Look how easily the media manipulates everyone's perceptions, including our own. An hour of vote tabulation reveals a stunning fact: Democrats won the popular vote for the Senate by an overwhelming 12.6% margin - 55%/42.4%. "Bipartisanship" and "compromise" are today's buzzwords, when the phrase on everybody's lips should be "mandate for dramatic change" - especially in Iraq.
Contrast the media's performance this week with its reaction to the 2004 election results. The overwhelming catchphrase that November was "political capital." Bush had squeaked through with the tiniest popular vote margin of any postwar President, yet was hailed as a leader with a popular mandate to continue his extremist policies.
(For Bush and the media, apparently not actually losing before being appointed was exciting enough.)
What a short road from "political capital" to "need for bipartisanship." Nobody lectured the Bush team in '04 about the need to act in a bipartisan manner - even though, as I pointed out then, the Democratic popular vote mandate in the Senate was as great as Bush's. (Only the Senate's highly unrepresentative form of democracy resulted in a GOP victory that year.)
The other catchphrase on everyone's lips this week is "conservative Democrat." Chris Bowers effectively demolished the myth that Democrats won because of Emanuel's push to recruit conservatives, or that this election somehow represents a victory for the right.
Here's a brain-teaser for the pundits and those who read them: We've just spent an entire election season being lectured about the Lieberman/Lamont primary. We were told that it proved Democrats were Stalinist, overly leftist, and would purge anyone who "deviated from the party line on Iraq."
Now we're being informed that the only reason Democrats won was because they ran a slate of right-wingers. Think about it: Both statements can't be true. Then again, the spinmeisters and thought-shapers don't need to be consistent. They just need to keep the drumbeat going, so that everyone ends up believing it through sheer repetition.
The conservative media machine is the one force in American politics that has proven to be truly "bipartisan."
Now James Carville wants to overthrow Howard Dean, chief architect of this week's success, for right-wing Democrat Harold Ford. That would be the same James Carville who never won a popular-vote majority for President with Bill Clinton, the most gifted politician of his generation. (He's also the same Carville who leaked Kerry strategy secrets to the GOP in 2004.) It would be a grave mistake to listen to him now.
Don't get me wrong: Bipartisanship has its place. But the public and the politicians need to understand that the voters have spoken clearly for change. It's incumbent on our leaders to work in a bipartisan way - to make that change happen.
For a nation bogged down in Iraq, voters have just delivered the 12-and-a-half percent solution.
POSTSCRIPT: You're welcome to double-check my figures. I counted Bernie Sanders as a Democrat, since he said he would caucus with them. I also counted Lieberman as a Dem, since he represented himself as one. Neither candidate altered the percentages significantly given the relatively small population of their states. (Chris Bowers caught one error - that margin's 12.6%, not 11.6% as I'd originally written.)