Democracies can be fickle over the long haul.