Sorting through the election results
Elections, at least prima facie, are held so the views of the public can be expressed and enacted into policy.
But these passing midterm elections provided an interesting mirror to how fed up the public is by a divided and trite Washington. On paper, the results were a panoptic victory for a once impotent Democratic Party.
The House of Representatives fell easily to the Democrats, with the party picking up 29 seats (as of this writing) and they’re likely to pick up a couple more when everything is said and done. And with razor thin victories in Virginia and Montana, the party picked up the necessary six seats to hold a majority – including two independents that are expected to caucus with the Democrats - in the Senate.
Democratic candidates won 24 of 33 Senate races, and not one Democratic incumbent lost in either chamber or in any state governorship.
George W. Bush used the phrase “thumping” to describe the outcome. And pundits and talking heads repeatedly transitioned between meteorological and sports metaphors, calling the results a tsunami, blowout, a sweep and a whitewash.
However, Democratic leaders should exercise a great deal of caution before using their new pulpits to utter the types of sloganeering we’ve already begun to hear from Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (including “It’s time for a Change” and “Mandate”).
Indeed, the political pendulum has swung back to their side. But if Tuesday showed anything about our electorate, it’s how disgusted they were with the status quo. According to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll conducted last week, only 29% of Americans had a favorable opinion of Congress heading into the election. Even the president’s anemic ratings were ten points higher in most polls.
With an unpopular president orchestrating an unpopular war, the political climate, to say the least, was prime for Democrats. But then Republicans, already facing an uphill battle, gift-wrapped enough presents to make an elf envious.
In January, disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff plead guilty to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials, and a slew of influential hierarchy in the Grand Old Party went down with him.
In late September, ABC News broke the story of Mark Foley’s relationship with a congressional page. The scandal sent shock waves through the Capital, forcing Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert into defense mode over what he knew and when he knew it. The whole episode became a comical display of cover-up and political sophistry.
Even seats that were considered safe by most Republican strategists going into the election, quickly unraveled before their very eyes. George Allen, who at one point held a 16-point advantage over his Democratic opponent Jim Webb, singled out a Webb volunteer of Indian decent at a campaign stop, calling him a “macaca.” He then welcomed the student – who was American – to America.
And finally the evangelical base that Karl Rove came to crutch upon was rocked by the resignation of the influential Ted Haggard, founder of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Co., after it was alleged that he engaged in sex with a masseur and took methamphetamine.
Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, acknowledged that Republican missteps helped immensely, saying that 65% of victories could be attributed to voters fed up with Republican domination. And that’s probably a modest estimate from the senior senator from New York. Democrats, in recent days, like to stand in front of signs that say, “A New Direction for America,” but few – if any – know what direction they have in mind in regards to Iraq, taxes, social security or a host of other issues.
So where does our country go from here?
In a sign of possible good things to come, the headstrong Bush finally listened to everyone (besides the Vice President and Barney) and canned the embattled Defense Secretary. And the president also – not that he had much choice – pledged to work with soon-to-be Speaker Pelosi and other incoming Democrats. Bipartisanship rather than partisan bickering is what the electorate voted for this year.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle keep saying that the voters have spoken. Hopefully, as time passes, they remember what they said.
M.W. Fritz is a freelance journalist based out of Washington D.C. Every issue, he provides the SiDEKiCK with an exclusive political commentary from our nation’s capital, bringing all the respectability and professionalism of this paper (not much) to a completely subjective and often ridiculous analysis of our governing body.