N.J. Senate Race, Seven Months Out
New Jersey’s senate race for 2006 is shaping up to be a bruiser, and possibly dominant political issues are already shaping up, including Gov. Corzine’s budget and its call for an increased sales, the environment, immigration (perhaps), and national security/Iraq. Tom Kean Jr., the presumptive Republican nominee, is barely making any stance on these issues unless it suits him politically. For example, he has decried Corzine’s call for a tax increase – it should be noted that Corzine has also called for cutting spending by billions in his budget – yet offers absolutely no alternative, nor did he try to stay on the state budget committee as a state senator (too risky!). Kean Jr. didn’t even bother to show up for an fundraising event for himself that Vice President Cheney attended; again, while he would take the hundreds of thousands raised, it is too much of a risk to be seen with a representative from the much-despised Bush administration. Kean Jr. is coming across as evasive in his beliefs and too calculated in his actions, a strategy that helped Kerry lose the 2004 presidential election.
The more that I find out about Sen. Bob Menendez, the more that I like him. Here is a pro-business, pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-sensible national security plan Democrat who is progressive in his political ideology and has already taken stands on the Dubai Ports Deal, even if a bit of posturing was involved. In South Jersey, a constituency he’ll have to win to be re-elected, he has come out against the misguided military proposal of dumping the VX nerve agent in the Delaware River. Perhaps most important, however, is that while a congressman he voted against Bush’s authorization to use force in Iraq, a very courageous stance at the time and one that has proven true since the invasion.
The elite and well-funded Republican senate committee will be throwing its weight and its conservative-funded donations behind Kean Jr., and Kean Jr. may have better name recognition because of his father, a former governor; hence, we should expect a fight for this seat in November. I support Menendez’s candidacy and hope that my fellow New Jersey citizens will do the same.
The End of Neoconservatism
After 2001 my political prognosis was very different than now, in 2006. Bush’s foreign policy plans were all but approved by Congress following 9/11, including the reckless pre-emptive strike on Iraq; domestic policies, including the unfortunate Patriot Act, were almost all rubber-stamped approved by a cowering Congress; and Republicans made gains in the house and the senate in consecutive elections. Needless to say, the conservative movement seemed alive and well, though I think any contemporary political prognosis must take into account that this movement may very well be in demise, and here’s why.
The neoconservative branch of the conservative movement is markedly in decline. Fukayama, the supposed intellectual progenitor of the neoconservative movement, has stated that the Iraq War is in shambles, calls for resignations and investigations into Sec. Rumsfield and other policy "hawks" are increasing, and many initiatives of the Bush administration, including his privatization for social security, aren’t even seeing the light of day of a congressional vote. Democrats consistently outpoll Republicans in polls for 2006, and it is not a question of whether Democrats will pick up seats in the house or senate, but instead just how many. Though the media is certainly corporate -- and thus, by logical extension, conservative – and Republicans will continue to hold majorities in both chambers after 2006 in all probability, the political mood is swinging away from the neoconservative movement and instead towards progressivism.
It is important that not only will Americans move away from conservatism and all its permutations in terms of cultural identity and larger societal shifts, but also that the political structure also becomes Democratic; without votes and winning elections, this anti-Bush and anti-conservative thrust means very little except on a local level. As evidenced in the financial backing of Sen. Kerry in 2004, Democrats can compete financially with the richer Republican elite, and this relatively equal distribution of resources for election is important for Democrats to win over the electorate. In some respects, just as, factually speaking, one must support evolution over creationism because it demonstrates concrete truths, so might American society come to understand and sympathize with the demonstrable truths of progressive politics, and move towards a left-of-center country, particularly in the fields of universal health care, environmental protection, a balanced foreign policy and war on terror, preservation of civil rights, and ethical but pro-business economic policies.