November 7th 2006 will no doubt be remembered as a repudiation of the Bush administration and its failed agenda. The elections may also serve as a renunciation of the Republican Party of the last decade, and act as a wedge between the many factions of the former “Big Tent Party.”
The candidates that “thumped” the Republicans (in President Bush’s words) ran on a variety of platforms and positions. Accustomed to a Republican homogeny where moderates like outgoing-Senator Lincoln Chafee are thrown under the bus and challenged from the right, conservatives fail to see that the Democratic Party is becoming the “Big Tent Party,” wherein liberals and moderates can find refuge from the regressive Republican Party. National defense and fiscal responsibility do not belong to conservatives, and the Democratic Party is still very much for promoting the welfare of people over corporations and ensuring affordable health care in a nation with 45 million people lacking insurance.
All across the board, Democrats are re-affirming their liberal values. Virginia Senator-elect Jim Webb “believes that solutions will be found using a progressive approach to policy,” that includes “reinstituting notions of true fairness in American society.” North Carolina Democrat Heath Shuler, while pro-life, is pro-public education, pro-environment, and wants to protect and modernize Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security instead of gutting them. According to leading non-partisan political reporter Stuart Rothenberg: “though there were obvious exceptions, most of the House takeovers occurred in swing and Democratic-leaning districts, and those districts elected pretty conventional Democrats,” across the nation, progressive Democrats defeated less liberal Democrats in the primaries (such as Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman for the Connecticut senate race) and conservative Republicans in the general election (nearly everywhere). And where moderate Democrats beat-back liberals in the primary, as was the case with Tammy Duckworth over Christine Cegalis for Illinois, or ran to the right in the general election, like Harold Ford, Jr. in Tennessee, they lost.
For detractors who say the Democratic victory, which it was by any standard, was based more on a vote against President Bush than a vote for Democrats, it must be noted that the Democrats have had difficulty having their voices heard and finding compromise with a corrupted, power-hungry Republican government. Likewise, President Bush’s first acts since the elections have been last-ditch efforts to have his most conservative judicial nominees and recess appointee John Bolton confirmed. So much for the bipartisanship that President Bush was calling for on Wednesday morning, licking his wounds after six years of “our-way-or-the-highway” thinking.
In 1994, Republicans wrested control of Congress from the Democrats on a platform of smaller government and less corruption. In the true fashion of the “CEO Presidency,” Republicans were more efficient, letting corruption lead to their downfall in just 12 short years. Perhaps the 2006 midterms will be remembered as the downfall of a hypocritical Republican Party that was unable to govern. But surely, the Democratic Party, and its liberal agenda, is here to stay.
Chris Kelly is a senior majoring in political science and motion pictures. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.