Last night’s election seems to have been the political wave that some had anticipated. Democrats won big– taking not just the House and Senate (it seems), but also governorships and other local races nationwide.
Aside from all the post-election analysis that will be coming out in the next few days, 2 points stick out from an International Relations perspective.
1. Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil once famously said “all politics is local” and that mantra usually applies in Congressional elections, when local issues are very important for local candidates. This election was markedly different. Looking at the exit polls, its rather clear that Iraq was a top if not the top issue for the voters, and they voted to send a message to the President on Iraq. A foreign policy issue, not a domestic issue, dominates a mid-term election. Nearly unheard of in American politics.
As a result, incoming Democratic leadership in Congress can clearly claim a mandate to change direction on Iraq.
2. It didn’t take long. Remember last week when Bush said he wanted Rumsfeld to stick around for the remainder of the term? Reports are now out that SecDef Rumsfeld is “resigning”, to be replaced by Robert Gates. Gates was director of the CIA back in the first Bush Administration, and is now (or was up until now) president of Texas A&M University. While the outcome of the Senate is still officially in doubt, it seems that the D’s will take the 2 seats necessary to get the majority. Bush knows this, and knows that his nominee will face a much more confrontational, if not hostile, confirmation process. This seems to be the beginning of a major shift in Iraq policy. You can bet that the Senators will be asking Gates what his plan is on Iraq and won’t confirm him until he comes up with an acceptable answer.