In the last three elections, George W. Bush has claimed mandates for his policies even when there were questions about the legitimacy of Republican victories. In Election 2000, Bush brushed aside the fact that he lost the popular vote to Al Gore and pressed ahead with a right-wing agenda.
The Republican congressional victories in Election 2002 convinced Bush that the voters were behind his plans for "preemptive" wars. He called Election 2004 his "accountability moment," ratifying both his invasion of Iraq and his expansion of executive powers.
Operating under Bush's assertion of "plenary" - or unlimited - presidential authority, his administration has devised a system of electronic eavesdropping that can pry into the private lives of Americans; has set up arrangements for detention camps; and has secured from Congress the power to detain American citizens for allegedly aiding U.S. enemies.
Indeed, the new Military Commissions Act of 2006, enacted on Oct. 17, establishes what amounts to a parallel legal system under Bush's control that permits the indefinite jailing of both citizens and non-citizens who are deemed enemies of the state.
The law specifically strips non-U.S. citizens of habeas corpus - the right to a fair trial - but American citizens caught up in Bush's legal system also would be denied the right to challenge their incarceration, effectively eliminating their habeas corpus rights, too.
If Republicans keep control of the House and Senate, the chances of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Military Commissions Act also would be reduced. The court, which rebuffed Bush's earlier administrative version on a 5-4 vote, would weigh both the congressional approval and the voters' acquiescence in judging the law's legality.
While the 5-4 majority critical of the tribunals might hold through a second round of judicial review, Election 2006 might influence the decision of some justices who are always more political than they acknowledge.
Bush's assertion of unfettered presidential powers would stand even a better chance if one of the majority justices leaves the bench due to age or illness. Continued Republican control of the Senate probably would enable Bush to appoint a justice who would bend to Bush's theory of his authority.
If the last two weeks of Campaign 2006 are dominated by news of Democrats buying confetti and icing champagne - rather than on Bush's grim vision of endless war and elimination of constitutional rights - chances for a Republican comeback could grow exponentially.
Not only would Democrats and independents be less inspired to go to the polls but the Republican base could be galvanized by a desperate battle to protect President Bush. Already, right-wing radio stations, Web sites and TV commentators are hammering home the image of cocky Democrats high-fiving each other and making behind-the-scenes plans for a triumphant transition of power.
Nothing motivates the American Right more than the chance of forcing Democrats to choke on their confetti and to gag on their champagne.
Win or lose, my suggestion is we need to start assembling a list of laws we want repealed, and hold Congress to account for their track record on doing that.