December 13, 2006

This Could Get Ugly

The New York Times reports that Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota just had a stroke.

He is a Democrat, up for re-election in 2008. That means that if he is unable to continue serving, South Dakota's Governor, a Republican who was just re-elected and is term-limited out after this term, will appoint a replacement to serve out the rest of Johnson's term, who will undoubtedly be a Republican. That would throw control of the Senate back to the Republicans, because the 51-49 split will become a 50-50 split, with ties broken by the Vice President.

Of course, everyone should wish Senator Johnson well for a speedy recovery, at least on a personal level. But for Republicans in particular, the fact of the matter is that a stroke is serious business, and a part of the balance of national power hangs in the balance. Odd, indeed, that something like this should come to pass.

For me, it's hard to know at this point whether a Democratic or Republican Senate is a better choice. On the one hand, the people at large did vote to put in Democrats (barely) in power, and the Democrats at the moment look more trustworthy than the Republicans on issues of civil liberties and ending the war. On the other hand, I still can't make myself believe that Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility, and I also believe in the fragmented, multi-layer system which, in this case, gives a Republican Governor the power to appoint one of his cronies to the Senate instead of a Democrat. If the Democrats want to maintain solid control over the Senate, they need to get themselves elected by more than one-vote margins. Hugh Hewitt says of the Democrats, "They can't cheat if the vote isn't even close," and that bromide goes both ways.

So, I guess we just watch the game and see how it plays out.

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