The Donkey Brays

The Donkey Brays

The Donkey Brays

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Nov. 9 2005 5:27 PM

The Donkey Brays

Bloggers are talking about what yesterday's victories by Democrats bode for the future. Also, the evolution debate is playing out in such exotic locales as Kansas, Pennsylvania, and the Vatican.

The donkey brays: Governorship wins in New Jersey and Virginia, coupled with defeats for Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot measures in California, have many pundits claiming victory for the Democrats. Both liberal and conservative bloggers are debating what this means for the 2006 congressional elections.

Torie Bosch Torie Bosch

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, New America, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 


Soon-to-be-lawyer DWG of Left O'Center, is gloating. "Do I hear gnashing of teeth and rending of sackcloth? Oh no, that's just the sound of half the country taking scrapers to those ridiculous 'W' bumper stickers they sported this time last year."

But Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz says in Media Notes that it's too soon to read the "election tea leaves" and predict a 2006 victory for the Dems. "Every four years, the press grabs onto the flotsam of the Jersey and Virginia races and the New York mayoral contest--boosted this year by Arnold's special election in California--and tries to interpret, infer and extrapolate what it all means. And it may not mean squat beyond the borders of those states," he chastises.

Kos from lefty leader The Daily Kos agrees that Democrats are not out of the proverbial political woods yet. "Off-year elections are rarely harbingers of future performance," he says. "We've got to keep [Republicans] on the defensive, take advantage of every opening they provide to score additional points." Kos points out that Democrats won the New Jersey and Virginia governor's houses in 2001, too, only to lose out in 2002's elections.

For once, Kos and Matt Margolis, the founder of Blogs for Bush, see eye to eye. "Democrats may act as if this is a springboard for more victories in 2006, but precedent says this is not the case," he writes. "This election had nothing to [do] with Tom DeLay or 'Scooter' Libby, nor was it a referendum on the President." He also notes that everything is not coming up blue roses in Virginia: the new lieutenant governor and attorney general are both Republicans, and the party also holds a majority in the state legislature.


Some conservatives are less optimistic. "Last night's election results were a stinging blow to the Republican party," says Larry Kudlow at The Corner, the National Review Online's blog. Lee from Right Thinking on the Left Coast agrees. He worries that "when you take this in conjunction with the basement-level approval ratings that the president and Congress now rate and this spells serious trouble for the GOP next year."

Read more on the off-year election results. Slate's Bruce Reed reacts to the election results here.

Creation debate evolves: Yesterday's election also swept Democrats into control of the Dover, Pa., school board as voters rejected the Republican incumbents who wanted to force a statement about intelligent design in high-school biology classes, leading to a prominent trial. Going in the other direction, though, the Kansas Board of Education decided yesterday to include information about "gaps" in Darwinian theory in the state curriculum. ( What's the Matter with Kansas references  abound.) These polarized shifts come less than a week after a Vatican cardinal advised Catholics to "listen" to "secular modern science."

Josh, an ecology and evolutionary biology graduate student and progressive who blogs at Thoughts From Kansas, calls the Dover election "a big rejection of creationism and a big plug for science."  But he's disappointed in his home state. "Clearly, 'right' in Kansas now means 'whatever (State Board of Education chair) Steve Abrams thinks the Bible says,' " Josh moans in another post.  "Welcome to the world of tomorrow. People on the street really are more moral now in Kansas. The sky is brighter, cars can fly and all our financial questions have been answered. Intelligent Accounting!"

Law professor Ann Althouse thinks that the Dover sea change came about because of the very public intelligent design trial that has embarrassed some in the area and has others concerned about the district spending tax dollars to defend the policy. "Without lawsuits (and the threat of them) the democratic process would play out differently," she writes, suggesting that a similar transformation might happen for the Kansas Board of Education if someone decides to sue it. "We have to take into account the effect of this litigation on the voters," she declares.

Others also see intelligent design controversy going hand-in-hand with elections. "Intelligent Design could become the sort of wedge issue for the Republican Party that Gay Marriage is for the Democrats," posits towski, a liberal red stater who posts at It Affects You.

Sean Filidis, a Christian who recently went on mission trips to Egypt and Brazil, doesn't see what all the fuss is about. "It seems to me that, for once, students are able to hear BOTH sides of the evolution debate, so to be able to decide for themselves! This is certainly an improvement," he says. He believes intelligent design is "science that backs up faith."

Read more about intelligent design in schools and the Vatican's view on evolution. Slate's Daniel Engber explains the difference between intelligent design and creationism here. During the Kansas Board of Education's May hearings on the issue, William Saletan labeled intelligent design as "evolved creationism." He criticizes the Dover take on intelligent design here. Slate contributor Hanna Rosin attended two days of the Dover trial and reacted to it here.