Something astonishing happened in last month's local government election in the sleepy little upstate New York town of Rhinebeck. Voters, by a solid 15% margin, elected the first Democrat Town Supervisor since 1904. That's 101 years, folks, of Republican rule in this largely blue-collar and lower-middle class community of 2725 whose median household income falls just shy of $30,000.
Steven Block, who'll be paid $14,175 annually to preside over Rhinebeck's political system, may be just a small town legislator, but he symbolizes what could be a sweeping victory for Democrats in next year's Congressional mid-term elections fueled by a hugely frustrated and disenfranchised national electorate.
Democrats swept Rhinebeck's races, with party candidates winning town supervisor, town council and highway superintendent seats. Block had defeated two-term incumbent supervisor Dennis McGuire. After his victory, Block said, "Never before have the Democrats enjoyed this much responsibility" in town government.
And it is precisely these types of small town elections across America that could be a tell-tale sign of major trouble for the Republican party. The GOP has been rocked by scandal and failed policy, and has lost the trust and faith of Americans nationwide. Poll after poll has shown for a year now that voters want change, and want to see the Democrats take control of Congress next year. Combine that with Bush's abysmal approval ratings and you have a political perfect storm on the horizon. A storm that conservative pundit John Podhoretz wisely acknowledged in his column this week, but shot down in true delusional partisan form.
While the pundits may be spinning the party's talking points, Republican leaders, especially those up for re-election, are plenty worried. That's why staunch conservatives like Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN) have been distancing themselves from the Bushies. It's called survival. The SS Bush is sinking, and Republicans on the hill are hellbent not to go down with it. They know how America feels, are shifting gears in order to stay alive, but it may just be a little too late.
So while Steven Block enjoys his success in Rhinebeck and few attach any national significance to it, this writer's radar is blinking wildly from the foreboding sense of doom facing Republicans next year.