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Thursday, November 09, 2006 

Stuff happens.

The eventual humbling of the Republicans was always going to lead to an outbreak of optimism and gloating among the Bush administration's opponents. It has also led to some rather hyperbolic, ludicrous commenting by usually sane writers. Simon Jenkins, who is normally soberly realistic about the chances of victory in Afghanistan, reckons that this marks the end of belligerent interventionism. Juan Cole talks of the Democratic victory as the "fourth popular revolution of the twenty-first century", somehow equating the ballot-box changeover to the weeks of camping carried out by the orange revolutionaries in Ukraine. Daily Kos says that the conservative ascendancy has come to an end.

Oh, if it were true. First though, the good news. The Democrats likely have control of both houses of congress; George Allan, the Republican senate candidate for Missouri, is expected to concede defeat shortly. Donald Rumsfeld, the architect of the Iraq war, the signer of the memorandum that led to the abuse at Abu Ghraib, the pig ignorant, arrogant, reactionary cowardly toad, is gone, booted out just days after Bush pledged his full support to him. Katherine Harris, personally involved in the removal of black voters from the electoral rolls in Florida, which led to Bush stealing the 2000 election, was defeated in her attempt to enter the senate. In South Dakota, the referendum on banning abortion in all circumstances was defeated. Missouri voted to allow stem cell research. Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio all voted to raise the poverty-level minimum wage. The Democrats are now free to hold the Bush administration to account over how the Iraq war was justified and conducted. Nancy Pelosi, the new Democrat speaker, has also pledged to introduce a number of remarkably sane, liberal bills to congress.

The bad news does rather take the gloss off the relief that has come from the Democrats finally getting their act together, however. Bush's nomination for new defence secretary, Robert Gates, is yet another Bush Snr crony, head of the CIA between 91 and 93, involved in Iran-Contra and was more than happy to sell Saddam Hussein's Iraq such delightful weapons as cluster bombs. The only bright side is that he doesn't have the neo-con heritage which so many of the men Bush surrounded himself in his first term had. Having moved on from racism, the new bigotry in America is against gay men and women. Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin all voted to ban same sex marriages, adding to the number of states which banned in it referendums in 2004. Of the Democrats elected to Congress, a frightening number are what are coyly referred to as "centrists", or as you or I would call them, hard right-wingers that are opposed to abortion, gun control and immigration. The only thing separating many of them from their Republican rivals was the fact that they were anti-war. The Democratic success is also only likely to further encourage Hillary Clinton to run for President in 2008, and if she manages to win, will mean that the world's greatest democracy will have been essentially run by two dynasties for the last 20 years. Apart from that rather disconcerting fact, Ms. Clinton is a hugely divisive figure, and in her shameless attempts to court a certain Mr Murdoch (sound familiar?) has become even more bellicose than many Republicans over Iran, as well as shifting her position on abortion. She also believes that Grand Theft Auto is a "major threat" to morality. Bless.

For the natural pessimist then, there seems little to get too excited about. Whatever the Iraq Study Group eventually reports and recommends, there is little to suggest that Bush is going to pull the troops out any time soon, meaning that the British troops won't be departing either. The Democrats, despite wearing their anti-war prospectus on their sleeves, are split over withdrawal. Rumsfeld may have gone, but Cheney remains, and as made clear by his pro-torture remarks last week, is unrestrained as ever. The secret prisons, rendition flights, and kidnappings are not going to come to an end. Guantanamo remains open, and in January will have been accepting detainees for five years. There's no reason to expect that there'll be any respite in the Iran nuclear dispute; the spectre of a surprise attack on the reactors remains. There's next to no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans over Israel-Palestine. Olmert will not be forced to the talks table, especially if Clinton takes the presidency in two years. Her support for the war crimes committed by Israel in Lebanon, killing over 1000 civilians and leaving a legacy of hundreds of thousands of unexploded cluster bomblets, marks her out as being no different to Condoleezza Rice's insultingly biased diplomacy. As Simon Tisdall reports Robert Kagan as saying, once the smoke has cleared, we will have much the same America to deal with.

All of that though is forgetting the millions of Americans who went to the polls determined to give Bush and the Republicans their first bloody nose for all the blood spilt in Iraq. As the Guardian and numerous others have already said, thank you. Within six months Blair should also be gone, and the awfulness of the first six years of the twenty-first century will hopefully slowly start to fade. Saddam may swing shortly, but his old friend Rumsfeld already has, politically at least.

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