Republicans in full strength
While most Bowdoin students probably couldn't be bothered to vote on Tuesday, the results of the midterm elections this week will have major effects on America in the next few months. With control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, Republicans should be able to press forward in the war on terror, with less resistance to the idea of war with Iraq. The president's domestic agenda will also face an easier path. The chances of vouchers and partial privatization of social security are in dramatically better shape, and the president will now have the freedom to appoint judges who will strictly interpret the Constitution.
Most importantly, Tuesday's election served as a vindication of an administration that, despite President Bush's enormous popularity, has often looked like it is under siege in recent weeks. With the frenzied attempts of liberals to draw any kind of possible parallel between Bush and Cheney and America's corporate scandals and the constant attacks of a media hostile to a war on Iraq, President Bush has increasingly been on the defensive. Although even the normally left-leaning Washington Post described the Bush tax cut as a great stimulus that probably kept the situation from worsening, Democrats were acting like the tax cut had single-handedly sabotaged the economy. For Bush, who campaigned furiously for even House candidates, the election was a vital validation of both his domestic and foreign policies.
With some races still in question, the GOP now holds onto the House by a mark of 227-203, and the Senate was retaken, with 51 seats in Republican hands. 25 governors are now Republicans, versus 23 Democrats. Even the state legislatures, which traditionally lean toward the Democrats, are more conservative; in 21 states both houses are dominated by Republicans, as compared to 17 by the Democrats. For the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans control Texas and South Carolina. All in all, it was a great day for the Republican Party and for President Bush, who became the first Republican President in this century to expand his party's seats during his midterm election.
The President's brother, Jeb Bush, held onto his gubernatorial seat in Florida despite the best efforts of Al Gore, a man who defines the term "sore loser." Walter Mondale lost his bid to replace Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash last week. In Missouri, Jean Carnahan lost the Senate seat she somehow snuck into two years ago, when the original Democratic candidate, her husband, died. Even in Massachusetts, maybe the most leftist state in the country, a Republican was elected governor.
The Democrats are already hard at work finding scapegoats for their collapse on Tuesday. Dick Gephardt has stepped down as House Minority Leader, no doubt to begin his run for the presidency in 2004. Campaigning by Bill Clinton and Al Gore probably did more harm than good. The real failure of the Democrats, however, was in the overall theme of their campaigns. Rather than challenge the Republicans on the big issues confronting our nation, the Democrats were often content to provide a weak echo of conservative policies. Rather than point out that the threat of Iraq may be largely overblown, liberals chose to offer weak, half-hearted endorsements of war or vague alternative plans. No wonder voters decided they'd rather have the genuine article, a party that loudly articulated a vision for the nation. The Clinton administration policy of triangulation, of co-opting Republican ideas and themes, seems to have finally run its course.
If I were a "progressive," like a Disorient writer or the kid who sent us all a mass email about civil disobedience, I'd be pretty mad at the party of the left for abandoning its courage before the election. Maybe this stunning defeat will lead to an overthrow of the centrist majority that has run the Democratic party since 1992. If so, the real beneficiaries will be Republicans, as the Democrats toss up another round of Dukakises and Mondales as their candidates for major office.
The midterm elections certainly weren't a clean sweep for the GOP. Bill Simon, a promising young conservative who even drew the occasional comparison to Ronald Reagan, failed to dispatch unpopular California Governor Gray Davis. Rising star Steve Largent (the greatest Caucasian wide receiver ever) lost the Oklahoma governorship to a virtual unknown. Nonetheless, Tuesday was an enormous victory for the Republican Party. The leadership of the war on terror will be in good hands, and the all-important judicial nominations will be made with an eye toward judges who do not take liberties with our nation's Constitution. With both houses of Congress behind him, President Bush now has the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy.