May Tuesday's Message Become a Good Lesson
The Oakland Tribune
November 12, 2006
TUESDAY was interesting. -- While polls and pundits forecast Republican losses in the midterm elections, the extent of the voters' rebuff was underestimated. Across the country, whether they had been red or blue, voters were angry and they marked their ballots accordingly.
In the Bay Area, the question wasn't why the nation voted the way it did but what took it so long. Two years ago, most of us simply shook our heads in disbelief, wondering how so many of our countrymen and women could have been duped into putting President George Bush back in office.
Back then, the fear stoked by the Bush administration trumped everything else, the disaster in Iraq, the revelations about the torture of detainees, inadequate health care, the very self-interests of voters.
But fear reached its limit. It was finally overwhelmed by the mounting death toll of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians and the catastrophic arrogance of Bush and his officials.
It had been particularly troublesome that Americans allowed their fear to turn them into a nation that tolerated torture.. We've compromised much, our civil liberties as well as our international standing when we invaded Iraq without provocation. Capitulating to torture, however, was our lowest point.
So it was a tremendous relief to wake up to the good news Wednesday morning. The country had shaken itself out of its fearful daze and reaffirmed its character.
Because in its arrogance, the Bush team had overestimated the country's anxiety and underestimated its intelligence. Karl Rove, the almost mythical political adviser, couldn't spin his way out of the civil war in Iraq or the Jack Abramoff lobbyist scandal.
It may be naive, but you would hope the election did more than send a message, you would hope it taught a lesson. The distortions, the personal attacks, the extremism may work in the short term, aided by that huge dose of fear. However, in the long term those tactics backfire.
The election was largely lost by Republicans, in particular Bush, as opposed to being won by Democrats. Still, the Democrats have an opportunity to reverse some of the damage done by the administration and the Republican Congress. At least they can put the brakes on the worst policies, such as the bill recently passed eliminating the habeas corpus rights of Guantanamo prisoners.
Of course the changing of the guard in Congress doesn't solve the huge problem of Iraq, which is becoming more violent and draining more of our country's human and financial resources every day.
One hopeful development in the elections was the success of African-American candidates. Deval Patrick won to serve as governor of Massachusetts, the second African American elected to that office. Keith Ellison won Minnesota's 5th Congressional District seat.
Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. was not able to defeat Bob Corker in Tennessee, but he ran a strong campaign. He would have been the first African American to be elected to the Senate from the South since Reconstruction. Pundits say he's definitely a candidate to watch.
And there is the increasing popularity of Sen. Barrack Obama, everyone's choice to campaign for them. Probably even some Republicans.
In each of these cases, African Americans were supported by constituents that are not largely African American. Obama, making light of the Republicans' effort to run African-American candidates, said voters don't elect someone because of the color of their skin, but because of what they stand for. Could we be moving into a stage of political maturity where that is finally true?
Wednesday most of us in the Bay Area woke up to an unfamiliar feeling. Was that hope? It's been a while. For once we didn't feel as if we were foreigners befuddled by the election results of another country.
The wave was so strong, wiping Republicans out of governors' offices as well as the House and the Senate, even the Democrats could not pull defeat from victory. The Republicans did it to themselves. Now we'll see how far the Democrats can ride it.